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Johnny and Jesus

 

 

 

Johnny reached for the highball near his workspace, even though it was only 10:00 in the morning. It was a necessity, he told himself, to help release his creativity and wit. How else was he supposed to come up with new ideas day after day?

He had thought a new home in the country would provide inspiration, renewed energy for his work, and the tranquility he longed for. But once he and his wife Bobby settled on their 150-acre estate, with a huge, wood-paneled studio overlooking a 25-acre lake, Johnny found himself just as unhappy and uninspired as before the move.

 

(Not Johnny’s and Bobby’s lake, but perhaps similar)

 

The success he’d achieved, the fortune he had acquired, the entertainment he pursued did not provide the satisfaction he’d expected.

Not long after settling into their new home, Johnny and Bobby decided to address its one drawback: there was no television reception. They purchased a satellite system.

The company sent a father/son team to install it—a process that became more complicated and time-consuming than anyone expected. The father and son stayed in the large studio for the days it took to complete the task.

As work progressed to hook up the several TVs in the house and one in the studio, the two men tuned in to a Christian station. Johnny found himself drawn to the screens, listening to the likes of D. James Kennedy, a well-respected preacher and author at the time.  Johnny had been a believer in Jesus when he was young, but had drifted away in adulthood.

The more he listened, the more he remembered what he’d learned years before in Sunday School: God made us humans and loves us. But we are sinful, and sin separates us from him. So God sent his perfect Son, Jesus, to die in our place. And those who believe in him receive the incredible gift of eternal life with him in heaven when we die (John 3:16).

 

 

Johnny began reading the Bible and felt his doubts, dissatisfaction and fears melting away. In their place he noticed a deep sense of peace and purpose.

Part of that purpose was to allow his rekindled faith to impact his work as a cartoonist. He began to include Christian references in his highly successful comic strip, “B.C.”

You might remember it. Simple drawings of cavemen, dinosaurs, ants, and other animals inhabited a very stark habitat. The genius wasn’t in the drawings; it was in the puns, irony, wordplay, and dry humor that Johnny Hart produced for fifty years, from 1957-2007.

For example, in one strip, a caveman says, “God, if you’re up there, give me a sign.” In the next frame, a huge neon sign sits crookedly and slightly buried in the sand in front of the caveman. It has obviously just fallen from the sky, and it reads—in big capital letters—“I’M UP HERE.”

Of course, Johnny was criticized for those strips that affirmed Christian beliefs. His response to such reproach was to ask a question:

“What purpose would I serve if I had the answer to the mystery of life only I did not tell it for the sake of what other people believe (1)?”

One of Johnny Hart’s strips about the mystery of life moved me to tears.

It appeared on Good Friday, 1996.

There were simply four empty panels with no artwork and no conversation bubbles. The first panel was gray, the second a shade darker, the third darker still, and the last frame was completely black. That final panel carried the simple caption: Good Friday.

Such a simple presentation, but overflowing with meaning. For me, the progression toward black was symbolic of Jesus’ experiences that day—from betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane to an unlawful trial, a flogging, a crown of thorns, a heavy cross to carry, and the worst torture man has ever devised: crucifixion. The land was shrouded in darkness that day for three hours (Mark 15:33).

But oh, it is Good Friday, because that darkest deed of history became our bright victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

 

 

And because of Jesus’ profound sacrifice, we do have hope, peace, purpose, and more.

Johnny Hart would want us to know.

 

Note:

(1) https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1999/04/04/god-thats-funny/38fc77f9-dee5-4a18-b8c5-e5283c3e0964/?utm_term=.ff75a4558709

 

Sources:

1) https://www.charismamag.com/site-archives/572-newsletters/the-buzz/4671-johnny-hart-i-did-it-his-way

2)http://jeffjenkinsocala.blogspot.com/2008/07/bc-comics-censored.html

3) https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1999/04/04/god-thats-funny/38fc77f9-dee5-4a18-b8c5-e5283c3e0964/?utm_term=.ff75a4558709

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flicr.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.dailyverses.net (2).

