Archive for the ‘Inspirational stories’ Category

Germinating Seeds of Faith

Matthew followed his grandfather out to the old barn. The water line was still visible, its sides warped, leaning from storm damage and the dark, humid interior emanating a dank smell of fertilizer, peat moss, tools and tractor.

“Grandpa, it smells like the pond after the flood. You know…when it receded and left a lot of rot and stuff down along the banks?”

“Yes. But we’ll start by propping open that fallen door and letting in some sunlight and fresh air. Then we can start cleaning up what is salvageable to use again. The tools and tractor are not too severely affected by the flood waters, but the mower and other things might be. I think there’s still some seed over here on the shelves that we might be able to use to plant another crop if it is not too wet or decayed.”

They opened a damp, limp bag, still sealed but smelling like rotting wet hay. “Whew. It smells like… my dead frog.” Matthew said.

“Yes, I guess it does. I’m sorry about your frog.” Grandpa stuck his hand down in the bag, sifting the contents through his fingers testing the texture for signs of any moisture. “It feels dry enough to try. Shall we? It’s corn seed.”

“Plant it? I don’t know. The bag got pretty wet.”

“Yes, but it’s been sealed shut, so nothing else could get in to spoil it, or ruin the contents. You know, Matthew it’s kind of like the scriptures you learned in your bible lessons, about the parables of Jesus, the way he taught his disciples about planting good seed that grows deep in good soil that is cultivated, plowed and watered. The seeds yield a good harvest because they are like the words of Jesus planted in our heart, our soul. They are sealed in, but they don’t stay there if they’re to do any good.”

“I know Grandpa. but when things get ruined or spoiled how can we expect anything good to come from it? And this seed was not even in the ground yet before the storm. Talk about good irrigation!”

Grandpa laughed. “Matthew, do you have just a grain of faith that it will work, that we can make our garden grow? It only takes one seed to grow a plant until ripe for harvest. Don’t you think we can see an acre of corn grow from this one bag of seed? Do you remember the parable about the mustard seed? It only takes one seed, one grain to produce.”

“Yes, I remember. Well, you’re a farmer. A good one. If anyone can do it, you can.”

“Maybe, but, it’s not what I can do, but what God can do with my seed because of my faith. Now, it’s time you learn what a seed can do that has survived a flood with washed out crops. Like those words of Jesus you’ve learned in the parables, that what we see, what we hear, what we plant, what we grow is rooted in a firm foundation, and in this case it is initially the soil that is our foundation; planted, cultivated and prepped to produce a good crop. It is what we do with what we have that builds our faith.”

____________________

Joyce E. Mannhalter © June 2020

Footnotes: scripture references for the above fictional parable are as follows.

[Luke 6:49] NIV

But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed, and its destruction was complete.”

[Mark 4:3] NIV

“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. [Mark 4:8] Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Lone Responder

Gabe had to get out of the house. Tired of all the depressing news on Covid-19 he grabbed up his car keys and his mask and headed out the door. For where exactly, he wasn’t sure.

Maybe, a drive to the lake, park somewhere, walk around and watch the sunset. When have I last done that?

Working from home, long hours spent on his laptop, crunching the numbers for a company needing resuscitation from the economical meltdown had him seeing multiple dollar signs in his dreams at night. Would there ever be an end to this nightmare?

He noticed others out walking, some with their dogs, others obviously wanting exercise and fresh air, too.

The campgrounds were looking more like a tent city springing up with all the homeless; evicted or thrust out of their place or shelter.

As he slowed and came around a curve, a commotion ahead caught his eye and that of others keeping their distance, gawking at a man sprawled on the ground clinging to his possessions as two men ran from the scene, clutching things ripped from the hands of the injured man.

Can’t park here. Just isn’t safe. Going on over to the other side of the lake away from all this.

When parked, Gabe got out of his car, locked it and headed for one of the safer trails up ahead. But something about the helpless man sprawled out on the ground nagged at him.

God, I know you said to love our neighbors, do good deeds. But, this? What if I…? What if he…? What can I do?

Returning to his car he put on his mask and walked down the street to where the man lay.

When he got to the man, he could see he had been beaten with gashes, cuts on his face, and looked disheveled in dirtied, torn clothes. His face was bruised and bleeding, but his eyes pleading, imploring.

“Please! Help me. They took everything I had. I…tried to resist…but, they…were stronger, and I could not…”

“It’s OK. I’m going to get you some help. What’s your name?”

“Theo. Theodore.”

“OK. First, I need to go get my car, parked over there! on the next street. Then, I will drive you to the hospital and stay with you, so you get the help needed.”

Gabe ran back to the car, drove up in front of the man, still prone, very weak, barely conscious, then picked him up and laid him carefully in his back seat and rushed him to the hospital.

Gabe ran into emergency with his mask on, disregarding their questions or protocol, but instead led them out to his car to the injured man, told them where he’d found him, what happened, then stayed with him while he got the treatment and care needed until he was well. He paid his hospital bill, then found him a place to live.

_______________

Joyce E. Mannhalter © April 2020

The above story is based on the parable Jesus told of the ‘Good Samaritan’ found in Luke 10:30-35, in the New Testament Bible. Jesus spoke to his disciples and those listening what it meant to, “inherit the kingdom of God, and to love your neighbor as yourself”. When a self-righteous man asked, “And, who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the story of the ‘Good Samaritan’. At times we might be asked to step up and take responsibility of caring for the needs of one we would not otherwise want to do. It is then when we might need to be a, “Lone Responder”, or ‘Good Samaritan’ to help that “neighbor” and love them as we love ourselves.

JEM

 

Coming Against Our Giants

Growing up in a Christian home as a child I learned early the biblical stories of people; men, women, and children who made a difference or left an impact on the lives of those they came to know, ones they encountered by choice, accident or by divine intervention. One way or other they all left their traces and footprints on the pages of history in the old and new testament, and today we still can learn things, gain new perspective and insight into how their story and what they did can influence and affect our lives by learning from their experiences.

