A Tale of Three Boxes, Conclusion

[Read Part 1 of A Tale of Three Boxes here.]

As the years passed, the father grew more and more proud of his wise sons. He was intrigued with their new faith in this Jesus, Child King of the Jews, and he sat with them often to listen to their impassioned intercourse on their favorite topic.

The decision was made to follow up on their visit with regular journeys to Jerusalem and surrounding areas, to find this Jesus and observe His story. Their first return was five years after His birth. They inquired and investigated until they found Him in Nazareth, living the life of a carpenter’s son with His parents and siblings. They stayed in Nazareth for some few months. The visiting father was amazed, hearing the story of Jesus’ birth straight from His parents, along with details and remembrances of the five years since. The father and his sons delighted in chatting with Jesus and watching the interaction with those around Him. They took their leave, finally, with many hugs and promises of future visits.

They made the journey every few years, each time marveling and learning. The father was proud to travel with his sons and their growing families. It was the year when Jesus was twelve that they found Him in Jerusalem, in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; it was in this year that the visiting father looked at his sons with a new light in his eyes. The chatter on their way home was filled with excitement as the father exulted with his sons: he understood now, he knew and believed that this child was God’s Savior to the world.

As the years continued, the visiting family wondered how this King of the Jews would rule. He was certainly wise and just and gentle and kind – but poor! How would He come into His throne?

Finally the time came when the father was unable to journey with his sons. But he bad his sons urgently to continue the visits, and waited with enthused wonderment until they returned to him, filled with new stories and wisdom. One year they returned with a story of Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding feast. This was the first they’d heard that He did such things, though they were not surprised, knowing Him as they did.

One day the father and his sons were mingling at the marketplace when they heard word of betrayal and crucifixion. Immediately they knew they must hurry to Jerusalem to find the state of affairs. The boys left their families at home, not knowing how things stood, and their father exhorted them to take a care, watch out for harm, and return to him having full understanding of what had transpired.

The sons, now growing gray, arrived in Jerusalem in due time, and went straightly to see Mary. Expecting sorrow upon sorrow and dread, they were exceeding surprised to find a joyful mother, now under the roof of a man, John.  They listened, incredulously, to her recitation of the events: Jesus’ miracles, His following, the religious leaders’ persecution, the awful day of His arrest and accompanying trepidation, the horror of the crucifixion. Then the antithetical shift to joy at seeing Him again, of worshiping Him, of watching as He returned to His Heavenly Father. And, finally, the eternal joy of being indwelt with God Himself, the Holy Spirit. The sons met Peter and other of the apostles, confirming all this and confessing even more. They made sure to invite all they knew to visit their own home, to share the Good News and provide current accounts.

The sons danced and rejoiced all the way home. They embraced their father with the joyous news, and spent days explaining and relating all they’d heard. Together they knelt and worshiped. They and all their household were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and set out to spread the Gospel to all they met.

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A Tale of Three Boxes

Prologue: A tip of the hat to Tosin and Daily. 😊 Click here and read down through the comments to get the backstory.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

A Tale of Three Boxes

Long ago, in a country far away, a great man had three sons, all born together brothers. As his sons came to the age of maturity, the father called them to him.

“Sons,” said he, “I ordain for you a great purpose. It is the time in your lives to grow mighty in wisdom. I have a gift for each of you.”

He motioned to his servants, who entered with the gifts.

Father took the first gift and beckoned the first son to him. “Son, I present you with this box crafted from finest ebony wood.” The first son received the gift, bowed himself, thanked his father, and took his place again.

The father presented a box wrought with intricate gold to his second son, and a fine ceramic box to his third son, each bowing and giving thanks. The sons looked to their father expectantly.

“My sons, you know how proud I am of you. You have grown to be excellent young men, learned in many letters and languages and crafts. It is time for you to go out into the world and receive there the education the gods have for you. Bring with you your boxes. Fill them with the greatest things you find. And,” he added, with a twinkle in his eye, “return to me in one year to tell me of your adventures.”

The sons readied themselves. The day came for each of the sons, with their servants and processions and goods, to go their separate ways. The father called down prayers from the gods upon the heads of his sons and sent them off.

The father prayed and offered sacrifices to his gods for the safety and wisdom of his sons for the full year.

At last the time arrived, and all three brothers came to him as one. They fell upon one another with kisses and tears, and a great feast was held.

When the time came, the father called his sons to himself again, to give report of their adventures and of the greatest things they had brought back in their boxes. He called upon his first son to begin.

“Oh, my father! Such miracles as you could not imagine,” began the first son. He looked at his brothers. “We did not understand they were miracles at first, but we were overjoyed as they were heaped upon us. As you know, we three brothers set out in separate groups and in separate directions when we left you that year ago. I had traveled with my procession for no more than some few weeks when, lo, I spied another, larger cortege in the distance. As I drew near them, I could see also other groups converging on this same objective. You cannot imagine my surprise when we three saw and realized it was each of us, coming together to meet these new people!”