 

Beating the Blahs

 

“Stand with me and sing!” invites the enthusiastic worship leader on the church platform, while guitars begin an upbeat tune and drums rap out a foot-tapping rhythm.

Around me people sway a bit to the music, some raise their hands, others worship with eyes closed.

And though I, too, sway and raise my hands, I have to admit my heart’s not in it. For some reason, lyrics that have brought me to joyful tears on other occasions are not penetrating today.

My spirit seems paralyzed—no feeling whatsoever. Efforts to engage—focusing on the words and imagining my Heavenly Father on his throne, listening with parental pleasure—don’t seem to help.

What’s wrong with me? I wonder.

Perhaps you’ve experienced the same numbness in corporate worship, maybe during personal quiet time or at prayer. And like me, you’ve felt certain that something must be wrong.

 

 

Granted, we worship God to honor him. Our end goal is not to rustle up feel-good endorphins for us.

But, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, we were created to glorify God and enjoy him forever. How is that even possible when we come down with a case of the spiritual blahs?

Actually, days and even seasons of spiritual dryness are a normal part of our faith-walk, experienced by almost every Christian at one time or another. And there is comfort in that, knowing we’re not alone.

Theologian Sam Storms offers us further encouragement:

 

“God is glorified by your longing for the joy to be found in him,

even if you are not yet experiencing it” (1).

 

But are there strategies we can implement to jump-start our hearts into exuberant responsiveness?

As a matter of fact, yes.

 

 

We can: 

1. Be honest with God.

King David certainly was. “I spread out my hands to you;” he cried. “My soul thirsts for you like a parched land” (143:6).

Yet in spite of his emotional tailspin, David writes, “I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul (v. 8).

 

 

David provides a worthy example to follow: acknowledge the truth; affirm our trust, and seek God’s guidance.

 

2. Rehearse what we know about God’s character, his promises. 

Our minds are renewable resources (Romans 12:2). We can turn our thoughts away from the numbness we’re experiencing at the moment, and focus on what is lovely and true, excellent and praiseworthy about our God.

Sometimes such thought processes are all that’s necessary to bring us out of the doldrums (Psalm 92:4).

 

 

3. Persevere in spite of our emotions.

Keep showing up in God’s presence whether we feel like it or not.

Our emotions must not be allowed to control actions. In fact, God especially appreciates a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15), which surely includes offering him our worship when the fervency just isn’t there.

 

 

4. Anticipate.

Worship with an outlook on the future (Psalm 42:1-2). We can look forward to the day when our hearts will overflow again with ecstatic praise—even to the point of joyful tears.

 

5. Pray. 

Perhaps something like this: 

“Father in heaven, flood the dry places of my soul with your presence; lift the gray clouds that conceal you. Within my spirit I want to feel the warmth of your radiant Light, be wrapped in your unfailing love, and fly with you on the wings of the dawn!

In trusting expectancy I wait for you, O Lord. I know you will answer.”

 

 

(Isaiah 44:3; Psalm 4:6, 32:10, 139:9, 38:15)

 

What helps you beat the spiritual blahs?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Note:

(1) https://www.crosswalk.com/church/worship/how-can-i-worship-when-i-feel-nothing.html

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

 

“Success is a journey, not a destination.”

–Arthur Ashe

 

Too often we think of success as the final, glorious outcome of endeavor. But achieving a goal requires the successful completion of many steps along the way, some of which are slippery, steep, and uneven.  As time passes and difficulties mount, hopelessness can hold us back.

However, history is full of examples of people who persevered in spite of great difficulty, even failure. They didn’t allow tumbles and trip-ups to stop them. They maintained their optimism and effort toward the goal.  Prime examples include:  Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, and Winston Churchill.

 

“Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

–Winston Churchill

 

Another prime example is Thomas Edison. You might remember he tested over 6000 materials for the filament of his electric light bulb, and performed 1200 experiments before reaching ultimate success.

Once the invention had been released, a reporter asked Mr. Edison, “How did it feel to fail over a 1000 times?”