One of my favorites was the stories of David, a small boy who grew up to be a great king of Israel. But, his journey to get there was a long, arduous one. It was difficult, full of obstacles, danger, intrigue, cunning defensive counter attacks, preparation and planning. One would think that the first phase of his military accomplishments should be a long extensive stint of training and knowledge of tactical weaponry and a ‘tour of duty’ serving under Israel’s present king, Saul. But it did not start that way. It started with a mere stone and small sling. How does a young shepherd boy, small in stature, dressed in an animal skin tunic and sandals kill a burly, mean, threatening bully over seven feet tall, armed with steel armor, javelin, spear, and helmet? With faith, confidence and the power of a God that assures us that all things are possible with, and through Him (ref. Philippians 4:13). With the assurance that God was with him in his battles David stood his ground facing his giant.

We don’t know the battles we will face, nor have the option to choose them, the time or place as they might come unexpectedly at any time from any direction or source, and we are faced head on with them. It may not be a lion or bear, or a nine-foot giant dressed head to toe in steel armor with spears or javelins. Our giants come in many shapes, forms, and sizes. The devil chooses weapons that can deceive us, destroy us, diminish and drain us of the things we need to fight with; faith, confidence, and courage.

God’s word comes as a sword preparing us for battle. It is the stone, the rock we carry in our sling that leaves the biggest impact, with the power and strength that knows no limitations to what it can do for us, the giants it will take down and the battles we will win. If God goes before us, we cannot lose, but win. We cannot fail but succeed.

But the enemy is sly, deceitful and deceptive. It looks for cracks in our armor and can gain access if we don’t fortify our walls and strengthen our defense. After David’s victory in killing the giant, Goliath he then had to deal with another, the present king, Saul. From that point on David’s battles came; bigger, greater, one right after the other.

Fortifying our walls, strengthening our defense, choosing our rock determines the outcome of our battles, win or lose. Our battles belong to the Lord to fight for us.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge, He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold,” Psalm 18:2 NIV

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Joyce E. Mannhalter (Jan. 2020)

 

Reseated

Cliff handed the driver a generous tip, thanked him and walked into the conference hall. Signs and banners announced the launch and grand opening of the new rehab center. Without the sizeable donations and contributions from companies like his he knew they’d not even exist. Equipped with the best in housing, treatment and care they spared nothing to give the doctors, medical personnel and case workers all they needed to facilitate what the residents and patients needed. Except for the director, administrator, and well-placed case workers and professionals it was largely staffed with unpaid volunteers who themselves were recovering alcoholics and former drug addicts, and the like. They’d all been invited to the gala event. The congressman who pushed and promoted the center’s cause and creation into existence promised tax credits and incentives to the big donors funding it. He was running for president in the next election and Cliff, one of his constituents was inclined to get on board with the project. If it succeeded it was a win for them all.

They opened with speeches, introductions and honorable mentions of people significant to its inception. A formal dinner would follow. Cliff moved towards the front of the head table shaking hands, smiling and talking with ones near the director and administrator hoping to claim a seat next to the congressman as he and the director greeted guests and dignitaries.

He stood behind a seat near theirs ready to sit down when the event planner came up to him and said, “Sir, we have these seats next to the director, administrator and congressman reserved for the chaplain, case workers and mentors that work directly with them, but if you will follow me down here to the end of this row we will seat you with another group.”

He glared back at her, then said, “Young lady, do you know who I am? I’m the CEO of Scarsdale Industries and if not for our financial support and funding this event would not even be happening It is because of our involvement that…” he went on a bit too loudly. Heads turned their direction hearing the exchange of words which also caught the attention of a news photographer standing to the side, videotaping it all.

“Yes, sir. Thank you. I’m aware of who you are, but at the request of the director we have placed his staff next to them because of their selfless commitment and time to the program. I’m sure you understand my position. So, if you will please follow me, I will reseat you down on this end with the other contributors and donors.”

Cliff’s face turned red, his eyes, cold as ice glaring back as if in defiance, but without another word just nodded and followed her to the end of the long formal dining table set for the fifty some guests invited.

His dignity suffered a a direct blow from the incident. He came to the gala proud, arrogant and boastful for what he’d given to them, trying to claim some glory for himself with his position in life, but instead walked away humbled, learning a lesson in humility. He found that there is no glory for one who lives only to exalt and lift up himself so others might see his good works.

__________________

The above story is fiction. It is my version, inspired by and based on the parable Jesus told in Luke 14:7-11, ‘the banquet feast.’ I have recently been studying the parables and stories in both the new and old testaments, and find them not only full of history, facts and truth, and a message for all, but also they are a great inspiration for stories that can speak to hearts today. We all have times when we’re needing to learn what it is like to have our stool or pedestal knocked out from under our feet. Sometimes just declaring our achievements openly before others can prove fatal to achieving what we really need demonstrated; integrity, honesty and consideration for those who maybe struggle with their own personal worth, confidence and self-esteem.  I have been reminded of that plenty of times when the still small voice of the Holy Spirit quickens my heart and I need forgiveness for my selfish attitude or indifference. 

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11 NIV

Joyce E. Mannhalter © July 2019

The Wayward Son

“Dad, I’m taking what’s mine and leaving.”

“Why? I hoped you would want to work with your brother and I in the business. When I retire the business will be yours, and your brother’s. ”

“No. I want to see the world, travel.” He turned away avoiding the crestfallen look on his father’s face.

A few days later Mick closed out his accounts, cashed in his trust fund, took his share of the estate and left.

For months following he traveled the world, living like a man with no responsibilities or obligations. No concerns or thoughts to who or what he left behind and none for those he met along the way. He dined and partied with men and women who showed him a good time, drove fast cars, stayed at five-star hotels and resorts eating and drinking at expensive restaurants while spending, and charging all without a care. Life was good, easy. He felt free. But the money ran out, credit cards expired, loans defaulted, and he was broke, unable to pay his debts.

