Bella – Epilogue 

Bella spent many days visiting the lake. No matter how often or what time she arrived, she would find God there. And no matter how many questions she asked, He always answered them patiently. Some answers were clear and easy to understand, others were a bit vaguer.

“Why did You tell me You were Pastor Toby when I first met You?”

“If I had told you I was God, what would you have done?”

She thought a moment, then laughed. “I’d have run as fast and as far as I could to get away from You.”

“That’s why. I meet people where they are. I reveal only what they are ready to hear.”

“What is this place? This church that seems bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside?”

“Kind of like spiritual life. From the outside, life with Me often seems small and contained when actually it’s very much the opposite.”

Bella nodded with understanding.

“And why does Your back yard look so different to me than it did to that lady who saw a forest?”

“Because each of you have a totally unique relationship with Me. What you see and experience is based on who you are and how I made you.”

“OK, I can get that. What I can’t understand is how this place can be two things at once. Or more likely thousands of things at once.”

“I’m not bound by your laws of physics. I’m beyond any law.”

“But… thousands??”

“I’m big,” He said with a shrug. “Thousands is nothing to Me.”

“So if You’re that big, how can You take notice of something as small as me?”

“Because of all the things I’ve created, I love you the most.”

Bella smiled. Amazing, she thought, that this God could love her this much. Little did she know how much her God really did love her. That would be revealed to her at another time, when she was ready. For now, she was content to sit His presence, soaking up His love, and learning all she could each day.

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The End

 

Bella stories:

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

Bella part 6   9  10  11 12  13   14  15   16

17

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.

The Lunch Invitation

Nancy looked at the lunch invitation with delight. Meals at her friends’ house were always an adventure. They liked to experiment with their recipes, often finding creative ways to tweak the ingredients to make the dishes unique and unforgettable. This meal, scheduled for the following week, should be no exception.

Each day she tried to imagine what they would be serving.  Probably nothing as ordinary as spaghetti or grilled cheese, unless they added some fun ingredients, of course. Maybe something with lobster, she thought, mentally licking her lips.

Finally the day came and she drove to her friends’ house with great anticipation

“Come on in! I’m so glad you’re here!” Susan exclaimed as she held the door open for Nancy.

“Thank you for the invite,” Nancy replied. “I love your cooking!”

They walked down the hall towards the kitchen. “Bob is finishing the salad right now. We kind of burned the main dish so we added some extra ingredients to make the salad larger. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all. Salad actually sounds good.” Nancy knew whatever they served would be amazing.

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The large salad in the center of the kitchen table did look amazing. So full of greens with lots of colorful veggies, eggs, and cheeses mixed in.

Bob held the salad fork and motioned to the salad. “We weren’t expecting to have to make such a big salad and didn’t have enough greens so I added some lettuce leaves from our backyard garden. It’s the first time we’ve ever grown lettuce and I’m so excited that they were ready to use today.”

Nancy glanced out the window to the back yard, then stared with horror. A dog was peeing on the bed of lettuce. Was this the same bed that Bob got his lettuce for the salad? It had to be.

“Umm…” she began. “Your dog is… umm… peeing on your lettuce.”

“Oh, that’s OK,” Bob said. “He does that all the time. It doesn’t hurt the lettuce.”

Nancy looked at the salad. Was some of that peed on lettuce part of this salad?

Susan saw her look and said, “Don’t worry. I’m sure Bob rinsed the lettuce before adding it to the salad.”

“Of course,” Bob agreed. “I always do.”

Nancy thought of the quick rinse she usually did to her own vegetables. Surely he did better than that.

“Besides,” Susan went on, “even if he happened to use a lettuce leaf that had gotten peed on, it’s such a little part of this salad that you won’t even notice.”

Somehow, Nancy had lost her appetite and began wondering what excuse she could make to get out of there without eating.

Later, much later, she thought… is this like us and sin? We think we do so many wonderful things that a little sin here or there doesn’t really matter. But is that how God sees sin? That it’s OK to accept small sins as long as we basically try to do the right things? Would that be like Susan and Bob accepting that salad since it was basically all good ingredients? A little contamination wouldn’t be noticed?

No, God was pure holiness. There was no darkness in Him at all. So all sin, no matter how small, must be as despicable to Him as the possible yellow lettuce had been to her.

Wow! That sure puts sin in a whole new light.

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 2

She turned around slowly and two men with warm smiles on their faces. The older man was tall, average weight, and thinning gray hair. The other man was younger with dark hair and eyes.

“Umm..” she started to stammer not having any idea how to explain her presence.

“Can we help you?” asked the younger man.

