The Day Jesus Came to Youth Group (Part 2)

As Courtney passed into a deeper stage of sleep she began to have a dream. She was standing on the top of a very tall building in the center of town.. But as she looked around she could not see downtown or the neighborhoods. In each direction was a scene from earlier in her day. All of the scenes were static and it seemed she was the only one who could move in the dream.

When she looked down from the building in front of her she could see the entrance to her school. Donald was holding open the door with a hopeful, but cautious smile and she and Ashley were in mid stride walking through it and giving him a cold stare. When she turned to her left she could see herself sitting with Derek at the cafeteria table glaring in the direction of Bo who had sympathetic expression as he walked next to a distressed looking Cassie. Behind her she saw Mr. Becket’s Biology class. She and Ashley were laughing while Allison sat crying. And to her right, she and Derek were in his bedroom, more undressed than dressed. As she focused in she could see that her eyes looked hollow, while Derek’s expression conveyed an animal like lust.

She spun around again and again hoping something would change, but to her dismay it all remained the same. Frozen images from her day. Except, she didn’t remember those facial expressions. Or had just not been able to see them? When she finally stopped spinning, on the roof, next to her, was her mom. Peacefully sleeping on the couch, just as she had found her when she returned home that night.

Courtney couldn’t take it anymore. Why was she the only one in here dream who seemed to be aware of what was happening?  “Is anyone else here?!” she screamed.

A calm voice that seemed to come out of nowhere answered, “I’m here.”

As she turned around once more she saw, well, me, Jesus.  I didn’t look to her how she remembered in the Sunday School illustrations. I was much darker skinned, much more rugged, but somehow, she new it was Me.

“Jesus, I can’t believe…what are you doing here?”

“Well, Cass. I think we need to have a little talk.”

“Sure Jesus, what about?”

“Cass, you know that I love you unconditionally. So, it is because I love you that I say this… You chide your friend for saying a cuss word, but you use your words to belittle those who are already beaten down at your school. You judge the motives of others, while lying to your mother with impure intentions. You call others slut and whore, while engaging in activities that are only less than sex in the technical sense.”

“Get the sexual immorality out of your own life so that you can see why Cassie allows herself to be objectified by the football players. Remove the unkindness from your heart so you can truly understand why Allison wears that mask. Stop pretending to be someone you are night so you can perceive the reality behind Bo’s affection for you. Quit being deceitful so you will grasp the pain that causes Donald’s awkwardness. Your judgment and lack of love has blinded you, Cassie! Let the scales fall off that you may truly see.”

“But, Jesus,” Courtney rebutted. “Aren’t your judgments of me kind of harsh. It is hard to be a Christian at a public high school. I mean, I am just trying to fit in while still doing this God thing.”

As Jesus replied, his words dripped with love and compassion, “Courtney, my beloved, you are not being a Christian at a public high school, you are being a Pharisee. When you awake, tomorrow will be today once more and you will find out that you are not the only one who has many reasons for the behaving the way they do.”

 


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Courtney awoke the next morning and sat up in bed. She was happy it was Saturday. She was excited to eat breakfast with her mom, even thought she would never admit it. And she was very excited to be done with that dream from the night before.

“Courtney, what are you doing up there, honey? You are going to be late to school!”

What the…Courtney thought to herself. She grabbed her cell phone and checked the date. Friday, October 14th. That’s impossible!

As Courtney quickly got dressed, she told herself there had to be some sort of reasonable explanation. But, as she walked down the stairs, she had to stop and sit down. She was startled by the many voices speaking, just like the ones that had woke her last night. But this time the voices did not stay jumbled, they slowly cleared until Courtney could hear Donald, Bo, Cassie and Allison’ say one at a time, “Please help me!”

 

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Courtney was visibly disturbed as she made her way to the kitchen.

“What’s wrong Courtney,” her mom asked?

“I’m just feeling kind of out of it, mom. Everything’s fine.”

“Okay. Are you going to have some pancakes with your brother and sister?”

“No, I will just grab a granola bar and a banana. Have to get to school early for a study session in Mr. Jones’ class.”

“Alright, but wait…”

“I know mom. Wait till I get there to eat. You don’t like when I try to eat and drive.”

Her mom smiled, “Love you Courtney, have a good day.”

“You too, mom.”

As Courtney was about to walk out the door, she stopped. Turned around and went over gave her mom a kiss on the cheek. “You really are a wonderful mom. Love you.”

 

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While Courtney drove to school she replayed the words that Jesus had said in her dream, When you awake, tomorrow will be today once more and you will find out that you are not the only one who has many reasons for the behaving the way they do. But that was just a dream, right? Was she still dreaming? I mean, reliving the same day, that’s impossible. And then there where the voices in her head… Courtney felt like she was stuck in a movie on the SciFi channel.

As Courtney parked her car in the student parking lot she saw her friend Ashley pulling up. She waited for her to park and the two girls walked in together.

“Mr. Jones is just ridiculous,” complained Ashley as the two girls walked toward the building. “All this, ‘I’m just trying to prepare you for college’ crap. Give me a break. His wife left him last year and now he is bitter and has way too much time on his hand. A bad combination.”

Courtney was trying to focus on what Ashley was saying, but was starting to hear the barrage of voices in her mind again. “Yeah, I know,” was the only response she could muster.

“You okay,” Ashley asked, surprised her bestie had not joined in her tirade against Mr. Jones.

“I’m fine. Just didn’t sleep well last night.”

As the two girls continued toward the building, all of the voices scrambled up in Courtney’s head cleared away and she was left with only one, Donald’s. She turned around and saw him hustling away from a beaten down pickup that his mom had driven him to school in. She looked at first to see if he was speaking, but realized that somehow she must be hearing his thoughts.