Now desperate and hungry he hauled grain and feed to the stock pens of a farmer eating what he could glean. When he asked for food, they replied. “Go away, can you not see all the hungry who still have no food to eat. There isn’t enough for our own.” So, he searched through alleys for scraps in waste bins behind the bars he once hung out in.

I will go home and apologize to my father and ask if he will hire me on as one of his construction workers. They at least eat well and are paid for their wages earned. I have earned nothing but the shame and disrespect of my family. Will even God forgive me for all I have done?

While walking up the long-gated drive to his father’s home he was met with the warm loving arms of his father, never asking where he’d gone or what he’d done. Only how happy he was to see him and know he had ‘come home.’ His father asked his servants to prepare a very special, festive dinner and celebration with his best wine for his youngest son had returned home.

But when Stan Jr. the older son saw all the commotion and celebration going on, he came to his father and asked what he was doing and why.

“Did I not work for you all these years faithfully running things at the business just like you taught me? And yet, now you spoil him with an outlandish display of gifts and party. Do I not deserve the same or better for all I have done?”

“Stan Sr. replied, “Son, all you need do is ask and it is yours to enjoy. All I have is yours already. But your brother was lost to us all those years and now has returned. It is time to celebrate, not be bitter. Let’s party.”

_________________________

Joyce E. Mannhalter © 2019

The above story is fiction, but the truth and parable are scriptural. The story of the prodigal son is found in Luke 15: 11-32 of the New Testament Bible. It is one of many parables or stories Jesus shared with his disciples to illustrate a truth or lesson. This parable story is one of my favorites as it depicts the love our Father God has for us who come to him lost, with a repentant heart seeking forgiveness and wishing for a new beginning, a new life in Him. receiving the gift of salvation and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in directing our steps while on our journey of faith. I love how this father reached out to his lost son in love with no condemnation or questions as to where he’d been or how he conducted his life before his return. As Father’s Day is approaching on Sunday, June 16th I thought this parable story a perfect one to share and hope you have enjoyed reading my own fictional modern version of the parable of the ‘Prodigal Son’. I want to wish all fathers out there a Happy Father’s Day. Best wishes to you and yours on this special day.

JEM

The Galilee and His Disciples

The Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, Israel, May, 2001 photo credit: Joyce (Johnson) Mannhalter

 

The Galilee, quiet, cold and still

but for the ripples under a bright orange sky

lies in mournful praise. It was here

where once they’d gathered sharing life, 

they’d fished and prayed,

 but now the sea is silent like His grave. 

as the sun sets, its reflections seen

over what looks like a stained glass sea

  merging colors of purple, crimson red 

for the bruised and broken Son of God,

the crucified Christ who suffered and bled.

Now their boats sit idly by with empty nets drawn in and dry. 

His disciples aren’t here, gone to mourn their loss, 

 the Messiah, Savior Lord, whom they followed to His death.

the One who stilled the storm and taught

from a boat about faith, and hope

and how to believe for miracles received. 

Did He not promise he’d return one day? 

And find them again before going away 

to reign with His Father and they would know

that what He said, He would do,

and that in His place would the Comforter come too? 

So they left their nets and boats to moor

on the Sea of the Galilean shore.

_________________________

Joyce E. Mannhalter – April, 2019

The story of the Sea of Galilee and Jesus’s disciples can be found in the scripture passages here below: Matthew, 8: 23-27, chapters 14: verses 22-32, and chapter 17: 22 & 23. The promise Jesus made to his disciples of the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) that would come after he went away (after the resurrection) can be found in these scriptures here: John 14:16, 26, 15:26 & 27,and in chapter 16: verse 7. His promise made then for them and for all is the same today, and always. We have the assurance that whatever we face in life with all the challenges, the problems, the good, the bad and the ugly we have the assurance that our Redeemer lives, is still on the throne, and we will be comforted and shown grace and mercy. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today and forever.” KJV

Happy Easter to all,

JEM

 

 

The Promised Rock

 

 “Lady, do you want a pretty rock? I got pretty rocks. It just costs a nickel.”

The little red-haired, freckled boy stood outside my front door with a hopeful, expectant look. I didn’t think he could be over five years old. I smiled and said. “Sure. I’d love a pretty rock. Can I pick one out?”

 “No, I have to go get it. I will be right back.” Then he ran off down the street.

I went to get my nickel, then waited a few minutes at the door to see if he would return. He did. Running up to my door again, he held out his hand and a small, white, triangular-shaped rock lay in his palm. We made the exchange.

I said, “Thank you. That is a pretty rock.” Then he took off. As I watched him run back down the street I smiled and wondered if the little entrepreneur went looking  for another who might buy one of his rocks. There is nothing in particular about this little rock that stood out as anything special. But, it reminded me of the story in Matthew in the New Testament about John the Baptist who came as the forerunner telling all he met that God was sending the Son of God, the prophesied Savior. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy spirit and with fire.” Matthew 3:11

Christ came as the promised rock, the One whom we could place our trust  in and build our foundation upon. All that He asks from us in exchange for this gift of eternal life is to believe in Him, seeking forgiveness for our sins.

Jesus never demanded attention, did not dress to stand out in a crowd, or use other means to draw people unto Him. Yet, His love and compassion compelled people to come to Him. He stood out among the masses while doing what his father sent Him to do; loving all unconditionally, healing the sick, ministering to the poor, the hurting and brokenhearted, teaching grace and forgiveness. He came to fulfill the will of his father, to be the sacrificed lamb, the ‘promised rock’ of salvation. There is no way to the Father except through Jesus Christ, His son.