Shaking her head, she looked past them to the door. Seeing her look, the older man chuckled.  “No need to worry, We won’t hurt you.” He walked over to her with his hand outstretched. “Hi. I’m the Pastor here. You can call me Toby. This here is my son, Jude. We’re actually glad you’re here.”

“Um… sorry for intruding. I just needed a place to hide.”

“You won’t find a safer place. Would you like to take a walk with us? We were just heading out to the lake.”

Lake? Here, in the city? Confused, she followed them down the hallway. They passed  several closed doors before Toby opened the one at the end of the hall.

“No way!” she thought as she saw what was on the other side of that door.

It opened into a large garden full of colorful blooming flowers, luscious green grass, and mighty fruit-bearing trees of every kind. A dirt path wound its way through the garden exiting at the far end. And in the distance, she could see the blue glint of water. Where in the world was she?

Toby and Jude chatted as they walked, trying to draw her in by asking her questions. They asked about her job and family as well as her concerns, cares, and dreams. Not wanting to reveal the sadness inside her – being a preacher and preacher’s son, they would be sure to try to “fix” her – she covered her feelings by answering flippantly. They didn’t seem to notice her tone, and were intensely interested in everything she said and even seem to care about everything that concerned her.

They arrived at the lake and climbed out onto a pier that jutted out over the water. IMG_20180504_145142154Sitting down, they were all quiet as they drank in the peaceful beauty of the place. Bella began relaxing as the peace soaked into her wounded soul. She had never experience as much love and acceptance from anyone as she was feeling from Toby and Jude.

After a long while, Toby turned to Bella and said, “Why don’t you tell me all about it. Just start at the beginning.”

Still covering her feelings, she continued to be flippant. “What beginning? When I was born beginning?”

Toby looked at Bella for a long minute, then said quietly, “Start at Disneyworld.”

Bella paled. Trembling, she asked, “How did you know about Disneyworld?”

“It’s my job, my gift.”

“My sisters were molested in Disneyworld. I might have been too because I was there. I can’t remember. All I know is something isn’t right inside me.”

She tried to listen to Toby as he began talking but her feelings were overwhelming her and she couldn’t hear anything but fear and doubt and condemnation. Eventually Toby’s words began to get through to her as he spoke louder and louder. When they were loud enough to drown out all her thoughts, she caught his eye and said, “OK, I can hear you. You’re preaching!”

He smiled and said, “Yes, I tend to do that.”

“I think we should leave now,” she said, wanting to avoid any more discussion.

“Sure, if you want to.” They stood up.

“I’m glad I chose to hide in your church,” she said as they walked back towards the church. “This is a good place.”

“I’m glad you accepted my invitation,” he answered. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you like.”

“Thanks, but I’m fine. I need to go.” As much as she loved being there, she was also uncomfortable. If he knew about Disneyworld, how much more did he know?

“As you will. But just know that you’re welcome back anytime. We’ll always be  here.”

They escorted her through the house and back into the foyer. Reluctantly she waved goodbye and went out the front door. She didn’t know why she was drawn to this place that both refreshed and terrified her. But she knew one day she’d be back.  And when she did, she knew Toby and Jude would be waiting for her with open arms.

 

This story, based on a dream I had years ago, is designed as an allegory. Here are a few analogies you can find in it.

The sidewalk was crowded with people – most going about their business, some feeling lost, and a few trying to connect with other people. Life is crowded with people also. Most are going about their business, not really paying attention to those around them. Some people feel lost in this world. And a few people try to connect with others to share God’s love.

Bella was surrounded by people and ended up getting hurt but chose to be in denial about how serious it was. We live in a world surrounded by people and will eventually get hurt. Many of us also tend to live in denial of the pain we have rather than allow someone else close enough to help us. At least I know I do.

The church was bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside, and contained a beautiful garden and lake. The spiritual world, heaven, is much bigger and more beautiful than it appears to those on the outside.

Bella found refuge in the home of Toby and Jude. We find refuge in God the Father and Jesus the Son.

Toby and Jude were intensely interested in everything Bella said, and cared about all her concerns.  God is intensely interested in us and cares about everything we care about.

Toby knew about the pain Bella felt deep in her soul, regardless of how flippant she tried to sound. God knows the pain deep inside us no matter what we do to try to cover it.

Even though Toby and Jude wanted Bella to stay, she was free to come and go as she pleased. We have the same freedom in God. He desires us to stay with Him all the time, but won’t force us.

 

Now your turn. Does this story relate to your life in any way? What are some other analogies you can see?

You Are the Nightlight of the World

Feeling sad and discouraged, she read the words in Matthew 5: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  (v.14-15)

Really?

Where was that light when an old friend told her, “I don’t need Jesus. I don’t want Jesus.” She had been too confused to respond. How could anyone not want Jesus?