I can’t believe I am here this morning. All A’s through my first two and a half years of high school, and now I have an 89% in Mr. Jones’ class. Would it be that terrible if I got one ‘B?’ But, of course mom has to remind me of how we have no money since dad decided to take off with his secretary and all we had to live on is her salary as a waitress. And if I want to get out of this town and go to college it is going to have to be on scholarships.

As the girls neared the door, Donald came racing past them and opened the door. “Let me get that for you,” he said, clearly nervous and almost dropping the large pile of books he now tried to balance in one hand while opening the door with the other. “Two lovely ladies like yourselves should always have the door held for them.”

As Donald held open the door his thoughts shifted, but they were still just as clear in Courtney’s mind.

Oh man, I must have just sounded like such a dork. I know it’s coming, the whispers to each other and then the laughing. But, maybe not. I mean, I know Courtney does go to church.

“Yeah, okay, thanks Donald,” Ashley said not hiding her irritation.

Ashley turned expecting Courtney to follow up on her verbal assault, but instead she heard a gentle voice say, “Thanks Donald, that was really nice. Do you want to walk us to class?”

“Um…yeah, sure. I’d love to.”

“What are you doing Courtney?”
“Just thought Donald might want to have someone to walk into the study session with.”
“Okay, whatever. You and Prince Charming go on ahead, I’m gonna make a stop in the ladies’ room.”

As Ashley walked away Courtney and Donald began to walk down the hall. She turned to Donald and said, “Don’t worry about her. She must’ve woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Now, let’s go see if Mr. Jones can manage to make our day miserable even before school officially begins.”

Donald snickered at that and delightedly walked down the hall with Courtney.

  

 

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Courtney sat alone picking at a salad in the lunchroom waiting for her boyfriend Derek to come in. She still had no idea what was going on, but it was somehow clear that she was actually reliving yesterday. She had kept trying to convince herself that she was just dreaming, but when she stabbed herself in the hand with her fork to test her theory, the pain persuaded her this was actually happening. Everything was happening just as it had yesterday, well yesterday’s yesterday that is…It seemed as if the only one who had the ability to do anything different, to create change from what had taken place yesterday, was her. As she sat there lost in her own thoughts, a commotion from the corner of the cafeteria nearest  where she sat startled her.

“We’re gonna crush ‘em tonight!” yelled Brad, the running back and team captain of the football team.

“We’re gonna hit ‘em so hard they are gonna wish the game only had two quarters,” Marcus, a lineman, chimed in oh so intelligently.

Here we go again, Courtney thought. More of these guys’ screaming like wild animals. Living this moment once was more than enough.  

“And what do you say Bo!” Brad screamed trying to draw in the star quarterback who seemed to be trying to keep just enough distance to not be a part of the commotion, but not too much distance to offend his teammates.

“I’m sure we’ll win tonight, Brad,” answered Bo in a voice much quieter than the other players.

Just before Courtney’s mind began to attack Bo, it happened again. What seemed to be thousands of voices in her head all at once, quickly receded until only Bo’s remained.

Seriously, Brad. I love you guys like brothers, but really. This is just idiotic. I mean, the only reason I am playing on the team is to keep my dad happy. If I have to listen to his story about how ‘if he hadn’t blown out his knee he would have gone pro’ one more time, I might puke. And Lord have mercy, if I tell him that what I really want to be doing is focusing on my artwork…

Because, don’t you know that in my father’s brilliant mind that’s only for girls. Um…ever heard of Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo, and Leonardo De Vinci? Pretty sure those were all guys, dad. At least it’s only 2 more years living under his roof…but man two years can seem like an eternity.

 

Courtney couldn’t believe it! Bo the artist. So, that’s why the shy, humble attitude. He really didn’t even want to be playing.

“That better not be all you got!” Brad fired back.

Bo sighed, and raised his voice just slightly, and without much conviction said, “We’re gonna destroy them tonight!”

“Yeah, that’s right!” all the guys screamed and their voices turned into a loud chorus of “Whose house? Bear’s house!” The Brawling Bears being the high school’s mascot.

As the yelling grew louder Courtney’s face turned into a frown as she felt genuine sympathy for Bo.

 

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“What wrong babe?” Derek asked as he gave Courtney a kiss on the cheek and sat down beside her.

“Oh nothing, just kinda seems like Bo would rather not be a part of all that craziness over there. Look at how he is trying to stand off to the side. I feel bad for him.”

“Yeah, right,” Derek mocked. “Poor, innocent, Mr. Popular, All-State quarterback. I feel real bad for him.”

“I don’t know, I think you might have him figured wrong.”

Strutting over to the chanting, grunting, screaming crowd of players, walked Cassie. Being gameday she was of course dressed in her cheerleading uniform with a skirt that showed just how long her legs were.

And there were the voices again; quickly dwindling until only Courtney’s remained.

Time to put on a little show. Sure guys, smack my butt, I love it. Pinch it too,  never gets old….But, what else am I going to do. Never been good at much else. Barely passing yet again this year. And then of course there is, ‘Maybe next year,’ from Mrs. Clark when I tried out for chamber choir. And, ‘Well you could play on the JV team again this year,’ from Coach Saunders. I’m a junior, what will that look like me being on the JV volleyball team for a third year.

But, parade over here to these buffoons and they’ll notice me. They don’t care that I can’t sing, I’m not very athletic and that I’m stupid. They just like what they see and that’s all that matters….well, of course except maybe for Bo. But, if he really likes me, why doesn’t he ever say so?

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“Wow, Cass, I can’t get over how good you look in your uniform,” one of the not so subtle jocks told her.

Cassie giggled and rubbed her hand over his chest, “And you look so strong in your jersey, Tyler. You gonna catch a touchdown for me tonight?”

