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A man who was both very successful and widely admired was approached by his young daughter, Allison, during a brief (and all too rare) moment between his vigorous business trips. She climbed into his lap and hugged him with the earnestness that only a small and adoring child can effortlessly muster.

“Daddy,” she began, her large brown eyes searching her father’s face. “You travel so much, I’m afraid you won’t come home one day. If something happened… to you I mean, would you go to heaven?”

For a moment he hesitated. Caught off guard like that, he was suddenly aware that he didn’t really know the answer to that question. “Well sure, honey. I’d go to heaven,” he finally replied, trying to be reassuring, but inwardly feeling a twinge of guilt as if he were lying. He knew he wasn’t a bad person as people go, but he also knew that there were places in his heart with corresponding moments in his past that had left a stain that he wasn’t sure God could overlook if that moment were to arrive. “Yes, I’d go to heaven,” he said again.

“That’s a relief, Daddy,” Allision chirped. She hugged him, climbed down and ran away to play. Her father stood up and quietly began packing for his next trip, profoundly disturbed.

That night, in his hotel room, he found a Bible. He opened it and began reading, his eyes finally running across Jesus’ parable in Luke 12 about a rich man who had big plans. When he read verse 12, his heart skipped a beat. “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’”

He lay in his bed that night finding it difficult to sleep. Eventually, drowsiness overtook him and his eyes closed in slumber. Then he began to dream.

He dreamed that he was traveling along a highway with many lanes of traffic all moving in the same direction. At first the sky seemed clear but the farther he traveled the darker and gloomier it became. He looked to the right of the highway and occasionally saw exit signs which seemed to indicate a safer road to travel to a surer destination. Every so often he could see people taking such an exit to that surer road.

At first, he laughed at them and thought them foolish for missing out on all the opportunities that the fast-paced and well-traveled road offered. He glanced around him and felt reassured that he was not alone but was surrounded by countless others all traveling as he was. He noticed that those around him were accelerating and so he too began to speed up as he strived to keep up with the others. But distant voices seemed to call to him, appealing to him to leave the road he was on and to take the exit to the safe road. He ignored them, but noticed that the exits were becoming fewer and instinctively felt that the other drivers about him were determined that he remain in their midst.

His car sped up more and was then forced to the lane farthest from the exit ramps. Many of the drivers around him who had told him that he was wise in choosing the broad, well-traveled way now laughed openly at him, while a few others seemed to be as trapped and as frightened as he felt.

He noticed that the voices from the other road seemed either to be growing fainter or were being drowned out by the roar of cars charging along on the broad way. His eyes caught sight of another exit ramp and he realized that he could just make it if he would only turn. A pair of hands floated above him ready to take control and guide him to safety if he would simply release control to them. But he hesitated. After all, most of the other drivers were still traveling the broad path apparently without worry and he didn’t wish to look foolish to them. And he wasn’t sure that he was quite ready to give up control of his direction to anyone. He passed the exit sign.

Suddenly the road ended. He was alone and surrounded by nothing at all except gloom and an eerie silence broken only by the faint echo of mocking laughter from a shadow that had hidden in his back seat all along, urging him along this path to destruction and away from the safety that the guiding hands would have granted him had he only yielded.

He wanted to blame the shadow for encouraging him along the path that he had chosen. He wanted to blame the other drivers for trapping him in the lane away from the exits. He wanted to blame those who had taken the safer road for not warning him soon enough or loud enough. He wanted to blame the hands above him for not grabbing control and taking him to safety.

He wanted to and even tried to. But he knew down deep inside that he was the one to blame. He was the one who had made the choice to remain on the wide and easy way. The darkness intensified until it was an inky blackness. It surrounded him and began to smother him in painful tentacles of regret and grief. He realized that he was alone, utterly and inescapably alone and would always be so forever after. He cried out in despair.