The inventor replied, “Young man, I did not fail 1000 times. I simply found 1000 ways how not to create a light bulb.”

Edison had learned to celebrate progress, not just the end result.

We, too, can learn to celebrate the steps toward our God-ordained, individual goals, not just the finish line.

And what are the steps worth celebrating? Here are a few:

 

  1. Making good choices, even in small things (Luke 16:10).

 

Doing little things with a strong desire to please God

makes them really great.”

–St Francis De Sales 

 

  1. Maintaining a positive attitude (Colossians 3:23-24).

 

Feed your hope with positive expectancy.

Instead of wondering, Why isn’t God doing anything?

Ask, I wonder what God will do next?

 

  1. Exercising self-control (Galatians 5:23).

 

“You must do the very thing you think you cannot do.”

–Eleanor Roosevelt

 

  1. Applying wisdom (Proverbs 19:8).

 

“Wisdom is the means by which the godly can both

discern and carry out the will of God.”

–Douglas Moo

 

  1. Striving for humility (Proverbs 22:4).

 

“I believe that the first test of a truly great man is his humility…

Really great men have a curious feeling

that the greatness is not of them, but through them…

And [they] are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.”

–John Ruskin 

 

  1. Overcoming disappointment and failure (Psalm 37:23-24).

 

“Discouragement and failure

are two of the surest

stepping-stones to success.”

–Dale Carnegie

 

It’s easy to be sidelined by our failures—even the little ones. We have to remember: success has nothing to do with immunity to failure.

 

“Success is getting up just one more time than you fall.”

–Oliver Goldsmith.

 

So! I’ve devised a little questionnaire, to help us appreciate our steps of success:

 

  • Did we accomplish one task today, leading toward our God-ordained goals, even though we didn’t want to do it?
  • Did we thank God for even one blessing today? Gratitude takes our minds off the way we’d like things to be and refocuses our attention on what God has already provided.
  • Was there at least one small thing we chose not to do, in order to apply our time and energy on the goals set before us?
  • Did we apply a bit of wisdom today that kept us on the path of success?
  • Did we demonstrate genuine interest in someone else without even thinking about ourselves at all? That’s C.S. Lewis’s definition of true humility.
  • Did we encourage ourselves with words or action, in order to press on?

 

Success is found on the path of most persistence.

 

So, let’s celebrate progress–those moments, those steps, that are leading us toward God’s call on each of our lives.

And if progress is slow, let’s not lose heart.  Most progress is slow.  God rarely rushes in with a delivery of instant success.

Let’s all take a deep breath and affirm:  God isn’t finished with us yet. He’s still working, still guiding, still engineering circumstances for the personal goals he has ordained for each of us.

That doesn’t mean we sit back and wait for God to achieve our success for us.  It’s a matter of balance.  We must trust him as if everything depended on him, and work as if everything depended on us (Living Application Bible note, Proverbs 16:3).

(Photo credit:  www.wikimedia.com)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

What steps to success would you add?  And, how do you celebrate the successful steps along the way?  Please join the conversation below!

 

(Reblogged from April 13, 2015.)

Supreme Blessedness

That’s what we can expect when we choose to live God’s way: supreme blessedness.  Jesus made that clear in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  You’ll remember he began with eight statements of blessing called beatitudes.

One example:

 

 

In other words, profound joy comes to those who humbly depend on God, as they avail themselves of his heavenly kingdom-benefits.

Of course, there are many other attitudes and actions he rewards, in addition to those eight Jesus named.

Below are listed several means to blessedness that have come to my attention over the years. Perhaps you’ve experienced them too:

 

Blessed are the risk-takers, for they shall sail on winds of faith.

 

 

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for” (Grace Murray Hopper).

 

Think of Abraham.

 

“By faith Abraham…obeyed and went,

even though he did not know where he was going.”

–Hebrews 11:8

 

We too have to be willing to travel blind toward undisclosed destinations. Otherwise we’ll never experience the thrill of God’s power taking us to ports we’ve never dreamed of.