“I’ll catch two,” he answered grinning.

“That’s cool, you go ahead and score for her. I’m trying to score with her,” another player threw in, laughing loudly at his own joke.

Courtney began to hear Bo’s voice again in her head.

Man that pisses me off. I hate how they treat her. I don’t get why she lets them talk to her like that. Doesn’t she know how beautiful she is? How funny and sweet she is when she stops putting on that stupid act. I just wish I had the nerve to go over there and stick up for her.

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“She is such a slut,” Derek said to Courtney.

“Don’t say that,” Courtney shot back.

What? What’s wrong with you?”

“I gotta go over there. Sorry, Derek I’ll be back.”

“Hey, hold on, I wanted to talk about our plans for tonight.”

“Sorry, I’m hanging out with my mom tonight,” Courtney yelled over her shoulder as she raced toward Bo.

_________________________________

Courtney grabbed Bo by the arm and pulled him a little ways from the crowd. “Hey, Bo. Not sure if you know me or not. I’m Courtney.”

“Yeah, I know you. We are in Geometry together.”

“Okay, whatever. Just listen. I think you are a really nice guy. And deep down I think Courtney is a really nice girl. She is just putting on a show right now that she would rather not be performing in. And I think if you really like her as much as you say you do, you need to go over there and stick up for her.”

“Wait, but how do you know I…”

“Just cut the crap. I know. Everyone knows. It’s obvious.”

“Okay, I’ll go!”

As Derek started to walk back toward the crowd gathered around Courtney he turned back to look at Courtney in disbelief.

She smiled at him and added, “And I’m sure she’d love if you drew her one of your amazing pictures!”

The look of shock on his face was priceless.

 

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“Come on, show us some of that Brawlin’ Bear pride, Cass. You know it’s our good luck charm,” Brad coaxed.

Bo pushed his way into the middle of the crowd.

“Courtney you don’t have to do that.”

All eyes turned to Bo.

“Look, these guys might just be joking around, thinking this is funny. But I know you don’t really want them looking at you that way, touching you. Why don’t you let me walk you to class.”

Cassie felt a relief rush across her that was unbelievable and started to walk toward Bo.

“But Bo,” Brad wined. “It’s our good luck ritual.”

“We don’t need luck with me at quarterback,” Bo shot back with quite possibly the most cocky statement he had ever made.

With stares of disbelief, the players watched as Bo and Cassie left the cafeteria, holding hands.

 

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As Courtney went into her class last of the day Biology, it was the first time she wasn’t worried about being bored to death by one of Mr. Becket’s lectures. Instead, she was completely focused on hearing what was really on Allison’s mind. Courtney did not have to wait long to find out.

She slumped down in a seat near the back with Ashley to her right and

Allison to her left. As she did, she expected to hear the barrage of voices as she had earlier, but instead she was able to immediately focus on in on Courtney’s thoughts. Must be fine tuning my gift, Courtney thought to herself and smirked. A smirk that would not last long.

I just can’t sit through one more class. Allison thought to herself. I mean, do these people seriously expect me to focus on school when my mom died over the summer? I hear all of the counselors and experts talking to my dad, ‘She needs to get back into a routine. Keep things as normal as possible. It’s the best thing for her.’ How do they know about what’s best for me? It wasn’t there mom who died!

The tardy bell startled Courntey, and Mr. Becket, always prompt, began his lecture immediately. “Today, class, we will be looking at how both dominant traits and recessive traits are contributing factors in offspring.”

She tuned him out immediately and concentrated on hearing Allison. And then my dad wants to start dragging me to church to hear about how much God loves me.  ‘It’s a place to help ease our pain.’ Year right! What a great loving God who let a mother of 3 die an excruciatingly paniful death from cancer.

Courtney was so intent on Allison’s thoughts she didn’t notice that Ashley was trying to pass her note until she heard, “pssst, psst, Courtney, here,” she whispered in a not so quiet voice.

Courtney opened the note and read it, Do you think it was the dominant or recessive trait that gave Allison pink hair.

Courtney saw Allison look at the note and she shot Courtney and Ashley both a piercing look, but somewhere just behind the death stare there seemed to be a trace of moisture.

Allsion’s thoughts came in a furry now, and somehow they were louder than any she had heard earlier that day. Almost as if Allison was managing to scream through her mind. And here we go again. Those two snobs think they’re so funny. And as if my mom dying wasn’t enough proof that there is no such thing as a loving God, Courtney confirms it.  All the church girl crap and then she looks down on everybody else. And she claims to serves the same loving God that killed my mom.

Now it was Courtney’s eyes that moistened. She knew that canceling plans with Derek earlier was really just delaying the inevitable. She had to break up with him. It was a relationship based purely on the physical. And it had to end. Now, as she thought about what she was going to do next, she realized she might be burning bridges with her best friend and boyfriend all in the same day.

She wrote back, in large letters, so that both Ashley and Allison could both see. Not cool Ash, cut it out.

Ashley quickly shot back in huge red letters, “What’s wrong with you? You gonna join the freak show?”

Ashley’s jaw dropped, when she read Courtney’s reply, Yeah, I think I will.

Then her surprise grew to disbelief as Courteny gave a note to Allison that read, Hey. I am just going to hang out with my mom and play some games tonight instead of going to the game. Wanna come with me?

 

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When the door slammed Courtney’s mom looked up from the novel she was reading and checked the clock. Only 6:00.

“Courtney, sweetie, is that you?”
“Yeah, it’s me mom.”

“I thought you were going to the football game and then over to Ashley’s.”

“Change of plans,” Courtney answered as she and Allison entered the living room. “It’s family game night tonight. And I brought a friend.”

