Bella, part 10 – What Forest?

An hour later, Bella joined the other people heading to the lobby. The service had been way different than anything she could have imagined and she was still filled with that golden goodness that had filled the air as Pastor Toby talked. Funny, she couldn’t recall anything that he had said but it didn’t matter. Just being there was what counted.

“Can I help you?” asked an older woman. “You look kind of lost.”

“Are the services always like this?” Bella asked her.

“Well, yes and no. Each service is different in many ways but they are all filled with Pastor Toby’s special touch. He’s pretty wonderful, isn’t he?” The lady smiled at Bella. “Hi, my name is Amanda. Is this your first time here?”

“Bella. Nice to meet you.” Bella answered politely. “Yes, this is my first service.”

“Welcome! I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them. And if I can’t, I can find someone who can.”

“Actually, I do have questions.”

“Let’s get some coffee and we can sit over there at that table.”

“Sounds good,” Bella smiled. Coffee did sound good but getting some answers sounded even better.

After getting their coffee and settling down, Amanda said, “OK, what do you want to IMG_20180730_170130302know?”

“How long have you been coming here?”

“Oh, hmmm, let me think.” Amanda took a sip of her coffee. “I guess it’s been about ten years now.”

“So you know Pastor Toby pretty well, then?”

“Sure. He’s friendly and totally approachable. Why?”

“He just seems to be too good. And a bit mysterious.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, for one, he seems to love me even though he doesn’t’ know me. And he’s very interested in whatever I say.”

“Yes, he does love everyone. I don’t know why. It’s like he can’t help it. And he is a great listener.”

“So he’s not just pretending?”

“Nope. That’s one thing he never does. He never pretends. He’s always honest with us.”

“What about his son, Jude?”

“He’s just like his father. He’s also a great problem solver. Talking with him always seems to help when I have a problem, or even just a decision I have to make. His insight is amazing.”

“Have you been in their backyard?”

“Sure.”

“Don’t you think it’s kind of strange?”

“No, why should I?”

“Because it’s so big. Way bigger than it looks from the outside.”

“That’s part of the magic of this place…”

Bella cut in quickly. “So there IS magic here?”

Amanda laughed. “No, not magic like magic tricks and trickery. I mean magic as in out of the ordinary, beyond words. Like if I said I had a magical time with my family on our last vacation.”

“Oh. OK. I get it. So how is the backyard so big? All those wild flowers. And a lake! How is that even possible?”

“They do have a lot of flowers in their greenhouse, but no lake. At least I haven’t seen one. But maybe it’s on the other side of the forest, where I haven’t been yet.”

“Forest?”

“Yes, it’s pretty amazing. I’m glad Pastor Toby didn’t cut down the trees when this church was built. His little forest is my favorite place to come when I’m feeling down.”

“Forest?” Bella asked again. “But there’s no forest back there. There’s only the garden, a large field of flowers, and a lake.”

“You must be mistaken. I’ve never seen anything but the forest.”

Bella stared at her. Were they talking about the same back yard? Just how big was this place? Then she thought about a holodeck again. And again it began to make sense. Different programs for different people. She could buy that, if only she could buy the whole alien thing.

“Amanda,” Bella began slowly. “Have you ever noticed anything… strange… about Pastor Toby or Jude?”

 

Bella stories:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 1 Part 2

Bella part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

If New Homes Could Talk

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“Do you hear them?” she asked her friend as they were taking a walk through their new neighborhood.

“Hear what?” he asked, looking around.

“Hear those houses.”

Now he looked at her. “Um… you can hear houses?” He frowned at her, concerned that she had finally lost it. “I know you’re a bit sleep deprived, but…”

She laughed. “No, I’m not going crazy. I don’t actually hear them talking like I hear you. But I do hear a message.”

“What message?”

Instead of answering, she asked him a question. “What if they could talk, what would they be saying to you?”

He looked at them a few minutes, cocked his head, frowned and said, “I give up. I can’t hear anything.”