He awoke screaming. His eyes opened and he sat straight up in bed. He looked at the alarm clock. One thought flashed through his mind. “I can still get off that road,” he thought. He remembered the cross of Jesus Christ and realized that he had found the exit ramp. He yanked the covers off himself, knelt down beside the bed and began to pray. “I don’t really know how to pray,” he said aloud, clenching his eyes shut. “But I know that You can hear me. I’ve avoided You all my life, trying to do what I thought best on my terms. I thought I could put You off or that maybe somehow I could measure up on my own merits. I know now that I was wrong, that I was rejecting You and what You did for me as You died on the cross. Please forgive me and be Lord of my life now.”

He stopped and took a deep breath. He opened his eyes and glanced up at the bed side table on which he had placed the Bible the night before. He picked it up and opened it to a verse that he had read earlier.

“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 ESV). He glanced at the alarm clock. It glowed 7:15 in bright red numbers. He smiled and picked up the phone and dialed his home.

“Good morning, honey,” he said when his wife answered. “Yes, I know it’s a bit early but I wanted to let you know that I just switched roads.” He chuckled at the sounds of confusion on the other end of the phone. “No, I’m in my hotel room. I just mean that I’ve given my life to Jesus…. Yes, I’m serious. Thank you for being patient with me… and for your prayers. Will you tell Allison when she wakes up? Tell her that I know for sure that one day I’ll definitely be going to heaven.”

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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For a moment, consider Jesus’ call for you to follow Him as Lord of your life. For a minute, consider how you’d respond if He came to you, placed His nail-scarred hand upon your shoulder and invited you to “get up” and follow Him. Would you do it? Is His eternal love for you sufficient for you to desire to please Him? Is His holy majesty enough for you to bow your head before Him and say, “All right, Lord. Not my will but Your own be done in and through my life”?

Imagine the disciple Matthew’s encounter with the Lord as described in Matthew 9:9. If Jesus is only the carpenter most people who’ve met Him think Him to be, the whole situation would be laughable. “Follow Me,” Jesus says. And not only does this Jesus person have the audacity to just waltz up to Matthew’s table and utter what seems to be the most ridiculous invitation he’s ever heard, the Man also just turns and walks away as if He really expects Matthew to simply hop up from his table and run after Him.

And yet… Matthew thinks of all he’s heard about Jesus. The famous Teacher heals sick people, gives sight to blind men, and even rebukes evil spirits with stern authority. “Yes, there’s something different about this Man,” Matthew muses. “He’s so much more than a carpenter.” He sighs as he looks at the money on the table before him piled up in neat little columns. Beside them are stacks of ledger parchment recording the taxes paid by his fellow Judeans.

The gold just doesn’t seem as shiny to Matthew anymore. Its yellow surface now seems sickly and pale compared to the light that he’s seen in Jesus’ face. He thinks about the direction his own life has taken and he isn’t sure that he likes it. Every day he gets up, gets dressed, comes to work, puts up with difficult bosses and faces down a hostile public. He sighs again. No, he definitely doesn’t like it anymore. What’s more, he doesn’t like who he is anymore either.

Accepting an invitation from Jesus to “get up and go" with Him will alter one's destiny from destruction and despair to that of life and hope.

Accepting an invitation from Jesus to “get up and go” with Him will alter one’s destiny from destruction and despair to that of life and hope.

His eyes slowly raise from where they have long gazed at piles of money on his little table. They now begin to focus on the figure of the only One Who holds the door to change. No, more than just a simple change. A transformation. Suddenly, Matthew’s mind is emptied of any more thought of gold. His eyes remain locked upon the Master, almost unable to look anywhere else. His body now seems to take a life of its own, separated from his previous shallowness, and slowly pushes away from his table and brings him to his feet. Unaccountably, he finds himself in pursuit of Jesus.

He would never have dreamed earlier that morning that he would abruptly be chucking his career to accept an invitation to go out into the wide world alongside the One that some called “Messiah”. On the one hand, it seems like madness. Matthew’s old sensibilities feebly attempt to deter him from what he is about to do. On the other, the rays of love and glory are unmistakable in the glance of Jesus. Matthew cannot now be deterred.