 

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When Jesus had finished he peered into the crowd of teenage observers to watch their reactions. They varied from those who were still in a state of disbelief that Jesus had said a cuss word while telling His story; to those who were so entrenched in their double lives that they could feel nothing but bitterness toward Jesus for describing their lives with pinpoint accuracy; to those who showed remorse for not being the same person at school as they were at church, but knew they were not willing to pay what it would cost to change; to those who carefully contemplated how they were treating others and allowed a picture to form in their minds of who they would reach out to and how they would do it the very next day at school.

Without another word to anyone, Jesus walked out of the youth room door with his 12 disciples, crumbs still smearing the edges of their mouths, following close behind.

 

 

 

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The Day Jesus Came to Youth Group (Part 1)

The worship set wouldn’t start for another fifteen minutes and the teens were eating the snack set up in the back of the youth room and standing around talking. Their youth pastor was telling his usual, not so funny jokes to a group of new freshman, the only ones who hadn’t yet heard his comedic charm.  As the talking began to die down and the countdown on the screen showed only three minutes till service would start, a large crowd of adult men walked in.

The youth pastor grew a bit nervous as he counted to himself , 1,2,3…11,12,13. Now he hadn’t recognized the first 12 who had walked in and headed straight for the snack table, but the 13th was unmistakable, it was Jesus! And the other 12 where of course his disciples. Before the youth pastor had a chance to get over his awe and walk over to greet him, Jesus came straight over and began to speak.

“Hello, John. How are you this evening?”

“Well, uhhhh, ummm, I’m fine.”

“That’s good. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me just a moment to speak to the teens in your youth group. I will keep it very short.”

“Well of course Jesus. Do you want to talk before or after we worship?”

“What do you mean?” Jesus asked. “Does worship ever end? Is it not within our hearts to constantly adore the Father who has given us life and everlasting love?”
Feeling quite chided, the youth pastor’s cheeks grew red as he answered, “I mean, I meant…before or after the praise songs.”
“Oh,” Jesus replied with a smirk on his face. “After will be fine. Nothing better than singing to my Dad.” Jesus’ eyes scanned toward the back of the room where the disciples were still greedily devouring the few remaining snacks. Jesus sighed and began to walk toward them. “I just can’t take these guys anywhere.”

After the praise songs had been sung, Pastor John got up and said, “Well guys, I don’t quite know how to make this introduction. But, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, Jesus Christ himself is here with us today! And he has asked to say a few words to you.”

Jesus walked up to the old music stand that served as a pulpit. He did not put down any notes, but began to quote from memory Matthew 7:1-5, “Do not judge or you to will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

He continued, “You come here on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday. You read the Gospels that tell you of my words. You talk about love, love, love. Yet, the only ones you seem to love are those who are just like you, and this is only in small proportion to how much you love yourselves. How can you read my words time and again and not see that I loved the tax collectors, the lepers, the sinners, the promiscuous, the outcasts.”

With that, Jesus went and took a seat in the first row of chairs, took out his iPhone and began texting. All eyes were on him, waiting for him to say something more. But he just sat. Pastor John knew he had to do something. He couldn’t allow Jesus to only say such scathing remarks to his teens. They would be offended.

He went and sat in an empty seat next to Jesus and whispered, “Um, Jesus. I’m not trying to tell you what to do here. I mean, I get the whole Son of God thing and all, and I know you know better than me. But, um, well you were really hard on these guys. I mean they are just teens and all. Do you think, just maybe, you could say a few uplifting words to them before you go?”

Jesus looked up at the youth pastor. He saw into his heart. He knew he meant well and he spoke to Jesus out of genuine love for his flock. Jesus set down his cell phone and walked back to the front.

“Let me tell you a story,” Jesus began.

 

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Courtney pulled on her black leggings and then put on a gray sweater, turned around and looked in the mirror. Nope, not long enough. She took it off and tried on a pink one. She tugged at the bottom a bit. At least an inch or two past her butt, should do. She knew it first had to pass the inspection of her mother as she left the house and then any of the teachers who actually cared about the new dress code policy the school had initiated that year.

She went down to the kitchen and grabbed a granola bar, a banana and a bottle of water and started to head out the door.

“Is that all you’re gonna eat for breakfast, honey,” her mom asked as she fixed pancakes for Courtney’s younger brother and sister.

“Yeah, mom. I’m in a hurry. I need to be to school early for a study session in History class. It seems to be Mr. Jones’ mission in life to destroy as many students’ GPAs as possible before he retires.”

“Okay, well just wait to eat that till you get there. I don’t like you eating and driving.”

“Yes mom,” answered Courtney with mock concern. “And I will make sure my hands are at 10 and 2 the whole way there.”

Mom chuckled and then added, “And isn’t that sweater a bit short to be wearing with those leggings?”

“It covers my butt. I checked it.”
“Yeah, as long as you don’t bend down, walk quickly or happen to be outside when there is a gentle breeze.”

“Ha ha, mom. The new rule clearly states that if a student wears leggings he/she must wear a shirt that completely covers his/her bottom. My bottom is completely covered.”

“You know what. You are a junior in high school. You drive yourself to school. You have a job. I guess you are old enough to figure out if your clothes are in dress code or not. But, if there is a consequence at school, you’re on your own.”

It seemed her mom had finished and Courtney started to head back to the door, but just as she opened it her mom added, “I mean, I’m not so sure you’d wear that outfit if Jesus were in the room. I’m just sayin.”

Mom’s favorite, Courtney thought to herself. The catch all. Would you do, say, watch, act like, treat your brother and sister that way, and now of course, wear that, if Jesus were in the room.

Not to be deterred, Courtney answered over her shoulder as she walked out the door, “Jesus is okay with my outfit. I asked him this morning while I was upstairs. Love you mom, see you after school.”  