“OK, then, what do you think of when you look at them?”

He studied them a bit longer. “I think of the potential each one has. And how they all seem to have the same basic construction plan but small changes makes them each unique.”

“You don’t think a finished one is better than an unfinished one? The finished ones are much prettier to look at.”

“No, they’re just in different stages of construction. One house is not better than another just because it’s further along. They are all interesting in whatever stage they’re in. And one day they will all provide strong, well built homes for the people who will move into them.”

“Exactly.” She sighed. “It’s just like us. Like people. We are all in different stages of development. Some look more finished than others. Some are nicer to look at, or listen to. But all of us are being built by the Master and are perfect in whatever stage we’re in. If only we weren’t so quick to judge others by what we see instead of by what God sees.”

“Is that the message you’re hearing?”

“Yes. We – people – are new homes being built. We are all made from a basic plan yet the Master has made each of us unique. We are all as we should be at whatever stage we’re in and we should stand content in the progress our Father is making as He molds and builds us. And most of all, we should allow other people to be at different stages than we are in. We should be delighting in their progress instead of comparing and judging them.”

She turned and looked at her friend. “I have to admit, I’m as guilty as anyone else. But that’s going to change. With God’s help, that’s going to change.”

He smiled at her, took her hand, and together, they continued on their walk.

Life in a Swimming Pool

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The pool was filling up. Maybe she should leave now, before it got too crowded.  But not really wanting to leave the cool water, she decided to watch the people around her instead. Everyone was enjoying the water in different ways.

“Marco.” The voice caught her attention and she looked to her left and saw a young girl standing in water up to her chin, eyes closed, calling out, “Marco” every few seconds. Each time she called, several other children moving around her called back, “Polo.”  As she heard their responses, she would turn in their direction and, without opening her eyes, reach out to try to tag one of them. But she never moved from where she was. It reminded her of something she had read in Proverbs. “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.” That’s so much like us, she thought. There is wisdom all around us, and if we call out, we can hear it. But we won’t ever find it if we just stay put in one place and make half-hearted attempts to touch it.

Laughter caught her attention. She turned to look and saw some mothers and daughters playing keep away. They were laughing as they tossed a water ball back and forth, no one having very good aim, and teams changing places in the middle frequently.

“Keep away,” she muttered. “I hate that game. Either the players on the ends are too good at tossing the ball high over the middle person’s head, or no one really cares about the game and end up half-heartedly tossing the ball. There’s no good challenge either way.”

So why are they laughing?

She had to think about that for awhile. Maybe the kids are laughing because they’re so little and don’t really know anything about the game. They just enjoy being in the water and throwing a ball around. And maybe the moms are laughing because their daughters are laughing. Is that how God sees us? He takes delight in watching us enjoy His creation?

She watched another group play a game she wasn’t familiar with. Evidently, one person is a shark and calls out “Swim”, then tries to catch the other people (minnows) as they swim from one side of the pool to the other. Most of the time, the minnows would just start swimming as fast as they could hoping to out swim the shark but the shark was able to catch whichever minnow it was after. However there was one minnow who stood out. She would watch the shark intently , wait for the shark to go after a minnow, then move quietly in a different direction, staying as far away from the shark as she could. If the shark happened to see her, she would sink into the water, causing the shark to have more difficulty seeing her. Underwater, she could swim faster and when she emerged, she’d be ten feet away. Time and time again she got away from the shark using this strategy.

Now, that’s a whole like us and temptation, she thought. Most of the time when temptation arises, we either fall easy prey to it, or we try to use out own power to avoid it. It might work now and then, but eventually that shark is going to get us. We should be more like that wise girl. Stay as far away as we can, and, when that doesn’t work, dive deep into Jesus, allowing Him to cover us as we make our escape.