He picks up his pace, rushing through the crowd so that he may walk beside Jesus. Without a single glance behind him, Matthew leaves behind his old life, his old dreams, his sin and selfishness and starts out on a journey that will not only leave him forever a changed man, but will be used by God to change the fates of millions of others in generations to come.

Later, although the scope of what is happening in his life cannot possibly be realized, he knows simply that Jesus has changed his life forever. To Matthew’s mind come the images of his old friends and associates, “tax collectors” and “sinners”. Here indeed are people only too used to dislike, rejection and failure. Do they have any hope of being accepted by God? Morally and spiritually, they were the lowest of the low, traitors to God and to their own people.

But hadn’t Jesus accepted Matthew? Hadn’t Matthew’s faith in this Savior’s grace and authority to forgive sin made a new man of him? “If Jesus did it for me, maybe He will do it for them,” Matthew decides.

In short order, Matthew hosts a party with Jesus as the guest of honor. Matthew’s old cronies and old colleagues show up in force. Aside from the free food, these societal rejects have a curiosity of this Teacher Who doesn’t spurn them or find fault with them. He doesn’t need to point out the sin in their lives for they know it all too well. Instead, they come and, as Matthew had hoped, they find grace.

Oh, but then those who don’t seem to really understand grace crash the party. Matthew bites his fingernails nervously, hoping against all hope that they’ll just go away. Always they look down their long and haughty noses at him and his friends, sniffing contemptuously as if they aren’t even worth looking upon.

“Will they shame Jesus into leaving?” he tortuously wonders. “Will they embarrass my friends? Will my friends turn from God because of this? Will Jesus even forsake me?” A sick feeling emanates from his stomach and he feels himself turning pale, the blood rushing from his head to the bottom of his feet.

But Jesus glances over at Matthew, gives him a quick wink, and then turns to face the prickly party-poopers. “Why do I eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” He says, echoing their question. He smiles at them gently, grace radiating from His countenance to these who will not see it. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,” He answers. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (from Luke 5:30-31).

His detractors blink stupidly for a moment, wondering if there’s a hidden rebuke in what had just been said to them. While they puzzle over their encounter with Jesus, trying to think of stinging rebuttals, Matthew smiles inwardly for he knows how true are the words just spoken by the Lord. Matthew had been, only a short time before, one of those who are “sick” – sick of heart, sick in their soul, sick both spiritually and morally. Only an invitation from Jesus to “get up” and follow had altered his destiny from destruction and despair to that of life and hope.

Now, as our imagination returns to the here and now, I once again ask you to consider Jesus’ call for you to follow Him as Lord of your life. I again implore you to consider how you’d respond if He came to you, placed His nail-scarred hand upon your shoulder and invited you to “get up” and follow Him. Would you do it? Isn’t His love enough? Isn’t His majesty sufficient?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Shyrah was a Swallowtail caterpillar not quite like all the others. She had been hatched first of all her one hundred brothers and sisters and had been the first one to try anything new ever since. Fun-loving and social, she lived life on the wild side. She would climb up the highest, in spite of the ever-present danger of predatory birds. She would journey out into the back yard the farthest, no matter that it might be Friday and the lawn was always mown on Fridays. And she would always eat the most, no matter that her appetite, voracious even for a caterpillar, was carrying her far and away beyond what others felt was safe and comfortable.

One day, however, she began to feel strange. A joy and thrill were so powerfully bubbling up from within her that she began to sing hearty and loud notes with her tiny caterpillar voice. Oh, and such thoughts were taking shape in her mind! She began to dream of flying, longing to take wing and be lifted up over the earth and soar in the grand and glorious sapphire-blue sky!

She began to dream of flying, longing to take wing and be lifted up over the earth and soar in the grand and glorious sapphire-blue sky!

She began to dream of flying, longing to take wing and be lifted up over the earth and soar in the grand and glorious sapphire-blue sky!