 

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As Courtney parked her car in the student parking lot she saw her friend Ashley pulling up. She waited for her to park and the two girls walked in together.

“Mr. Jones is just ridiculous,” complained Ashley as the two girls walked toward the building. “All this, ‘I’m just trying to prepare you for college’ crap. Give me a break. His wife left him last year and now he is bitter and has way too much time on his hand. A bad combination.”

“Seriously,” Courtney agreed. “Get a life. Go to the movies. Go on a date. Do something other than stay up all night dreaming up ways to make your students’ lives miserable creating more unnecessary work.”

As they neared the door, a boy came racing past them and opened the door. “Let me get that for you,” Donald said, clearly nervous and almost dropping the large pile of books he now tried to balance in one hand while opening the door with the other. “Two lovely ladies like yourselves should always have the door held for them.”

“Yeah, okay, thanks Donald,” Ashley said not hiding her irritation.

“Ya know, Donald, it is 2015, most girls really don’t mind pulling the handle of the big heavy door and walking through it them self,” added Courtney.

The girls walked quickly through the door and headed toward Mr. Jones’ room.  Donald, who struggled more than a bit in taking social cues, quickened his step to keep up with the girls.

“Ummm, sorry, I just thought…” Donald’s apology trailed off and he decided to give it another try. “So, Mr. Jones sure is laying it on thick this year. These study sessions are the only way I can keep up.”
“Really, Donald give me a break,” answered Courtney. “What’s your GPA, like a 5.9?”

Ashley decided the subtle hints weren’t worked with Donald and said, “We’re gonna stop in the restroom on the way to class, can you maybe not follow us into there.”

Donald’s head dropped as he slowed his pace to continue down the hall. “Yeah, sorry. Didn’t mean to bother you. Sees ya in class.”

As the two girls entered the restroom, Ashley continued the verbal assault. “Seriously, that guy is something. He could get straight A’s in his sleep. His in #1 in our class. I think the only reason he is here for the study session is because he actually likes to be in this building and wanted to get in as early as he could. And you know the only reason that dork held the door for us was so he could look at our asses while we walked by.”

“Butts, Ashley, butts,” corrected Courtney. “You know I don’t like the foul language.”

“Whatever, Ms. Church Girl.”

“Well,” Courtney added laughing. “At least he got a nice view, because I know my back side looks good in these leggings.”

The girls were still having a good laugh at Donald’s expense as they left the restroom and walked down the hall to the study session.

 

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Courtney sat alone picking at a salad in the lunchroom and waiting for her boyfriend Derek to come in. The lettuce in the salad was on the verge of turning brown and she counted a grand total of three pieces of chicken, but out of the options the cafeteria offered, it was the best she could do.  As she sat there lost in her own thoughts, a commotion from the corner of the cafeteria nearest where she sat startled her.

“We’re gonna crush ‘em tonight!” yelled Brad, the running back and team captain of the football team.

“We’re gonna hit ‘em so hard they are gonna wish the game only had two quarters,” Marcus, a lineman, chimed in oh so intelligently.

Sounds that were somewhere between grunting and barking could now be clearly heard from the huddle of barbarian football players getting themselves amped up for tonight’s game.

What idiots, Courtney thought to herself. God I know you are a lot smarter than me, but it seems like the world would be a little bit better place if you hadn’t allowed those guys to be created.

“And what do you say Bo!” Brad screamed trying to draw in the star quarterback; who seemed to be trying to keep just enough distance to not be a part of the commotion, but not too much distance to offend his teammates.

“I’m sure we’ll win tonight, Brad,” answered Bo in a voice much quieter than the other players.

And there is the worst of all, humble, quiet Bo. Courtney’s thoughts continuing to throw daggers at the group of jocks, but now specifically honing in on Bo. Gets all the glory of being the quarterback. But, stays just to the edge of all the other players. I can see right through his pious act. It’s just his way of bragging. Look at me, not only am I a the best quarterback in the conference, but I’m just a quiet, down to Earth guy. Yeah right!

“That better not be all you got!” Brad fired back.

Bo sighed, and raised his voice just slightly, and without much conviction said, “We’re gonna destroy them tonight!”

“Yeah, that’s right!” all the guys screamed and their voices turned into a loud chorus of “Whose house? Bear’s house!” The Brawling Bears being the high school’s mascot.

As the yelling grew louder Courtney noticed Bo slowly backing away from the group. Good grief, she thought. None of these guys will ever amount to anything more than a bunch of townies. I can just see them now. All in their mid 40s, sitting around at a the run-down diner talking about their “glory days.” And look, there’s Bo. He’s the one serving the coffee!

The thought of Bo in an apron handing out mugs of coffee to pot bellied, balding, former football players made Courtney chuckle to herself.

 

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“What ya laughing at babe?” Derek asked as he gave Courtney a kiss on the cheek and sat down beside her.

“Oh nothing, just thinking about the wonderful future those buffoons in the corner are going to have once they are no longer star high school athletes.

“And look who’s joining them now,” Derek said.

Over to the chanting, grunting, screaming crowd of players, strutted Cassie. Being gameday she was of course dressed in her cheerleading uniform with a skirt that showed just how long her legs were.

Courtney snorted, “Yeah, I have to wear a shirt that covers my butt completely when I wear leggings, but she can wear a skirt that hardly covers her.”

“Yeah,” agreed Derek. “If you are in any way a part of the athletic program here at the amazing intellectual intuition of Morrisville High you can pretty much get away with murder.”

_________________________________

“Wow, Cass, I can’t get over how good you look in your uniform,” one of the not so subtle jocks told her.

Cassie giggled and rubbed her hand over his chest, “And you look so strong in your jersey, Tyler. You gonna catch a touchdown for me tonight?”

“I’ll catch two,” he answered grinning.