“The Lord is my rock and my salvation.” Psalm 18:2

_________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2018)

Believe for the Impossible

CHRISTMAS

A man stood outside the busy store, shivering, dressed in a Santa suit, ringing his Christmas bell. A volunteer to the nonprofit, he smiled and greeted everyone he met. A few stopped to drop some change into his kettle, then hurried into the store. It was beginning to snow and the temperature had dropped another ten degrees.

Minutes later a mini-van pulled up in front and let people out, all senior residents from the “Westbrook. Senior Center, Home of the Ageless.”

“Ageless? Now that’s a new concept.” He said to himself. A spry little lady walked up to the kettle and dropped her coins in.

“Thank you, mam.”

“You’re welcome. You look cold. Have you been out here long?”

“Uh, several hours now. You know, trying to help out the charity, and all.”

“Yes. Of course. And, they are grateful. The Lord bless you, young man.” She patted him on the shoulder and walked into the store.

“Yes, mam. Thank you.”

She returned later with a large winter coat and a cup of hot cider. She placed the coat about his shoulders and handed him the cider. “I thought you could use this. The coat is yours also.”

“Oh, No, mam, I can’t take the coat. You needn’t do that. I’m fine, really.”

“Nonsense. Your feet ache, fingers stiff from the cold, you were laid off your factory job, divorced, .and looking for work.”

What…in the world? He stared at her as if she read his mind, knew him intimately, and his life history. “How could you know that…what I did? Who are you?” he asked, incredulously.

She smiled. “It’s not important. Well, it’s time I rejoin my friends. Good night.”

She boarded the waiting van with the same people she got off with and it drove away. He stood staring, trying to figure if he had ever met her.

When he turned in his kettle that night, he waited until it was emptied, the money counted, recorded, then signed out.

“Thanks, John. You know that job you applied for in the warehouse? It’s still open if you want to come in tomorrow for an interview. Still interested?” asked the officer behind the desk.

“Sure. Yes, sir. Thank you.”

John went home to a quiet house with so many regrets, the divorce, his drinking problem, losing his old job because of it. He couldn’t change his past, but he was working at changing his future.

He took off the coat wondering about the stranger who’d given it to him. She’s got my number alright. Maybe a former employee from the company that knows too much. Nice coat, though.

He found an envelope in the pocket with a check made out to him signed by an anonymous benefactor for $50,000. There must be some mistake. Who would leave a check…?
Some severance check or back payment from my layoff? An attached note read, “If you believe in things you thought impossible miracles tend to happen. Merry Christmas, John.”

______________

Joyce E. Johnson © 2017

His Dad’s Tool Chest

“Why did we have to come? He didn’t care about us when he was alive. Why should I care now?”

“Because, he was your father. Show some respect. He deserves that much.”

“Why? He left us! He didn’t want us. I want to go home.”

“Ben, we can’t. These people want to meet us. They were…are friends of his.”

“Please, mom. Can we just leave after the service?” He swiped a sleeve to his moist eyes.

“I know this is hard for you. It is for me, too. But, we have to face what is, and…go on, like we’ve been doing all these years. It will be alright.” She gave him a tight squeeze. “I promise.”

They were stopped by a man as they headed back to the car after the graveside service.

“Excuse me. Are you Ben? And, you are Shauna, I presume?” He smiled and shook their hands. “My name is Edward Jennings. I was a friend of your father’s. I handled some of his legal matters for him, and he left some things he wanted you to have. Here’s my card. If you will give me a call before you leave town we’ll set up an appointment to go over his will, and discuss some things with you both. We can’t do that here. Would that be alright?”

Shauna looked at Ben, then nodded. “Sure. That will be fine. Thank you.”

The next day they were shown into an office at, ‘Jennings, Croft and Perry’, Attorneys at Law.

Ed greeted them, directed them to chairs, then brought out a large dark wooden chest. “Ben, your father wanted you to have this. It opens up with this key.”

Ben took the key handed him and turned the lock. The chest had the initials, B.A.C. Sr. carved into the front. The lid swung back easily on its hinges revealing the contents inside.

Ben went through the chest one item at a time, things he’d never seen before, tools of some kind, turning them over in his hands.

“Those are carving tools, Ben. He took up the craft after starting in construction and made this chest. He was quite good at it, actually.”

There were some pictures, a few of Ben when he was a baby, with his mother, then as a toddler, but none of Ben past the age of four. He read the notes written on the back. There were envelopes with some money and old coins, another set of keys, and a bible with scriptures written on the inside pages. He opened it up and found a quote, “Whatever worth building in life is only as good as its foundation.”

“What does this key go to?” Ben asked.

“It belongs to a safe deposit box in you and your mother’s name. I have another set here I will be giving you and your mother also. It is a set of house keys, to his house, also left in your names.” Ed replied, smiling at them both.

Ben looked over at his mom, noting the look of surprise and shock on her face.

He then opened a sealed envelope marked, “Private; to Benjamin Alexander Crowley Jr.,” and withdrew a single letter which he read silently to himself.

    “Ben, I have no adequate words to tell you how sorry I am for leaving you and your mother. I wanted only to hold you, close to my heart, but was afraid, too ashamed to show myself after being gone all those years. When you were very small I had a gambling debt and owed some people a lot of money. I did a lot of awful things back then, drank too much, wasted time and money on all the wrong things. The people I hung around with were wild, not the kind of friends anyone should have. So, to spare you both I just took off. I thought if I could get a decent job, clean up my act, pay off my debts, and get my head on straight, I would come home. But, I was afraid. Afraid I would not be welcomed. I regret all the things I did, but my biggest regret was leaving you both to struggle alone through the years, without me. Please forgive me. It is all I ask. What I want you to know above all else is that I love you and your mother. I always have. Treasure every moment you have with her and grow up to be the kind of man I wasn’t, so you won’t live with regrets. I’ve paid off my debts and owe no one anything anymore, except to you and your mother what I stole; the time and years wasted when I wasn’t there.”