A loud cry from the other side of the pool brought her attention to a man holding a very little girl, trying to talk her into letting him toss her up and catching her. She cried each time he mentioned it. The mom called from the side to quit talking about it and just do it. So he did and the little girl laughed. He repeated it several times, delighting in her laughter. Then he tried to talk her into going underwater with him so he could toss her higher. She refused and began crying again.

So much like us and God, she thought. It’s probably why He won’t tell us all His plans for us. We’d be as terrified as that little girl and refuse every invitation He gives us. Yet, He knows how much we would enjoy it once we got past the fear.

She was intrigued watching a young girl chatting with her friend, totally ignoring a younger girl who kept hitting her with a water ball. How could she do that? She knew if anyone kept hitting her with something, she’d get irritated and angry. But then she thought, isn’t that what Satan does? Constantly hitting us with something to mess with our peace and cause us to get irritated and angry? “God,” she prayed silently, “help me be able to ignore the arrows Satan throws at me as well as this little girl is ignoring the ball being slammed on her.”

There was a man floating in the midst of all this, eyes closed, ignoring everything around him as he relaxed.

Now that’s the right idea, she thought. To be able to rest on Jesus and ignore all the problems around us would be amazing!

She was dismayed to see another group of people enter the pool. OK, now it was just getting too crowded. Regretfully she climbed out of the pool and prepared to go home. As she did, she had one final thought: “This is like how one day I will climb out of the swimming pool of life and head to my heavenly home!” She smiled.  “Only I’ll do so with way more excitement than I feel right now!”

Dear Frustrated One, (From Someone Who Loves You series)

 

Dear Frustrated One,

Why do you keep pushing me away when it’s my hand that holds what you want?  I can see how hungry you are. I know what you want and I want to give it to you. But you are the one stopping me. All that hitting and flailing out prevents me from doing what we both want.  I can keep battling your efforts to do it yourself but it would be so much easier if you would just relax and let me do for you what you can’t yet do for yourself. Oh, and those screams are not helping. Be still, Little One, and know I am here, ready to feed you as soon as you let me.

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.  Ps 107:9

 

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These letters have double meaning. On the surface they are letters I’m writing to my granddaughter. But they are also letters God is writing to you. Reread them, replacing the greeting with your own name, and the closure with God’s name – and get to know the great love God has for you!

Dear Brave One, (from Someone Who Loves You Series)

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Dear Brave One,

It’s so hard to watch you hurt as you struggle to grow. Your face all red and grimacing reveals the battle going on inside you. Your body is fighting to get rid of the things that don’t belong in there. Be strong, Little One, and let them go. I know it hurts sometimes but you don’t need them.  And you will feel so much better once they are gone. Can you feel my hand on your back, supporting and encouraging you? Probably not, but that’s OK. I’m here whether you know it or not. I’m not going anywhere.

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

These letters have double meaning. On the surface they are letters I’m writing to my new granddaughter. But deeper down I hear God telling us the same things.  As you reread them, replace the greeting with your own name, and the closure with God’s name – and get to know the great love God has for you!

The Swing

“I was so close,” she thought with disappointment as gravity pulled her away. “Why can’t I just stay here where things are so much clearer? Why am I always pulled away?”

Helplessly she watched the sky grow further away, then disappear as the angle of her IMG_20180719_144815604body changed. Her vision now was filled with overshadowing trees, prickly bushes, weed-invested grass, and dirt crawling with bugs – the everyday mixture of good and bad she was very familiar with. Although she could no longer feel as if she was part of the glorious sky, she could still get a glimpse of it if she looked up. But the land around her was interesting in its own way and thoughts of it slowly crowded out the sky from her mind.

She didn’t get to stay there very long. She was pulled back up, this time backwards where all she could see was the ground receding from her. The dark, flat view that filled her eyes replaced the memory of the wide open blue sky and began to make her question if that blue sky even existed. “Did I just imagine it?” she wondered. “I can’t see blue sky anywhere around here. It must have been just wishful thinking.” However, in spite of the sad feeling that accompanied that thought, she was surprised how the distance provided her a new perspective on what she thought she knew so well. Like how little those bugs really were, and how the weeds seem to disappear into the greenness of the grass.