“That’s cool, you go ahead and score for her. I’m trying to score with her,” another player threw in, laughing loudly at his own joke.

Cassie didn’t even seem to blush at the comment, but just giggled and flipped her hair.

_________________________________

 

“She is such a slut,” Courtney told Derek.

“They say she spends more time on her back than Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel,” Derek added.
_________________________________

“Come on, show us some of that Brawlin’ Bear pride, Cass. You know it’s our good luck charm,” Brad coaxed.

Cassie giggled again, flipped up her skirt in back, and sure enough there on the spankies, right on Cassie’s derriere, was the picture of a bear in boxing gloves. The players performed their weekly ritual, each either giving Cassie’s backside a little slap or pinch. And although, her giggles continued throughout the ceremony, they seemed to grow a little more forced with each groping from the jocks.

 

_________________________________

 

“Whore,” Courtney’s hissed.

“Oh, forget about her. Let’s talk about something else,” Derek said.

“Okay, what do you want to talk about?”
As Derek began to speak, his hand began to slowly run up from where it had been sitting on Courtney’s knee to her thigh. “Well, like, what we are going to do after the football game.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Well, my parents are out of town this weekend. So, I thought maybe after we go to the football game, you might want to come over and hang out.

“Derek,” Courtney replied grabbing his hand that was getting dangerously close to an area past her leg completely. “You know I am waiting till I get married to have sex.”

“I know,” said Derek sliding his hand out of Cassie’s and continuing his attempt upward. “But, we could do some of the stuff we did that night in your basement when your parents had fallen asleep upstairs watching a movie. And maybe try a few new things. There are lots of things besides sex, you know.”

Courtney giggled as Derek’s hand finally reached its destination and she answered, “Sounds good to me. I will just tell my mom I am going over to Ashley’s after the game.”

With their plans set, the bell rang. Derek walked Courtney to class and Bo, the only player to not have his hands on her Brawling Bear emblem, walked Cassie to class.

 

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Courtney went into her last class of the day, Biology. She hated biology. The only thing that made the class bearable was that Ashley was in there with her. She slumped down in a seat near the back with Ashley to her right. To her left sat Allison. Allison wore all black, sported hot pink hair and had more piercings in her ears, nose, eyebrows and tongue than seemed humanly possible.

The bell rang and Mr. Becket, always prompt, began his lecture immediately. “Today, class, we will be looking at how both dominant traits and recessive traits are contributing factors in offspring.”

Ashley and Courtney looked at each other and rolled her eyes.  Ashley shot a glance at Allison, who seemed to be genuinely interested in Mr. Becket, and smirked. She took out a piece of paper, wrote a note and passed it to Courtney.

Courtney opened the note and read it, Do you think it was the dominant or recessive trait that gave Allison pink hair.

Courtney wrote back, I’m not sure, but with Halloween coming up it must be nice not to have to buy a costume.

Both girls laughed at this. And while stifled enough not to catch Mr. Becket’s attention, it was loud enough to draw a glance from Allison. And when Ashley passed back a note back that said FREAK in large, squiggly red letters and pictured Allison riding a witch’s broom, Allison was watching. She shot Courtney and Ashley both a piercing look, but somewhere just behind the death stare their seemed to be a trace of moisture.

 

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Courtney got home two minutes before curfew that night, feeling pretty lousy. She had taken things even a step further than last time with Derek and wasn’t feeling particularly great about it. Not to mention that she had lied to her mom and told her she was at Ashley’s. With all this on her mind, and a terrible headache, she was really not in the mood to make small talk.

Courtney took off her shoes as she as she came through the door and attempted to tip toe her way through the living room, where her ever devoted mother slept. She would never go up to bed until Courtney was home safe and sound. But, she never could actually quite keep awake, so it made her feel better to at least be downstairs when Courtney got home, even if she was off in dream land.

As Courtney carefully tiptoed past the couch and was nearly to the stairs, she

happened upon a squeaky floor board. Her mom sat up and rubbed her eyes, looked down at her watch and smiled, “Just in the nick of time, huh honey.  How was Ashley’s.”

“Good mom. But, my head is really hurting. I am going to take some Tylenol and get to bed.”

“Okay, sweetie. Maybe we can eat breakfast together in the morning and I can get a little more detail than ‘good.’”

“Sure, mom. Sounds great.”

“Hope your head feel better Courtney. Love you honey.”

“Love you mom. Good night.”

Courtney went upstairs and took some Tylenol and got in her pajamas. As she laid down her head was still pounding. She tossed and turned trying to find a position where her head would feel a little bit better, but it was no use. Finally, exhausted, head still throbbing, she fell asleep.

As Courtney lay sleeping, she woke suddenly in a fright. She thought she heard something that sounded like lots of people talking at once. So many that it was impossible to hear what they were saying. She looked around her room. She was alone. All was okay. Must have been a nightmare. But, man, did her head still ache.

She laid her head gingerly back onto the pillow. And even with the pain, she quickly fell back to sleep.

A Modern Day Parable on Faith

A Modern Day Parable on Faith

“To what can I compare faith?” Jesus began to the crowd sipping their lattes outside Starbucks. “Faith is continuing to make the sponsorship payments for your Compassion child, even after taking a pay cut at work. Faith is staying in your marriage, even when it seems like things will never improve, because you trust that in the long run God will bless you, and your marriage, for sticking it out. Faith is being sure you knew my Father’s will, then seeing things go completely different then you had hoped and still saying, I trust in your plan and purpose Lord. Faith is accepting a new position knowing it will be a significantly smaller salary than your current position, because you truly believe in the mission of the new company.”