Ben looked up at Ed and asked, “What did my father do, on his job?”

“He worked for a company that built tall buildings, skyscrapers.”

“How did he die?”

“They were working on a construction site project when the scaffolding gave way, and collapsed. He was crushed underneath.”

A year later, on Father’s Day Ben and his mother stood at the grave site of Benjamin Alexander Crowley, Sr., each bringing their gifts; a bouquet of fresh flowers from the garden at their house, the one now belonging to them, and a small wooden cross Ben hand carved with his father’s tools.

Ben had no special words to say to fit the occasion. He had no memories of Father’s Day times spent with his dad. All he had was the “now moment” his mother called them.

“Thanks Dad.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there,

Joyce E. Johnson (2017)

You won’t walk that road alone…

Photo taken inside the church of the Holy Seplechure, Jerusalem, Israel in May, 2001 while on my trip there to Israel.

Don’t be afraid, for the road you take you won’t take alone.

When storm clouds come and darkness closes round,

and you fear that you might stumble, and cast your foot upon a stone,

and the burdens that you bear weigh you down and keep you bound,

and you ask, “What am I to do, does anyone really care?”

I want to tell you, I’ve walked this way before when I carried the sins of all.

With brokenness in spirit I struggled carrying my cross up the road.

And your sins? Forgotten, and no more, for I’ve born those too, you see.

You are free. I paid your price. You’re not alone if you’ll walk this road with me.

I came to save and redeem the lost if they believe.

It was all prearranged by my Father at Calvary.