Where was that light when she visited her siblings? The discord she found there had worked its way inside her until she had gotten drawn into it. OK, maybe not as deeply as they were, but still. Where was her light?

Sadly, she read Matthew’s words again and thought, if Christians are the light of the world, I must be a nightlight. And I don’t seem to be doing a very good job at even that.

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That next couple of days, she kept getting the message to persevere. To take things one step at a time and not compare herself with others. She sighed. She’d rather be a bright light in the lives of those around her, but if the best she could be was a nightlight, then she’d persevere in being that nightlight. Yet, deep in her heart, she continued to struggle. How could Jesus be happy with her when her light was little more than that lamp under a bowl?

Years later, she received a letter from a friend.  In it, he described a vision he had had. He had seen a small girl, standing before Jesus, head down, ashamed because she feels she’s disappointed Him. He saw Jesus lift her head and tell her…

“I’ve told you time and time again – I love you just as you are. I didn’t create you to be a flame that bursts forth with brilliant light. You are my glowing ember and you will warm the hearts of many, many souls.”

Astonished, she knew this had to be from God. She had never told this friend about her struggle with not being a bright enough light. As peace replaced the struggle in her heart, she thanked God for this friend’s courage to share that message with her. And she thanked God for caring enough to let her know that being a low level light – a nightlight – was exactly what she was made to be, and it was OK.

“God, after all the times I ignored Your reassurances out of fear and doubt, You never gave up. Thank You for loving me enough to find a way to get Your message to me loud and clear. You’re amazing!”

Just Like… The Kitten in the Woods

“Let’s try this trail!” My son pointed to a narrow trail through a little piece of woods that bordered the street we were bicycling on.

“It looks hard,” I answered. “Maybe we should get off our bikes.”  Inside, I was picturing riding down the steep slope, hitting that hump at the bottom, and flying off into the trees.

“Nah, we can handle it,” my husband said as he took off, my son right behind him.

My daughter and I watched the boys disappear over the hump, then turned to look at each other.

“You go next,” I told my daughter. I still wasn’t sure this was a smart thing for a middle aged lady to do.

After watching her navigate the path as smoothly as the boys, I cautiously started off. Gaining speed, I almost screamed when I hit the hump but managed to stay on the bike even as I made the turn that lay right behind it. When I came to a stop, the others cheered. We walked our bikes a few more steps around some branches when my daughter stopped us.

“Do you hear that?” she asked.

We listened quietly a few minutes before we heard it too.

Just like I heard you when you called to Me.

“It’s coming from over there.” My husband pointed across the little stream that ran by the trail.

It took a few more minutes before we spotted the tiny gray form. It was on the other side of the stream, meowing pitifully. It would look at us, then try to cross the cold water. After several unsuccessful tries,  it gave up and paced up and down the edge of the water, looking at us as it continued to cry. She couldn’t get to us, so we decided to find a way to get to her.

Just like I did when I went to the cross for you.

It wasn’t until we got back home with the tiny kitten that we discovered just how bad a shape she was in.

cassi - CopyShe was very young, probably less than a month, wet, cold, covered with fleas. One eye was closed, covered with a brown crusty film, and her other eye wasn’t that much better off. There was a smelly discharge coming from her ears, and she had a kind of wheezing cough.

Just like you were when I found you.

Even so, we fell in love with her immediately. We saw past the disease and filth to the vulnerable and sweet kitten that she was.

Just like I see past all your sins and failures to the lovely treasure you are.

Even though we couldn’t imagine loving her any more than we already did, we knew we couldn’t leave her in that condition.

Just like I couldn’t leave you in your condition.

“She’s going to the vet first thing tomorrow,” my husband said. “She looks pretty sick.”

“She must be hungry. What can we feed her?” I asked. We had some dog food in the house but no cat food.

“We can ask next door,” my daughter said. “They have a cat.”

“Good idea!”

Our neighbor was generous but the kitten couldn’t eat any of the dry cat food.

“Maybe she’s too young. What else can we try? She has to eat something before tomorrow.” I said.

“What about tuna fish?” my son asked.

“Sure, we could try,” my husband replied. He went inside, and returned a moment later with a small dish of tuna.

As soon as the kitten smelled it, she attacked it like she hadn’t eaten in days. Mostly likely, she hadn’t.

Just like I feed you what you can handle.

Over the next week, her health improved dramatically as we applied the medicine the vet had given us. She didn’t like it and fought us at times, but we knew it was necessary if she was going to return to full health.

Just like how you are healing as I work in you, even if you resist at times.

After a month, you couldn’t tell that she had ever been sick. Cassi was healthy in every way, and had became my daughter’s best friend!

Just like you,  My friend!

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