The way ahead is always hidden, sometimes causing uncertainty.  But!  We know the One who’s leading. Uncertainty does not have to cancel out confidence.

 

Blessed are those who seek God’s desires, for they shall know delight and fulfillment.

Somehow we think the pursuit of our own desires will bring satisfaction.  But haven’t we seen enough of the rich and powerful crash and burn in despair?  “Everything [is] meaningless; a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

How much better off we are to pray along with the psalmist:

 

 

It is in the practice of obedience we learn its precious worth.

 

Blessed are the encouragers for they shall be encouraged.

Such an interesting phenomenon: make the effort to lift someone else’s spirit, and you find your own spirit uplifted.  Actually, wise King Solomon recorded this be-attitude long ago:

 

 

Guaranteed double pleasure.  How’s that for supreme blessing?

 

Blessed are the sifters of thoughts, for they enjoy golden contemplations.

If we’re not careful, our minds can easily gravitate toward dross thoughts–the negative, unwholesome, and ugly.  It takes effort to seek out the gold: the honorable, lovely, and commendable. But true contentment awaits those who do.

 

 

Blessed are the focused for they shall not spread themselves too thin.

Our bodies were made for a rhythm of rest—7 to 8 hours out of every 24. Short-changing sleep actually lowers our productivity and endangers our health (1).

That’s why:

 

 

We just can’t do it all, much as we’d like to. Priorities and parameters must be set. That means, saying no to some good things may be the best choice.  We must give others permission to do the same also.

 

Blessed are those who pay attention to the ordinary, for they discover the extraordinary.

For example:

  • Icicle sentries in winter, clinging to the seat of a deck chair

 

 

  • Wildflowers in springtime, cupping tiny pink and yellow stars

 

 

  • Sunbeams on a summer morning, filtering into the glen

 

 

  • God’s artistry (and penchant for color!) splashed on autumn leaves

 

 

Each eye-catching display is a precious love-gift from our Heavenly Father. And around us are countless more, waiting to be discovered, savored, and praised.

 

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;

his greatness no one can fathom.”

–Psalm 145:3

 

And there you have six more beatitudes–examples of God’s supreme blessedness lavished upon us–when we choose to live by his wise and loving ways.

 

 

What be-attitude would you add?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Note:

1) https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/tired-at-work#1 and https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20170209/skimp-on-sleep-and-you-just-may-wind-up-sick#1

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.libreshot.com; Nancy Ruegg (3); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com.)

 

A Matter of Genius

We’re all familiar with the extraordinary accomplishments of:

 

 

  • Beethoven—composing masterful concertos, symphonies and more while deaf
  • Michelangelo—creating over-sized artworks with awe-inspiring realism
  • Shakespeare—writing dozens of plays and hundreds of sonnets with words that flowed “like a miraculous Celestial Light-ship, woven all of sheet-lightning and sunbeams” (Thomas Carlisle)

Geniuses indeed. But even more important than brilliance was their willingness to exert great effort.

 

 

Beethoven rewrote nearly every bar of his compositions at least a dozen times.

Michelangelo produced more than 2,000 preparatory sketches for “Last Judgment” alone, a painting considered by many as one of the best artworks of all time. It took eight years to complete.

Even Shakespeare must have revised again and again before his words approached the sublime eloquence he is known for.

 

 

The more we know of such masters, the more we realize: their works required enduring patience, tenacious persistence, and sharp focus.

It just so happens that God values those three attributes also. And since he’s working in us to foster all positive traits, we each have the potential to create masterpieces.

Of course, works of genius include much more than symphonies, paintings, and plays.  Are you part of a ministry, community project, or volunteer organization? Are you a parent, grandparent, mentor, or friend? These are just a few ways you and I contribute to the most valuable masterpieces of all—the people around us.

 

 

But there is effort involved. God chooses not to do it alone; he invites us to join with him in the work.  So what might be our part in developing those important qualities of patience, persistence, and focus, necessary for developing our genius?

The following steps may provide a good start.

 

Step #1: Practice waiting.

 

 

It is a fact: most worthwhile endeavors take time. Usually lots of it.