__________________

Joyce E. Johnson © 2017

Matthew 28:5 & 6 – But the angel said to the women, Do not be alarmed and frightened for I know that you are looking for Jesus, Who was crucified. He is not here; He is risen, as He said He would do. Come, see the place where He lay.

~~~~~~

He is risen indeed! 🙂 The story of Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection can be found in chapters twenty-sixth through twenty-eight of Matthew in the New Testament bible. I hope you have, and know the peace and joy that only Christ alone can bring, and I want to wish you all a happy, blessed Easter.


THE SCRIBE

Image result for Ancient Hebrew Scrolls

THE SCRIBE

With sheets of old yellowed parchment spread out

the scribe sits down at his splintered worn desk,

and with withered hand he dips his quill

into a thick substance inside the inkwell,

and turns his face towards Heaven, blessed be He,

God of the universe, and praise to the One

who sits on the throne, all the earth be His.

It is not what the scribe hears with audible voice,

but what his heart hears and knows to be true

for that which is given him scribed upon

with sweeping gesture, flourish and swirls

the Hebraic characters penned in ink

are the scribe’s writings on ancient scrolls.

______________________

Joyce E. Johnson © 2017

Silent Love

Scan_20150212 (2)

No eloquent words, flowers, gifts or cards

could he give her, but just a token

gesture of his affection

with twisted smile, and memory all but gone.

Eyesight, hearing, failing too,

he tried to form his thoughts,

while expressing his love to her,

but his stroke had stolen from them so much.

Like the younger version of himself

with vibrant, baritone rich voice

when he once belted out old tunes,

are but broken phrases hanging on.

With faint muttering he attempts to sing,

to remember the lyrics, what he wants to say

like the day he swooned her heart with song.

But, she’ll treasure what they have today

for she fears the day when he is gone.

and prays to God it lingers on.

_______________________

Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

Joyce E. Johnson © 2017

The Birth of a King

The Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, Israel, May, 2001

The Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, Israel, May, 2001, Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson

 

Nothing but chaos, crowds and noise

greeted the young couple, desperate to find

a quiet place, warm and dry

for the birth of their child, the newborn king.

Foretold and promised generations ago,

news of his birth was heard throughout the lands,

and the star in the east that lit up the sky

guided men of wisdom across desert sands.

Shepherds fled their flocks

frightened by angels that came nigh

announcing the news of Jesus’s birth.

To the king they hurried, and in haste found

the tiny babe chosen to rule and reign

lying in a feeding trough upon a cold bare ground.

Hope and redemption was born that night

where cattle grazed, and sheep and goats brayed.

No throne or palace was awarded this king,

yet people came from all around

seeking the savior born that day.

Now in a world where chaos, crowds and noise

  leaves hearts searching and seeking one to follow,

  where joy, comfort and peace

is eternal, lasting and hallow,

there waits the savior born that day

to reign in hearts that just believe.

_______________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:10-14 NIV, New Testament Bible.

I would like to take this time to thank all of my blogger friends, followers and visitors who have visited my blog site through 2016, and wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year of peace and joy in 2017. The amazing friends and opportunities I have, and the positive comments received are what makes blogging fun, rewarding, and an inspiration to my writing. Blessings to all.  JEJ

A Shelter in the Time of Storm

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An old church I photographed while vacationing one year in the upper northeast (New England and Nova Scotia). I love photographing old white churches.

 

 

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The antique ‘Deacon’s bench’ I bought years ago from an antiques dealer. I don’t know its history, but the pew and intricate carving in the deep walnut wood is much like those used in old churches, and my inspiration for the fictional story below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It started with quiet, cloudy skies, the air so still not a bird could be seen in flight.

“A storm is coming.” Janetta said.

The grocer glanced out the window. “It will probably be just one of those late summer showers, then move out.”

“Maybe…Well, I guess that’ll be it. I’ll see you next week, Hank.”

“Sure thing. And thanks for the eggs. There’s none better than farm fresh, anywhere.”

“Yes. My hens have had a good year.” She smiled as she walked out the door.

The gravel kicked up, spitting rocks to the sides of the road. She watched the clouds turn an ominous gray. The ten miles home seemed to take longer, and the miles much further when she was in a hurry.

Sirens wailed as she spotted a black cloud, with its twisting, menacing tail swirling across the sky, dip low, then pull away only to come around again, this time from the direction she was headed. Her house. God, please get me home in time. But, the funnel cloud came right for her.

She turned her wheel sharp cutting through a field towards the old church, catching weeds and dried brush under the car, and slammed to a stop in front of the door. A window leading down to the basement was her only escape and means of protection. She broke it and climbed through. She and Bill were married in this church, faithfully attending until its membership dwindled, and people moved on. Now, it was little more than a hollow shell of memories, with relics from the past, left behind. With the swiftness of a rabbit she scurried under a pew.

Sounds like a freight train derailed from its tracks, cars crashing into each other was deafening. The twister struck like a cracking whip splitting open the church, exposing all to the sky as she watched in horror, crouched under the pew. It spun around, building in strength, then tore across the ground destroying everything in its path. Creaking beams snapped and toppled to the earth’s floor. Doors and windows blew out, shattered glass and objects were caught up in a whirlwind of debris, soil and dust, sucked into the cloud.

The storm was gone as quick as it’d come. When she crawled out from under the pew the church was reduced to a pile of rubble. But, the pew sat upright, untouched. An old hymnal hanging from the book rack behind lay opened to a hymn she remembered once singing; ‘Jesus is the rock in a weary land…a shelter in the time of storm.’

Both her and her husband’s lives were spared that day, when others were not. Bill found refuge in an underground culvert, their prayers sustaining them, giving them hope. They lost their home and their hens to the tornado, but not their spirit. They would rebuild, again.

__________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

The Blessing of the Old Sewing Machine

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An antique sewing machine from the 1800s. It is one of my collected antique pieces acquired over the years. The photo above was my inspiration for the fictional story below.  I don’t use this machine for personal use, but I do sew, on my own Kenmore machine I have had for about fifty years.

The Blessing of the Old Sewing Machine

Bent over at the shoulders, her bones small and brittle she leaned in, head bowed to see clearly her stitches as the old sewing machine made a repetitive pattern on the fabric pieces, all of them cut from dresses she’d made her granddaughter when worn as a little girl. The machine made clicking sounds as it faithfully worked across each row, fed under the presser foot by thin, arthritic fingers. Her foot tapped with steady rhythm the large iron foot pedal below the machine. Her family tried to bless her with a new Singer sewing machine one Christmas, but she would not hear of it. Her old ‘Nelly’ had been with her for so long she refused to give her up, a gift from her long departed husband. Nelly was an old trusted friend, that would remain with her until its end, or hers.

Her eyes were failing her as she attempted to finish the quilt in time for her granddaughter’s dowry shower. Wire rimmed glasses rested on the indented straight nose. They helped little in gaining her vision acuity as she squinted. She looked for any puckered or uneven stitches. Ah, Nelly, you miss a few, too. We work hard to catch up, growing old together, and where will your grave be when my foot can peddle you no more? Soon, Darla will have her dresses again, reborn in this dowry quilt.