With that, a man in a tailored suit sipping a $5 Carmel Macchiato quietly slipped into his BMW and headed off to the job as a Power Broker that he loathed. Jesus went on, “How can I make you understand faith? It is like a man who had to drive through a depressed part of town on the way to work each day. Each day he drove by a man holding a sign saying, Down & out on my luck. Will work for food. The man on his way to work judged the one holding the sign. In fact, he would take an alternative route some days that took longer, just so he did not have to see the man. But as time went on, a feeling formed in the pit of his stomach that he could not ignore whenever he went by the raggedy man. Until one day when he was leaving his house for work, the man made a ham and cheese sand which. And when he came to the man holding the sign, he rolled down his window and handed it to him. And his faith grew.

He continued with the sandwhiches out the window for several weeks. Until that feeling consumed him again. And he looked up at our Father and asked, “Are you kidding me?” This time the man left for work 20 minutes early and when he came to the man holding the sign, he parked his car. He got out and asked if it was okay if they ate a sandwhich together this morning. The two men ate together. No longer did he pity the man who held the sign, but he loved him. And his faith grew”

The crown had begun to thin, but Jesus was apparently not taking the social cues too well and continued, “No God,” the man said driving into work that day. “Nope. Don’t know him that well. Not sticking my neck out for him. No, Lord, no way.” Yet he found himself at his boss’ desk that day. And he heard the boss telling him, “You don’t even have to bring him in for an interview. It’s just a cleaning position. If you recommend the guy, he can start Monday.” And his faith grew.

“No longer does the man ride alone to work. But each day he rides with the man who used to hold the sign.”

Jesus looked out at the thinning crowd and new that some of their hearts were still hard. “I tell you the truth faith that is not tested will wither and die like a flower that receives no rain. If your faith does not force you beyond yourself, you have no faith at all.”

A woman in the crowd holding her baby and thinking of all of the safety issues with actually having a homeless person in her car spoke up. “But Jesus, each person’s faith is a little different. Your story is very touching, but you don’t expect everyone to have faith like that…do you?”

Jesus looked upon the woman with love. For he knew how she loved her baby with a beautiful and selfless love. But, that she had justified not being stretched in her faith because she put her child before God. He began to speak, “There was a Nazarene church headed by a pastor who longed to do more than preach practical application sermons to the regular attendees before taking his scheduled Sunday afternoon nap. Stepping out on faith he went before his board with a plan to do more. With much coercing, he convinced his board to approve the purchase of a small abandoned building right next to the church property.  The building would be turned into a community center to hold evening activities for the youth who were turning more and more to delinquent behaviors.

With the building purchased, the Pastor now needed someone who could see his vision and get the program rolling. He knew the perfect person. A member of his church board was in a high-level management position. He was amazing with planning and organization. He tithed 25% of his large salary to the church. He and the pastor went and walked through the newly purchased building one evening and talked of his heading up the programming for the youth. He replied to the pastor, “I would love to, but I often hold evening meetings at work. And besides, with my knowledge of running an organization, there are far too many unanswered questions at this point as to how this program will actually work to think it will get up and off the ground. I just couldn’t even think of taking this on without there being a more solid foundation.”

The pastor was not discouraged. He had another amazing choice in mind. She was currently a stay-at-home mom, but had been a middle and high school teacher and a principal before having kids. She would bring an amazing knowledge of how to interact with the youth. As the woman and the pastor walked through the building the pastor told her, “I know you have your hands full with a preschooler and a toddler at home. But, since it is in the evening I thought your husband might stay home with the kids or you can even bring them here! Start them early serving others.”  She answered with a chuckle, “Oh Bill could never handle the kids on his own. He can hardly take care of himself.” Then, she became much more serious, “And I could never bring my kids around ‘those kids’ who would come here in the evenings.”

The pastor had been sure that one of his top two choices would accept and was doing his best not to become discouraged. That evening he sat in his office trying to think of a third choice when he heard a knock. A woman walked in who lived in the community and had recently begun attending the church after coming to receive a free backpack for her oldest of 3 children (all by different fathers who were long gone by now). “Pastor, “ she began. “I know I’m new to the church. But I heard about the community center and that you needed someone to head it up and I wanted to volunteer. I don’t really have no experience except that I grew up in this community and am raising my 3 kids here. So, I get were the kids around here are coming from and I know they just need someone to love on them and to learn how much the Lord loves them. Just like I needed. I will have to stop my evening hours at the restaurant and bring my own 3 with me, but like you always say if we doing God’s will He will provide what we need.”  The Pastor wiped away a tear and smiled at his knew community center leader.

Jesus turned to the woman holding her baby, “Which of the 3 showed faith?”

“The one who was willing to lead the programming at the community center,” she answered.

“Go and do likewise,” Jesus responded.

Of those left, a few walked away sad for they had many important things planned that they could not lay aside. But, as Jesus walked away past the Nail Salon and Smoothie King, he turned to see a small crowd still following him.

 

In Heaven, It Just Won’t Matter

In my adult Sunday School class at church we recently did a study using a book and video put out by The Voice of The Martyrs entitled “I am N.” This study led us through atrocities being committed against Christians not long ago, but right now! Christians being murdered, tortured, raped, cut off from family and community, and many other horrific things. This study burdened me (in a good way) to pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are in parts of the world where their faith brings Jesus’ words of suffering for the sake of the gospel into a physical reality; as opposed to the way that we as American Christians often think of the suffering for the gospel in terms of having a socially akward moment for being one of the few not to drink at a wedding reception.

This study caused me to think and reflect on many things. (I hope to share more about this in blogs to come). And one of the questions that I kept coming back to is Why? Why was I born in America where I do not face this persecution while these Christians were born in Syria and Somalia and other countries where they know a commitment to Christ can mean severe persecution or even death? Why does God allow these awful things to happen to His people? And why was I led to complete this study; what am I supposed to take away from it? This story was an attempt to wrestle with these questions from an eternal perspective.