In addition, patience requires stamina to endure delay.

Consider Dr. Albert Sabin, who researched polio and developed the oral vaccine.  His mission required thirty-one years of painstaking effort.

 

 

Step #2: Expect to be stretched by struggle.

Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, likens the believer in the hands of God to the bow in the hands of an archer. God stretches us beyond what we think we can bear. And when his purpose is in sight, then he lets fly.

Consider Dr. Jason Fader, son of medical missionaries who now serves as a medical missionary himself in Berundi, Africa–after grueling medical training, intense language school, and challenging fund-raising.  But in 2017 he was chosen as the first recipient of the Gerson L’Chaim Prize for Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Service ( Jason’s story).

 

Step #3: Persist—with the application of faith, prayer, and hope.

We must be willing to tolerate discomfort, perhaps for an extended period of time.

However, the genius-in-the-making under God’s tutelage does not plod along as he perseveres; he plots. He sets his coordinates for the course ahead by faith, prayer, and hopetrusting in God’s promises, asking for God’s guidance, and embracing the possibilities of tomorrow as well as the challenges of today—because in all of it there is good.

Consider George Muller of Bristol, England, whose five orphanages housed over 2,000 children at any one time.  Muller not only wanted to care for these children but demonstrate that God would meet “all their needs as a result of prayer and faith, without any one being asked or approached” (www.mullers.org).  His story includes miracle after miracle.

 

 

Step #4: Remain focused on the task at hand.

A genius does not allow distraction or discouragement to sidetrack him. He takes delight in the present moment while: composing one bar of sublime, symphonic fusion, getting the light just right in one small area of the canvas, or choosing specific, rhythmic words for one line of imagery.

But even more important for the believer, she is inspired and directed by God himself. His plan may include an exceptional piece of music, art, or writing. Or, perhaps even more importantly, it may include exceptional input into the lives of others–through kindness, encouragement, and integrity.

 

 

It is God who is the Supreme Genius, masterfully weaving a tapestry of circumstances and relationships among his people. The full beauty of this masterpiece will not be revealed until we all arrive in heaven.

Then we’ll see the results of the God-given genius in each of us, our patience, perseverance, and focus, woven into God’s perfect design.

And what a celebration will ensue.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.wikipedia.com (2); http://www.ramstein.af.mil; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.vi.wikipedia.com; http://www.georgemuller.org; http://www.flickr.com.)

 

 

Recently I read about a woman named Rachel, persevering through very difficult circumstances. She knew that praising God was a smart strategy to implement.  Praise invites his presence, and it is in God’s presence we can experience absolute joy (Psalm 16:11)—even in the midst of trouble.

But putting praise into practice proved challenging. Her situation wanted front and center attention; her mind kept returning to the worry and what-ifs.

Rachel decided to make her morning swim a time of praise. For each letter of the alphabet, she tried to name a descriptor of God’s goodness while she lapped the pool.

Her tactic worked. Focusing on praise first thing in the morning helped to establish a positive frame of mind, easing stress and worry for the rest of the day (1).

 

 

The author did not include Rachel’s list. I had to wonder: Could I name twenty-six facets of God’s goodness, each beginning with a different letter and affirmed by scripture?

The effort turned out to be a delightful, uplifting exercise.  Below is my alphabet of praise.

Our God is:

A – Attentive to every need of every person in his realm (Matthew 6:25-33)

B – Benevolent beyond our dreams (Ephesians 3:20-21)

C – Compassionate toward those who are hurting (Psalm 86:15)

D – Dependable to support, sustain, and keep us secure (Psalm 55:22)

 

 

E – Eager for all to know and understand truth, to receive his gift of eternal life (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

F – Faithful through all generations, as enduring as the earth he created (Psalm 119:90)

G – Gentle in his guidance and care for his children (Isaiah 40:11)

H – Honoring us (!) with all needful favor in this life and admittance to glory in the world to come (Psalm 84:11 and Barnes Commentary)

I – Impartial to all who come to him, no matter our circumstance or appearance (Romans 2:11; Psalm 145:8-9)