The second son continued the tale. “After we had exchanged our surprise to one another at thusly meeting, we set out to inquire the origin and purpose of this company moving west. We were able to ascertain the leaders, and to sit and commune with them.”

“As it happens,” the third son explained, “Three wise men from the east had felt a call to follow that bright star – surely you saw it from home, Father!”

Father nodded.

The third son elucidated, “We had each of us wondered when we saw it, thinking mayhap it was a sign from the gods as we set out on our quests. We said so to our new friends, and they agreed with us! When we asked where they thought the star might lead them, they told us they expected to find the King of the Jews. Father, they wanted to worship Him!”

“We remembered,” explained the first son, “in our studies, learning of this peoples and their belief in One God, Jehovah. When we heard of their intent, we discussed among ourselves whether to disband from them or keep on. It was a funny thing,” he mused as he sought his brothers’ eyes, “we knew for a certainty, deeply in our hearts, that we must go with them.”

The sons looked at each other and nodded their agreement.

As the tale unfolded, the brothers learned of the wise men’s gifts for the Christ Child. They had brought with them gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When at last they reached Bethlehem, the brothers were agreed to add their boxes: the gift of gold was placed into the ebony box; frankincense was placed into the gold box; and myrrh was poured into the fine ceramic box. And they found and worshiped the Child King.

After the wise men had received visions to leave Bethlehem on a different route, the brothers elected to stay. They chatted with the locals, heard stories from the shepherds of a heavenly chorus, elucidation from the innkeeper regarding his choice of accommodations for the young family; spoke with Joseph and Mary before they departed with their infant son.

After a time, the brothers and their entourage traveled to Jerusalem, compelled to learn more about this God of Israel. They studied the Scriptures and held discussion with rabbis and leaders.

“And so, Father,” the third son concluded. “We have come to know and believe that the God of Israel is the one true God, and there is no other. He has provided a way of salvation to us, and it is through this child, this King of the Jews whom we met and saw with our own eyes. We filled ourselves instead of our boxes with the greatest things, and we brought this infinitely precious gift home to you.”

To be continued…

Frozen Ditty

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It’s icy and snowing today, and I was reminded of a ditty I wrote in college (when bell-bottom pants were in style):

Frozen pants are pretty strange,

Clakking from side to side.

You get them when your pants are wet

And no one offers a ride.

God’s Lights

GodsLights

“Can you see the stars from outside?”

“No.  Not with the lights on.”

“I can’t see the stars from in here, either.”  Beth pressed her face against the cold window pane.

“No, but after we turn off the lights, we can look again.”

“It’s funny that, when we turn on our own lights, we can’t see God’s lights any more.  We have to shut off if we want to see God.”

“Yeah, sort of like that.”

Beth drew her face away from the window and looked at her sister.  “Does the house look pretty when you look at it from outside?”

Clarisa met Beth’s eyes.  “Yes, it does.  Do you want me to take a picture, so you can see?”

Beth giggled.  “Yes!  I’ll wave to you through the window.”

Clarisa got up, grabbed her phone, and started out the bedroom.  “Don’t forget to put on your coat and galoshes,” Beth called after her.  “It’s still wet from the snow melting.  It must be mushy.”

Beth continued looking out the window until she caught sight of Clarisa.  Oh, she’d rushed right out, no coat or boots at all, all the way to the neighbor’s across the street.  Beth waved as she watched Clarisa raise the phone and then dash back into the house.  She heard her kick off her shoes before she stomped up the stairs.

“Did your shoes get soaked?”

“Only a little.”  Clarissa’s face was red from the cold and the run.  Her eyes sparkled.  She held the phone out to Beth.  “What do you think?”

Beth studied the photo.  “You should send this to Uncle Larry.  He’d love to see us all lit up like that.  He might be mad that we put them up without him, though.”

“I’ll tell him that Grandpa helped.  He’ll be okay with that.”  Clarisa tapped for a few minutes on the phone, then tossed it back onto her desk.  “There.  I bet they don’t get any Christmas lights in Afghanistan.  I bet he smiles and shows all his buddies.”

She looked at Beth.  “You okay?  You want me to help you back to bed?”

“Yeah, I’d better.”  Beth held her arms out.

Clarisa looked again at Beth as she tucked her in.  “Is this going to be a hospital night?  Should I go get Mom?”

“In a minute.”  She was silent, looking down at her bedding, twisting her fingers in the blanket.  “I don’t want to go back to the hospital any more.”

Clarisa was silent then, for so long that Beth finally looked up at her.  Their eyes met, and Clarisa searched her little sister.