 

 

In Heaven, It Just Won’t Matter

Jesus had fallen asleep in the back of the van again. But this was not like the last time when he was awakened by the frightened disciples when a snowstorm hit and their nearly bald tires had the van sliding all over the road. That time, Jesus had rebuked the skies and the snow had stopped.  No, this time, Jesus was awoken by, yet another, bitter dispute between his disciples.

As the loud voices erupted, Jesus opened his eyes, but then closed them again. He decided he would pretend to be sleeping a little longer. That way he could hear their true views before intervening.

“Clearly, that is wrong!” John said heatedly. “The one who does the most for the Lord will be the greatest in heaven! Open a homeless shelter in His name, serve on the front lines as a missionary. It only makes sense, do for the Lord now and he will do for you in the life to come. Be too timid to act for the Lord now and your place in heaven will be least!”

“No, that is not enough!” rebutted Thaddeus. “It is those willing to fight for the Lord who will be the greatest in heaven! For God means to set up his reign on Earth.Stand up to the Muslim extremists and surely you will be lifted up. Those who are willing to forcibly advance the Kingdom now, will sit upon thrones in heaven.”

“To suffer for the Lord,” Peter chimed in, “This is the greatest thing a man can do for the Lord. First, in the kingdom will be those who were martyred. Followed by those who faced much persecution while on Earth. Be murdered by the Muslim extremist and certainly you will be exalted above all others in the eternal realm.”

Phillip did not want this to go on without his view being heard. “It is he who had the most willing heart to leave all behind and follow the Lord. Willingly give up the things of this world and the Lord will be truly pleased. Sell your house and your car, leave your cozy white collar job and come after the Lord and surely you will be seated near the Lord himself in the life to come.”

With this Jesus opened his eyes, sighed heavily and spoke, “Quiet down, quiet down.” All eyes turned to Jesus. The disciples thought their squabble had been unheard by the Teacher. Jesus had slept so soundly through the near monsoon conditions they had driven through last week, but now a little argument awakens him…  

Jesus continued on, “After the many months we have spent together, do you still understand so little? Are you still arguing over such trivial matters?” Jesus looked up at the van roof and clothed his eyes. “Father, how will I ever make them understand?”

Then, as though a direct answer had immediately been given, Jesus looked at the disciples once more and smiled, “Let me tell you a story.

Four men died on the same day. The first man was Joe Taylor. He was a perennial Pro-Bowl quarterback in the NFL. He won three super bowls with the Dallas Cowboys. He was a faithful husband to his wife Jenny for 52 years. His one regret was that he and his remained childless. After three mis-carriages, he and Jenny had decided it must not be the Lord’s will for them to have children.

Although, it caused he and Jenny great sorry, it did not cause them to waiver in their faith. They decided that they would to use their love for children in a different way. Joe ran summer football camps in inner cities all across the country free of charge during the offseason and Jenny volunteered to eat lunch with and mentor children labeled as “at-risk” by the local school district.

The second man was Estuardo Garcia. He lived in extreme poverty in rural Guatemala. He did his best to make ends meat farming a small plot of sugar cane on a steep slope on the side of a mountain. However, while Estuardo worked long hours to eke out a living from the sugar, he never let his weariness show on Sunday mornings.

For each Sunday morning, standing in front of his one room home, Estuardo preached. For four decades he preached to the other farmers living nearby. He preached to all who would listen. He proclaimed Sunday after Sunday that in spite of their current conditions, there was a God in heaven, a good God, a God who would take those who believed in Him to their real home one day. A home where they would no longer grow weary, no longer go hungry, but where they would bask in the glory of the Lord for all eternity.

Mustafa Abadi was the third man. He had grown up in Iraq in a proud Muslim family. As he grew older and became a man, he prided himself in his knowledge of the Koran and of the great prophet Muhammed. But, as time went on all of this knowledge did not seem to bring him satisfaction. And one day as he flipped through the TV stations, he happened upon a Christian speaker.

The speaker spoke of the love of a God who wanted to know him personally. A God who cared much more about a contrite heart than rituals and rules. And Mustafa new this was the true God and was the God for him. Mustafa was frightened at first, but as time went on knew he needed to boldly proclaim his faith. Even after being ostracized by his family and his community, he remained true to the Lord. And even as ISIS invaded his city, his faith did not waiver. And even as the ISIS soldier stood over Mustafa with a machete giving him one final chance, he would not recant his faith.

The last man standing at the gate was Jerome Division. Jerome lived a life of tragedy. He lost his wife to breast cancer at age thirty-nine. Just months later, his only child died in a tragic car accident. And at age go forty-two, Jerome was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer, chondrosarcoma. The cancer acted quickly and aggressively.  It devoured his whole face, eating away at his nasal and jaw bones, displacing his left eye and robbing him of her sense of smell.

As his time on Earth drew to its final days and Jerome lay in a hospice bed, he was the most frequented patient in the center. For the nurses could not help but be drawn to his joy. Whenever they entered his room, they would find Jerome humming a hymn or with his good eye closed as he prayed to the Lord; not prayers of misery, but of praise! Praising the Lord for his faithfulness and the promise that he would soon go to be in the presence of God with his beautiful wife and beloved son.

As the four men stood waiting at heaven’s gate, the Lord came to greet them. He opened his arms and beckoned them to come in. And he said to them, ‘Each of you were given a different lot in life, yet each of you took what you were given and used it to glorify Me. You have been faithful in your brief moment on Earth, enter into the beginning of real life, eternal life. Each of you was faithful with a little, I will now give you much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”

The van had been silent as Jesus spoke. And it remained so as they continued on their long road trip. The disciples now had much to think about.