 

 

J – Just in all his ways, choosing what is exactly right (Isaiah 5:16)

K – Kind, considerate, and helpful as he continually demonstrates his caring nature (Jeremiah 9:24)

L – Loving to the extreme; sending his Son to the cross as the supreme sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10)

M – Merciful beyond belief, exchanging our shame for his glory when we turn to him (Ephesians 2:4-7)

N – Never-failing to accomplish his purposes (Isaiah 46:10)

 

 

O – Omnipotent over every event, every circumstance (Psalm 103:19)

P – Patient to refine us, day by day, into the best version of ourselves (Philippians 1:6)

Q – Qualified to rectify or redeem any situation (Matthew 19:26)

R – Righteous and perfect in all his ways (Psalm 145:17)

 

 

S – Sheltering us under his powerful, protective wings (Psalm 57:1)

T – Tender yet practical in his continual thoughts of each of us (Psalm 139:17-18, 32:8)

U – Understanding of our foibles and weaknesses (Psalm 103:14)

V – Victorious over all sorrow, crying, pain—even death—when Jesus returns (Revelation 21:4)

 

 

W – Wise beyond human understanding (Romans 11:33-36)

X – X-pert at all he does (Deuteronomy 32:4)

Y – Yearning for all his children to come home to him (2 Peter 3:9)

Z – Zealous to fill us with hope, joy, and peace (Romans 15:13)

 

 

And this is just a sampling of who our God is!

Think of it: ALL that we need is found in ALL that he is.

 

“With the goodness of God

to desire our highest welfare,

the wisdom of God to plan it,

and the power of God to achieve it,

what do we lack?”

—A. W. Tozer

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Help me, O God, to soar on wings of praise, even in the storms of life. May I keep my eyes on you, my sovereign and powerful Heavenly Father, in whom I can wholly trust. Hallelujah!

 

(1) ______, God’s Little Lessons on Life, Honor Books, 2001.

 

What facets of God’s goodness would you add to the list?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.peterson.af.mil; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.dailyverses.net.)

 

 

Encie’s Gifts

(A new parable)

 

In the high-ceilinged reception hall of the palatial residence of Elohim (1) stands an uncertain woman, Encie (2). Her new friend Jesus has just ushered her in, but what might happen next, Encie has no idea.

A tall, winged being of shimmering light glides into the hall through a massive door on the left. “Welcome, Encie! Welcome to your first day in the eternal kingdom of God! I am Avodah (3), honored assistant to Elohim. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to kingdom living.  But first, please direct your attention upward.”

With a graceful sweep of his arm, the angel (for what else could he be?) draws attention to a great choir of angels hovering high above.  They begin to sing a joyful, undulant melody accompanied by fast-rolling harmonies. Such a beautiful weaving of sound Encie has never heard, but all too soon the music crescendos in a heart-stopping finish.

 

 

And then silence.

The angel whispers, “That was for you, Encie.”

She turns, wide-eyed, to stare at Avodah.  “Me?  I don’t understand.”

“We can’t help getting excited every time another person invites Jesus into his or her life!” he explains.  “And now, Encie, we have gifts for you!”

He grandly gestures once more, this time toward a long line of angels entering the hall from a door on the left. Each bears a different gift.

The first angel approaches with a thick packet balanced on both hands.

“These are your adoption papers, Encie. They indicate you are now a full heir to your Heavenly Father’s estate, which is the whole universe. As an adoptee, you’ll enjoy other privileges also. For example, your Friend and Brother, Jesus, will be with you wherever you go, to provide strength and comfort.”

 

 

With trembling hands, Encie takes the adoption papers from the angel, barely able to whisper “thank you.” Can it be?  She is now a child of the King of all!

Angel #1 quietly slips away toward another doorway to the right and a second angel moves forward with a thick book.

“Ah!” says Avodah. “This gift will become more precious to you than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. It is Elohim’s Supreme Instruction Manual, filled with wisdom, guidance, and encouragement.”

 

 

Angel #2 places the manual on top of the adoption papers in Encie’s arms and exits in the same manner as Angel #1.