“I don’t know if I can go first in this talk, Beth.  Or even, if I should be here.  It should be Mom.”

“Can it please be you first, Lissy?  If you can’t, I guess that’s okay.  But, I hope you will.”

Clarisa gently caressed Beth’s face, her fingers on her bald head, her thumb brushing where her eyebrow used to be.  Tears welled up, and she had to swallow before answering, “Okay.  Go ahead.”

Beth pulled her prayer journal from under her pillow.  Clarisa looked at it.  It was so little-girl, so pink flowers and polka dots.  The writing in it was so childish, but the words were – well, the words were as from her little sister.  Written so plainly that anyone could understand, but written so plainly that Clarisa knew she would need to read it for the rest of her life.  Beth made no secret about her journal entries, often sharing.  But, no one in the family looked without it being offered first.

Beth opened and flipped through some pages.  “I’ve been writing about it.  But I think it’s really time now to talk about it.”

They both heard their mother climbing the stairs.  She entered the room, still looking at her phone.  “Well, it looks like Grandma and Grandpa won’t be back until Friday,” she said.  “They e-mailed and said they’re looping around north, to see friends before they head back home.  Maybe we can have them over for Sunday dinner.”

She looked up at her girls, and came over to sit on the other side of the bed.  “What’s up?” she asked gently.  Her hand smoothed the blanket over Beth’s belly.

Beth and Clarisa looked at each other.

“Mom,” Beth began.  “You know how you and Dad always talked to us about being ready?  Ready for bed.  Ready for dinner.  Ready for school.  Ready for next year.  Ready for marriage, and ready for life, even.  Even after Dad died, you still make sure to help us get ready.  For whatever.”

Mom reached to the dresser and pulled the framed photo to the bed.  She looked into her husband’s blue eyes.  “I wasn’t ready for him to go.”

Clarisa reached over and took her mom’s hand.  “We couldn’t be.  No one could be.  No one was.”

Mom looked again at Beth.  “What are you telling me?”

Beth marked the rise of panic in the back of Mom’s eyes.  “I want you to be ready, Mom,” she said, simply.

“Ready for what, exactly?”  Mom was struggling to keep control of her tone.

“I want you to be ready, Mom.”  Beth repeated.

Mom stood up abruptly.  “I have to get out of here for a couple of minutes.  Can you wait that long?  I can be back really soon.”  She looked at Beth, and Beth nodded.  She darted from the room, and the girls heard her bedroom door close.

“Mom’s on her knees,” Clarisa said.  Beth nodded.  “I’m going to, too.  Do you want some help? Or do you need to stay there?”

“I need to stay here.”

Clarisa was on her knees, holding Beth’s hand.  “Lord, I lift up Mom right now.  I know she’s calling out to You.  Cradle her, Lord.  You know what she needs, and I pray you fill her.  Help us right now, Lord!  We are not ready.  Please make us ready.  Please help us get through the pain.”  She looked at Beth.  “Please help us all get ready.”

Beth, eyes closed, murmured, “We put ourselves in Your hands, Father.  Thank You.  Thank You.”

They remained so for a few more minutes.  Mom came back in.

“Are you … ready?” she asked Beth.

Beth nodded.  “Except for you.  I think God especially wanted to bless you.  He knows you weren’t ready for Dad.”

Mom sat back down on the bed and took Beth’s other hand.  “Honey, when you first got sick, I told God in no uncertain terms that He couldn’t have you, too.  He took too much away from me already.”

Clarisa added, “I know Job said, ‘The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’“ She paused.  “It’s not that easy, even to say it, much less have it in my heart.”  She looked at Mom, then at Beth, then wiped her eyes.  “But, I bless the Lord.” She sobbed. “I can’t even think about you not being here, and I pray I won’t be the one shaking my fist at God when you’re gone.  But, He has me in his grip.”  She leaned close to Beth’s face.  “Just so you know, God’s got me.”

Mom hugged her over the bed.  She smoothed Clarisa’s hair, wiped her tears, then wiped her own.  She folded her hands together, and paused a moment.

“Beth, I don’t know what ready means for you, and I don’t know what it means for God.  We’ve had a lot of middle-of-the-night emergency room runs.  The doctors say you’re maintaining.  But, we never know.  What do you want me to do if you need the emergency room?  Is this something I need to be ready for tonight, or tomorrow, or next week, or next month?”

“Well, Mom, you know how tight God is with that future kind of stuff.”  Beth smiled, then softened her eyes.  “Soon, Mom.”

She looked at her daughters.  “Honey, I didn’t think, while you’re still little girls, that I’d have to prepare you for death, as well as for life.”

Clarisa was quick to come to her mother’s defense.  “You have, Mom!  Look how you’ve trained us both up in God’s Word – I mean, not just in reading, but in everything that He teaches – in everything that you teach us.”