Just when she accepted her new vision, it changed.

“Arhh!” she screamed as she fell facedown towards the ground. “Not again!” Visions of smashing into the ground filled her mind with anxiety. As the ground loomed larger and larger in her sight, she just knew this time there was no way she was going to come out of this unhurt. With hands clenching on tight, she closed her eyes and began to pray.

But when the impact didn’t happen, she took a peek through one eye and saw she was not going down anymore. She was moving sideways and missing every obstacle. “Whew”, she said to herself. “I don’t know how, but I made it again.” Relief flooded her and she drew in deep breath and relaxed as her familiar world surrounded her yet again. Then in her peripheral vision, she got a glimpse of blueness above her and something in her spirit stirred. Looking up she was reminded of the things she had seen before and a longing rose up in her. How could she make her way back up there? And if she did, could she get high enough to stay there? She strived to push herself upwards but that didn’t help, and neither did wildly kicking her feet. Eventually she gave up.

Before long, though, she noticed everything began to seem brighter and she got increasingly frequent glimpses of the blueness above her. Her angle continued to change until all she could see was the bright blue sky and awesome white clouds. And once again everything seemed so peaceful and clear to her and she wanted to stay there forever.

But of course she couldn’t, and gravity pulled her back down again and she started the cycle all over.

“Wow, that was amazing!” she said as the ride stopped and she got off.

“Swinging like this has its ups and downs,” she thought. “Just like my Christian life. Sometimes I get so close to God and seem to understand everything so much clearer, but then that feeling fades away as days go by and I find my vision limited to what I can see down here.”

Then she had another thought. “There is one big difference. This swing may always come back down, but one day, I’m going to make it up into that spiritual sky and never come down!”

Dear Sleepyhead,

Dear Sleepyhead,

You are so cute I can’t take my eyes from you as you sleep here in my arms. Hours go by as minutes – and still I don’t have my fill of you. I wonder what you are dreaming about, and if you feel the incredible love I have for you. Do you hear me as I whisper to you? Can you feel the strength of my arms keeping you safe as you sleep? Somewhere inside you, I think you do. For when you grow restless in your sleep, all it takes is a few pats to settle you back into the deep, restful sleep you need. And knowing you trust me to watch over you fills my heart to overflowing. I treasure each and every moment I get to spend with you.

Always,

Someone who loves you

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

These letters have double meaning. On the surface they are letters I’m writing to my new granddaughter. But deeper down I hear God telling us the same things.  As you reread them, replace the greeting with your own name, and the closure with God’s name – and get to know the great love God has for you!

Dear New One, (From Someone Who Loves You Series)

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Dear New One,

Welcome to your new life!  What do you think? A bit bright, huh? Everything is so different. But don’t worry, you’re safe with me and I’ll help you get used to it little by little. We are going to have such fun together. I have so many dreams and plans for you! But first you have to grow a little more. So rest here in my arms as I surround you with my love. We have plenty of time.

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

These letters have double meaning. On the surface they are letters I’m writing to my new granddaughter. But deeper down I hear God telling us the same things.  As you reread them, replace the greeting with your own name, and the closure with God’s name – and get to know the great love God has for you!

Dear Hidden One (From Someone Who Loves You series)

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Dear Hidden One,

Maybe most people can’t see you there, moving in the darkness that surrounds you, but I can. You are so beautiful! And I love you so much already!

You probably think that where you are is all there is in life. But you are so wrong. There is so much more to life than you can imagine, and I can’t wait to share it with you. Although most of the time you seem content in your small dark place, I wonder if you sense there is more.  I see you stretching out your arms and legs, testing the walls around you. Do you ever get frustrated with those boundaries?  Or do you know they are there to keep you safe until you’re ready to join me in the light?