Ah…I remember this one, the dark blue damask. She wore it to her piano recital. Such a beautiful piece she played. A concerto, I think. Her fingers danced across the keys. And oh, this one, the red rose brocaded pattern. It was worn for the children’s Christmas program at church. They sang the Carols of the Nativity. Like an angel choir come down from heaven, they were. And this green striped plaid, she wore for her… ninth, or tenth birthday party? She’d spilt punch on it, and we worked to get out that stain. There’s just a hint of it left here, I can see, barely. Oh, the memories that child has given me. If I am not around when she has her first…oh, what a thought. I will be there to see her face when she opens her gift. Now, I am almost done. There, the blocks are all in place.

Aligning the front of the quilt to the back, the underside done in a flowered pattern with the batting between, she stitched up the sides. With short lengths of colorful embroidery floss and buttons stitched through the thickness she finished with little bows. She then folded the quilt and laid it between sheets of white tissue paper in a large box, sealed it up, and wrapped it in paper.

Feeling the weariness come over her, she laid down to rest, and went to sleep.

A month later, the wrapped box sat on an empty chair at Darla’s shower. It had been saved for last. As she pulled away the tissue from the quilt folded inside, her tears fell like a summer rain on thirsty ground.

“Mama! It’s my old dresses, all sewn into a quilt.”

____________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

Brothers Divided

Hagar approached Abraham’s tent, Ishmael following after his mother with little concern for what was coming. Abraham had no choice if he wanted to keep Sarah happy. Hagar and his first-born son, Ishmael would be cast out, homeless and destitute in the desert of Beersheba with no promise of a future, and certainly none of the coveted inheritance. It would come through Isaac, Abraham’s second son, born to Sarah. He would receive God’s covenant blessing and favor, and all future generations of the Jewish nation after him. But, the God of Abraham did not turn away from Hagar and Ishmael. He heard her cry, and saw her distress. He would spare them both, provide for them, and through Ismael many nations would be born. (Paraphrased; Genesis, chapter 21 in the Old Testament Bible NIV.)

The above story is true. When I read about Sarah, Abraham, Hagar, Ismael and Isaac I think about the division, hate, and turmoil in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians, and people and cultures of other Middle Eastern countries with the ongoing conflict. One might think that what was written centuries ago and recorded of stories like Abraham’s might be of little consequence to us today. But, what was written back then by those who lived and recorded their stories is relevant to our lives today. It comes back, bigger, more profound. The two most basic things we need most are love and acceptance. They can unite and bind us, but. if we have neither only divide and separate us. The characters in the story below are fictional, but their situation and circumstances could be real. It is not just their story, but one in places all over the world.

___________________________

Tel Aviv, Israel – present day

“Why did you wait till now to tell me?”

“Gamal, your father deserted us. I never saw him again after that. I felt shamed, as if it was all my fault. So I left, moved closer to the settlements and just tried to blend in.”

“Like a Jew.”

“I had to find work, to support us…even though…” Sahar said, through her tears.

“Even though you were pregnant with a bastard’s son.”

Sahar shook her head, overcome with the emotion coursing through her like a hot iron.

“What about Sam’s father?”

“I was working in Jerusalem at a shop on Haifa Street when I met him. He was serving in the Israeli army then…At first I wanted nothing to do with him. He was Jewish. He came in often, was kind, and gentle…”

“And he married you.”

“Yes. We were married by a clergyman from another faith, because the Jews would not accept me, nor my people him.”

“So he captivates the pretty damsel, and off they ride into the sunset with her bastard son in tow.”

Sahar screamed at him. “Stop calling yourself that. You’re not! I never thought of you like that.”

“No? But, I was the curse that came with the shame of a sordid love affair with a man from Gaza…”

“We were a family. I tried to raise you both the same. I loved you. I never told Sam’s father anything…about your birth, or father. He accepted you and was willing to raise you as his own. He was not Orthodox so my past was not an issue with him. Then, one day…while on duty…with the military, rockets came. He was out there, trying to pull people from that carnage, but there were…Palestinians out there, shooting at them, and he was hit. He died, soon after.” Sahar’s shoulders shook, her cry intensified with every breath.

“And Sam? What does he know?”

“He only knows about his own father, how we met, how he died. Nothing about yours.”

“Then why tell me now, mother, after thirty years, making me believe I was Jewish, instead of…the son of a Palestinian?”

“Because your ties with Israel’s enemies affect your relationship with Sam, and his position in the army. You are brothers for God’s sake.”

“For God’s sake?” He laughed, sarcastically. “Your God does not care about us.”

“Gamal! What are you saying? The God of Abraham and Isaac is our God! We have no other. He is God to all.

“We come from different people, mother. Or have you forgotten that?”

“I don’t serve Allah!”

“But, I do!” He said, his eyes glaring at her, cold and dark. “Goodbye, mother.”

Gamal! She yelled after him, but he did not listen. He was gone, slamming the door behind him, shutting himself off from her, Sam, and all that he knew.

_____________________

Joyce E. Johnson © 2016

Footnotes: Last year I posted short fictional stories under the title, Acid Rain, the first one under the title of Brothers Divided where Sam, a Jewish Israeli defense officer comes against those in the Arab nations set on destroying the Jewish people and the country of Israel. You can find those stories here. The above story is fiction also, and the prequel to Acid Rain.

Elevator Shaft

His hand gripped tightly. With grunting, gasping breaths he climbed up, and saw nothing but the tunnel of hard, cold steel that went on, endlessly in the claustrophobic tomb.

“Help!” He cried out.

Save your breath. It will only tax what energy you have left and be your downfall.

A hoarse cough broke from his parched throat.

My ‘downfall.’ Yeah! Done that! 
Don’t look down. The bottom is endless, too. Grab hold! Anything!

His feet felt like iron weights.

Climb! I can do this.

Please! Someone!”

The elevator shaft opened.

Light! Voices! 

Oh, thank God!

_______________

Psalm 31: 2, Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of rescue, a strong fortress to save me.  NIV, Old Testament

The above short story is fiction, but I used it as an illustration of the times when we need to be rescued from some trap or downfall, either by our own doing, or one of a literal sense. To acknowledge God, and His power to save, rescue and heal us, however it happens is when we need him most. The Psalms are full of the many stories and pleas of David, King of Israel who often found himself trapped by his enemies, or caught in literal or personal traps he’d set for himself. I’m thankful for the way God always provides us with a way of escape from that which the enemy sets up for us, either to catch us by surprise, or one placed there, warning us of what might come if we do not acknowledge Him, or seek His help .      

Joyce E. Johnson © 2016


He who stands alone to worship

 

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The Sea of Galilee in Israel; Photo taken May, 2001 while touring Israel just four months before the 9/11 attack on the U.S. Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson

 

 

The shepherd struggled to his feet. Smoke rose into the sky as winds carried the smell of death and destruction of Bethlehem to the hillside.

The annual  pilgrimage of thousands who came each year to see the place where the Christ child was believed born was only a trickle this year in the wake of all the terrorist attacks.

They are the smart ones, who stay away. The Palestinians did not fear the Jews, or their retaliation to the missiles and suicide bombs, but instead the much darker force of evil who controlled the region destroying and desecrating all historic or religious sites. Like a plague of death their victims fell to their swords, and their black flag now flew over Gaza.

Hassan heard a soft bleat.

One has survived.

He made his way through the carnage to the sound growing weaker with every step and found him half buried under rock and debris carried by the blast. Bleeding, legs broken, but alive his eyes pleaded with silent cries.

As the night grew dark, and now quiet the shepherd tended after the lamb. He supposed the rest of his flock was now dead, or scattered. Like all the nights before when the stars came out he looked up, searching, studying those that never failed to shine their bright light upon the hills of Bethlehem.