“Lissy, show Mom that picture, will you?”

Clarisa handed it over, and clicked to the picture of the house lights.  Mom looked at it, then turned her eyes to Beth.

“Uncle Larry might not be here, after.  Lissy, you show him that picture again.  Tell him that’s me, up in the window, waving.  You can’t see me waving, because it’s dark with our lights on. It’s like after I die.  You won’t be able to see me, but there I’ll be, and that wave and that smile are for you.  That’s what you’ll see, as soon as you all get to heaven, because I’ll be so glad to see you.”

Mom looked, questioning.  Clarisa reached for the phone.  “We just took it, like five minutes ago, so Beth could see what the house looked like.”  She pointed to their bedroom.  “She was waving out the window.”

“The lights are beautiful, Mom.  You and Grandpa did a great job with them this year.  But look how dark it is everywhere but the lights.  I was telling Lissy that, with the lights on, we can’t see the stars.  When we make our own lights, we can’t see God’s lights.  Sometimes, God has to make the decision for us to turn our lights off so we can see Him.”

“God turns off our lights so we can see Him,” Mom repeated.  She hugged her girls again.  “You two are my brightest lights, no matter where God lets you shine.”

*        *        *

Later, after the girls were in bed, and the Christmas lights and house lights had all been shut off, Mom stood in the darkened house by the window and gazed up into the sparkling sky.  She fixed her eyes upon the stars and prayed.  “Dear Lord, please leave me enough light to see my way.”

 

Sunshine Blogger Award 2

Thank you, Amy, for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Amy is a gifted blogger; please visit her site at https://anewlife256599767.wordpress.com/ 

Here are the rules…

Thank the blogger who nominated you.

Use the “Sunshine Blogger Award” logo on your post.

Answer the 11 questions the selector asks of you.

Choose 5-11 fellow bloggers to nominate, and ask them your own questions.

My questions from Amy, and my answers:

  1. How do you spread rays of sunshine outside of the blogging world?

My husband tells me my smile is like sunshine.

2. By looking at your all-time stats, what are your readers’ favorite posts?

I don’t know how to navigate my stats enough to find the answer to that. From all the clicking I did, I think the top ones are Love Dat Famlee, Environment Shapes Expectations, Change Your Past, and The Art of Listening.

3. What are you favorite posts, either something you have written or something that touched your heart from another blogger?

Reflections: Which Mirror; An Overview: One Approach to Reading the Bible; Where are Your Oars?; and 3-2-1 Quote Forgiveness

4. What is your favorite faith based film?

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1N-Hdqno4w  EE-TAOW! It puts me on my knees, crying praises to God. It’s only a bit over 20 minutes; I encourage you to watch.

5. What is your favorite verse in the Bible and why?

Cannot pick a favorite. However, my life verse when I was baptized was James 4.8b, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” It depicts God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and love; while reminding us of our responsibilities.

6. If given the chance and the trip was free, would go to outer space for a month? Why or why not?

No. Just no.

7. What about writing is the hardest for you personally?

I enjoy it when I’m stirred to write. Otherwise, it feels like a chore.

8. Could you see yourself as a missionary?

I went through the application process, years ago. When I was talking to my friend about it, I told her I thought I’d “received the call.” She advised me emphatically, “Hang up!” I finished up the application and was turned down because I was a single mom.

9. If you had the chance to go on any mission trip where would you love to go?

I’ve already traveled quite a bit (Air Force dad), so I would just go where they tell me.

10. What is your favorite season of the year and why?

No favorites. I do like living in a climate that experiences all four seasons, though; no pining for tropics or beaches.

11. Is there a specific topic that you have wanted to write about but haven’t yet? And if so, what is it?

“The Angel of Death” has been meandering around my head for a while. I’m working on it.

My nominees:

https://dailyhopeful.wordpress.com/

https://jesskidding17.wordpress.com

https://godswhispersoftruth.wordpress.com

(Please note that participation is completely voluntary, no hurry, no pressure.)

Questions for my nominees to answer:

1.Write something about your family (as broad or narrow as you want).

2. Write something about your church family (as broad or narrow as you want).

3. What life lesson has God been working in you recently?

4. What kind of fantasy vacation would you dream up (money not a factor)?

5. Favorite book(s)? Include a note about your favorite genres / authors.

6. Write something about a teacher of yours.

7. Write a two-line poem about clouds (you can change clouds to something else, if you want).

8. Favorite hot beverage?

9. Where is the farthest-away-living relative that you know of?

10. What is a good gift for someone that costs little to nothing?

11. Are you into holiday hoopla (house all decorated, stacks of Christmas cards, lists for gifts, parties & get-togethers, Christmas sweaters, etc); or are you low-key; or are you non-existant?