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

These letters have double meaning. On the surface they are letters I’m writing to my granddaughter. But they are also letters God is writing to you. Reread them, replacing the greeting with your own name, and the closure with God’s name – and get to know the great love God has for you!

 

 

Counting On

Chewing on a brownie, she read the title of next short story in her book. It was an odd little book with the oddest stories. But each had a fascination of its own, so she would read one every chance she had, usually during her morning breaks at work. This one was called Counting On. Counting on what, she wondered as she turned the page.

The little girl loved to count. She had to count. She needed to count. But counting on things didn’t always work out for her. Actually, they rarely worked out for her.

Like when she tried counting on her crayons. She would line them up as she counted them. IMG_20180714_101429188One, two, three… until she ran out of crayons. No matter how big the box, she always ran out of crayons. That was bad enough, but the worst part was trying to keep the crayons from rolling around. It seemed most surfaces had some kind of slant to them, no matter how slight, that caused the crayons to roll at the slightest movement. She could sometimes lay them out on the carpet, but then someone usually came along and stepped on them, smashing them down into the ground.

So she tried other things. But nothing seemed to work. Not her beads – they were worse than the crayons. Not her dolls – there weren’t enough of them. Not her cereal – bugs eventually found them.

Finally she thought she had it! Silverware! They didn’t roll and there were plenty of the forks, knives, and spoons in the drawer! So she dumped them all out on the table and began counting them. It worked like a dream… until people began taking them.

“Hey, where did all the spoons go?”

“I need a fork.”

“Excuse me, mind if I take a knife to butter my bread?”

She got frustrated as silverware was taken from her and then returned to the wrong place, if they were returned at all. It got so bad she lost track of what she had counted and what she hadn’t. Didn’t anyone care enough, respect her enough to care where they took and returned the silverware? The hurt and frustration she felt each time finally took its toll and, crying, she gave up.

But her need to count on something remained so she looked for something else to count. Something that didn’t roll or attract bugs. And something that no one would take from her.

Then one day, while out shopping with her mom, she found the perfect thing – a bag of colored glass jewels! Not only did their flat bottoms keep them from rolling, they came in pretty colors. And not being edible, bugs would leave them alone as would everyone else since they were her own property.

For days she happily counted on her jewels, lining them up and enjoying the colors as she counted. She kept them in a velvet bag on top of her dresser when she wasn’t counting them. Whenever she felt the need to count, she would run to her room, grab the bag, dump them out on her bed, and count on them until her need was met.

But one day they weren’t there. She searched frantically as her need grew, until finally she found them behind the dresser. How did they get there? Did someone touch them when she wasn’t around? Relieved that she found them, she didn’t think anymore about their misplacement. That is, until it happened again. And then a third time. After searching, she would end up finding them in odd places. How was that happening? Was someone messing with them – and her? Or was she doing it herself? Was she having memory lapses? In any case, she knew she could no longer trust being able to count on the jewels. She had to find something else.

And then she found IT!

IT was perfect! IT didn’t roll. IT didn’t attract bugs. IT was her own personal property that no one could take, even if they wanted to. And IT was always with her, even when she wasn’t thinking about IT.

IT was her fingers! She could count on them every time she had the need. And when she ran out of fingers, she would just start back on her first finger while counting higher and higher. She found she could count forever with them, if she wanted. She had finally found the perfect thing to count on that would never disappoint!

Closing the book, she thought about what she had just read. Definitely odd, but it reminded her of something. Didn’t everyone have a need to count on something sometimes? Counting on the weather to be nice for a beach day? Counting on a friend to help with a task? Counting on her dog to provide entertainment when she was bored? And didn’t most things turn out to be unreliable at times? Rain instead of sunshine? Friend cancelling at the last minute? Dog too sleepy to play with?

But, she thought, we also have an IT. An amazing IT.  IT’s called Jesus! He’s always with us, no one can take Him from us, and we can count on Him forever!

She set the book down and, wiggling her fingers with a smile, got back to work.