A glow penetrated the cave dwelling. A star has fallen!

“Hassan! It is I.”

He shook with fear. Where did that come from!? 

“Hassan, you alone have survived. Don’t be afraid. I will be with you. Worship me, Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ sent to save the world from its sin. I came so that you may have eternal life. Believe only in me, and you will be saved.”

He had no understanding or comprehension of what had just happened, or what he had heard. Yet, a calm came over him, seeping into his very soul. Food and water appeared mysteriously before him. Provisions?

He ate. Taking the lamb he rose and walked to where the destroyed grotto now lay in ruins.

It is only a shrine.

Lifting his voice toward the heavens he cried out. “If I stand alone to tell my story I will tell how you came to save me, and that I live to worship You.”

One by one the scattered sheep came back, compelled by the sound of their shepherd’s voice.

It mattered not that he alone survived the attack, but that he was no longer alone. His time remaining he did not know. He was alive. He had this moment now.

___________________

Footnotes: The above story is only fiction. Thank heaven for that. Literally.  🙂 Bethlehem was one of the places we visited while on our tour of Israel in May, 2001. Although the U.S. has seen much of its own terrorism (the 9/11 attack and the one most recently in San Bernardino, Ca.) and those in Paris and elsewhere I remain very thankful I live in a free country, and can still worship the living Savior who came to this world born of a virgin, went to the cross to die for the sins of this world, and was buried and resurrected so we can have eternal life. The real story (a much happier one) of the shepherds and Jesus’s birth can be found in Matthew and Luke, chapter 2 of the New Testament Bible.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46 (NIV)

_________________  

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)    

 

 

Remembering 9-11

Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson, 1998

World Trade Center Twin Towers, New York City, April 1998

It was April 1998, when my husband, Wayne and I took this vacation, and these pictures.  We flew into New York City to Laguardia airport on a weekday, picked up a rental car and traveled north up to Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, across upper New York to Niagara Falls, down through Pennsylvania, in to Maryland, Washington D.C.,  Delaware and back into New York City and Staten Island before leaving for home from Laguardia. It was a whirlwind trip in nine days as we covered all of the upper northeast and New England from the east side to the west and back again in a loop.

While in New York City those final three days we took a ferry-boat over to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Battery Park. As we toured scenic sights of Manhattan taking pictures we stood in front of a memorial at Battery Park dedicated to the early immigrants who came ashore to the U.S., processed through Castle Gardens there before Ellis Island opened up in 1892.  It was a very emotional time for me as I walked about that park, looking up at the Statue of Liberty and wondering what the immigrants thought, what they saw when arriving through the portals of our country’s immigration processing centers.

My grandfather and his family were Germans who came over from Odessa, Russia, and were processed through Castle Gardens like thousands of others. Enduring hardships, making sacrifices to come over to America immigrants by the thousands came over on ships, hopeful to begin a new life here. They were as diverse in color of skin, religion, faith, occupation, and status in life as those in our country today. But, the one thing that bound them all together was their desire to begin a new life in a better place  than the one they had come from, and live it in freedom away from tyranny, and anarchy. Poor, destitute, seeking a new life in a country offering so much, to those having so little, they came, hopeful, committed, and excited to become an American.

New York was at that time the primary gateway into America. The hope of prosperity, the right to choose their own destiny, occupation and the promise of an education gave them a sense of purpose without rules and regulations enforced upon them by a dictator.

My grandfather was only three years old when they immigrated. His greatest dream was to become a naturalized citizen and vote in a real election for his country’s president. He worked hard, got an education and cherished every day and moment he had in life to be all he could be with God’s help.

As I stood in front of Battery Park taking pictures I was amazed at how tall and large the Twin Towers of the WTC were, as  they towered above all other skyscrapers in Manhattan. Such a stark contrast to all the rest of those in the skyline they were like beacons to our country’s business district,  icons of the American dream of success.

Who would have believed that just a few short years later we would see the annihilation and obliteration of the World Trade Centers’ Twin Towers, and attempts made to destroy our country’s capitol, and the pentagon as well?  The horrific event on September 11, 2001 killing almost 3,000 people will live forever in our memory and hearts.

As Americans we owe a debt we can never repay to our military servicemen and women  for what they did so we can have this freedom. Having fought, or died in wars protecting it we can only support them, honor them, pray for them, and thank them for their sacrifice, and service. This is my way of paying tribute to them, to our firefighters, and police officers for what they did then, and do now to protect our lives and freedom here in the U.S.

May we never forget.

****************

I am re-posting this blog post today, in commemoration of the fourteenth anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York city.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Two brothers, two nations, and what divides them

She was hated by one, yet loved by another; the God of the father of her illegitimate child. The Egyptian maidservant approached his tent with trepidation.

Abraham didn’t want to do it, but he had no choice if he wanted to keep Sarah happy. Hagar and Ishmael would be cast out, homeless and destitute, they set out alone in the barren wilderness with no promise of a future, and certainly none of the ‘promised inheritance.’ That was reserved for Isaac, Abraham’s legitimate son and rightful heir to the Jewish nation of God’s chosen to inherit His coveted blessings.

Hagar could not bear to watch Ishmael die, the first-born son of a Jewish father. There was not enough food to sustain them both, so she chose to die, so he could live.

Was it an omen of things to come, a future not yet prophesied? She gave him what was left of the rationed bread, then walked away alone to die. But, the God of Abraham did not walk away from her. He heard her cry, and saw her tears. He spared them both, and the Palestinian nation was born. But, their God was not the God of Abraham.

This story is not fiction, but true. The bible does not give the date and time of this historical event which separated two brothers, and divided a family. Yet, each of these two boys would lead their own to the creation of two cultures and two nations living side by side. It was hate then that sent her away, and it is hate today that divides them still.  

But, although Abraham and Sarah made mistakes then there were other decisive moments later that proved and tested the faith and strength of a man obedient to God who was willing to sacrifice his beloved legitimate son, Isaac on an altar to God. But, God stayed his hand in time before Isaac was slain. A transition and period of time in between events shows Abraham’s strong character and maturity changing forever the direction of his life, his descendants’ lives and ultimately the destiny of Israel’s.

Today, centuries later we see still the turmoil and unrest in the Middle East as reports come almost daily of terrorist’s acts, missiles and rockets fired at Israel, and new threats of war as tensions rise and Iran promising the destruction of Israel, a country blessed by God since its creation. There is no ‘deal’ or treaty that will work to stay the hand of a country like Iran that seeks to destroy another.  

It is not just the prophetic events that unfold before our eyes, but the same hatred and animosity that has prevailed since Abraham’s time. We can pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the Middle East, even the world, but unless the tide of hate turns, and evil is eradicated completely there will always be those who bear the kind of hate and evilness that wishes only to destroy life, not preserve it.    

You can find the stories of Abraham in Genesis, chapters 21: 1-20, and 22:1-14. of the Old Testament, NIV

_______________

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

 

 

 


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