Angel #3 approaches carrying an identification badge on a lavaliere.

“Allow me!” cries Avodah. Taking the badge, he drapes it over Encie’s head and positions it gently around her neck. “You now have direct access into the throne room of Elohim Himself. You may ask Him anything; you may tell Him anything.”

 

 

“Oh, I couldn’t do that.” Encie blurts. “Nothing I have to say could possibly be important enough for Him.”

Avodah lays a lightbeam finger on God’s Word in her arms. “You’ll read here that He actually wants you to bring everything to Him. You can drop off all your worries and concerns in His throne room. In their place He’ll offer you another precious gift: His peace of mind that no human can explain. You will never again have to experience stress or sleepless nights—unless you choose to.”

Avodah pauses for a moment, allowing Encie to absorb the glorious possibility of exchanging life’s pressures for Elohim’s perfect peace.

 

 

And then Angel #4 glides forward. In his cupped hands he holds what appears to be a sparkler, but there is no stem. The ball of shooting sparks hovers over his hands, apparently causing no harm or hurt.

“Oh, Encie.” says Avodah, with reverence in his voice. “This is the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is because He’s already been working in your life that you are even here today. But now He will bring wisdom, understanding, and strong counsel to your mind. He will enable you to serve Elohim in far greater ways than you ever could on your own. And that’s just the beginning! You’ll learn more about the Spirit in God’s Word there.” And Avodah lightly taps Encie’s new instruction manual.

 

 

Suddenly the sparkler-orb arises out of the angel’s hands and moves toward Encie. She experiences no fear, and there is no pain as the light passes through her being into her soul. Upon entrance, a warm, euphoric joy spreads through Encie until she is filled with the presence of Spirit Light.

Yet there is more.

Avodah asks, “Encie, do you see all these other angels waiting in line? They, too, carry gifts for you including:

 

 

  • A padlock for your heart, because God’s love is locked into you in unending commitment
  • A can of sunshine yellow joy-paint, to splash on all life’s circumstances
  • A spool of never-ending blessings
  • An anchor of hope to hold you firm and secure
  • A level for smoothing the paths of life
  • And a packet of fruit seeds the Holy Spirit will help you grow into mature, delicious character traits over time

 

 

“Oh—and don’t worry. We’ll make sure all of these gifts make it home with you.”

“I-I don’t know what to say, “ Encie stammers and lowers her head. “The words ‘thank you’ seem…worthless.”

Avodah lifts her chin with his glowing hand and speaks with tenderness in his voice.

“The best way to show your gratitude, Encie, would be to demonstrate heartfelt reverence for all Elohim has done for you. Take Him at his Word, follow His all-wise ways, and trust Him. He loves you so very much, Encie.”

 

 

Encie nods.

“Why don’t you go into the throne room right now?” asks Avodah, indicating a golden door in the center of the back wall. Tell Elohim your thoughts. Remember, He’s not listening for impressive words; it’ll be your heart He hears.”

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Lord Almighty! Everything within me cries, “Thank you!” I try to sing my gratitude; I kneel in worship in an effort to express my gratitude. Thank you for Your love and faithfulness expressed in countless ways. You are the One and only, great and glorious Elohim, my Heavenly Father! 

(Psalm 138:1-5)

 

Notes:

(1) Elohim: infinite, all-powerful God

(2) Encie: New Christian (N.C.)

(3) Avodah: a Hebrew word meaning work, worship, and service

 

Scriptural basis for elements of this parable: Luke 15:10, Romans 8:14-17, 29; Matthew 28:20; Philippians 4:13; Matthew 11:28; Psalm 119:72; Romans 5:1-2; Philippians 4:6-7; Acts 2:38; Ephesians 3:16, 20; Acts 2:3-4; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Romans 8:38-39; Philippians 4:4-8, 11-13; Psalm 40:5; Hebrews 6:19; Proverbs 4:26; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 147:11; Hebrews 11:6; Titus 2:11-14.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com by Tyler Neyens; http://www.canva.com.

 

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