And so her songs floated on to the other caterpillars. Some who listened found in themselves a similar stirring and a tiny gleam of hope for something more was awakened within them. Others, though, heard her songs and were angered. They were at first annoyed with Shyrah for they thought her too preoccupied with her flighty fantasies to stay focused on what they felt was her supreme duty… that of carefully and consistently eating and digesting. Then, in their pride, they became jealous of how others were touched by her melody of hope and her dreams of being lifted out of the mud and mire of only the “here-and-now.”

But she still sang, undaunted by their looks and their words, undeterred from the great longing in her heart. Peger, one of Shyrah’s brothers, heard her sweet refrain and found in himself a yearning also to fly and so he began to sing, too.

But when he saw the sneers and heard the snickering of those around him, his song would fade and a worried and wearied look would turn his handsome caterpillar countenance into a study of awkward ambivalence.

As the hours passed into days, Shyrah sang and waited for the day when her dreams would be realized while Peger fretted and wondered what others were thinking of him.

Finally, as the early morning sun began to peep just over the pale eastern horizon, a distant droning was heard. No one knew what the sound was, nor did they know what it meant. Shyrah and a few others were too busy to pay any attention: so many wonderful things were taking place inside themselves that they had begun to spin silk and were wrapping tiny threads about themselves until they were completely robed in a white garment. And, while in this incredible chrysalis stage, the transformation continued.

The droning grew louder and louder.

The droning grew louder and louder.

Meanwhile, as the droning sound grew louder and louder, Peger hesitated. He had seen Shyrah completely cover herself in her cocoon of webbing. As his eyes remained frozen on her unmoving form, he wondered if she had finally lost her mind and had ultimately deluded herself and others into an early death. And while he hesitated, wondering about all of this, he failed to notice a small Trichogramma wasp hovering closer and closer behind him.

Suddenly, his back was ablaze with piercing pain. His body curled up and nearly fell from the leaf he had just been eating but he managed to regain his hold just in time. “Ouch!” he exclaimed, looking around wildly. As his eyes surveyed the leaves about him, he saw some other chrysalises but also saw some other caterpillars looking as surprised and as pained as he.

Peger sighed heavily at the loss of his sister, Shyrah, and of others. He even shed a tear or two. But then he shrugged his little caterpillar shoulders and resumed eating like nothing had happened. Well, at least for a little while. It wasn’t long until he began to feel strange inside again, only this time it was NOT a good thing. Something was wrong but he didn’t know what. Pain began to radiate out from the sore spot on his back but soon gave way to excruciating agony within. Quickly, his strength faded and he would have fallen from his leaf had his little caterpillar toes not been embedded in the leaf’s surface. He could eat no more and soon became completely listless.

He could only watch passively when something inside finally cut through his skin and emerged onto the leaf beside Peger’s broken and ruined body. It was the larva of a Trichogramma wasp. Looking quite happy and healthy, it ignored Peger and began busily wrapping itself in threads stolen from Peger’s own body until it had completely cocooned itself in silk, humming to itself all the while it worked.

Shortly afterwards, Peger finally died. He had only a vague awareness of what had actually happened to him and of the opportunity lost now to him forever. The might-have-beens would never be for poor Peger.

A few weeks passed. A couple of leaves away, a cocoon began to tremble and a tiny opening appeared halfway up its length. In only about ten seconds, a wet and crumpled Swallowtail butterfly emerged and climbed to the edge of its leaf. It was Shyrah. The excitement and thrill of finally coming out of her cocoon were very nearly too much for her to contain. She pumped her little wings up and down until they filled with fluid and had dried. Then, just as she was about to take her first flight, she paused, sad for all her brothers and sisters who were missing out on this amazing moment, yet glad for all those who were there.

Just as she was about to take her first flight, she paused, sad for all her brothers and sisters who were missing out on this amazing moment.

Just as she was about to take her first flight, she paused, sad for all her brothers and sisters who were missing out on this amazing moment.

She spread her wings and launched herself up and away from the leaf on which she had lived for such a long time. Exulting in her new and transformed life, she sped away into the sapphire-blue sky, the air about her filled with the song of victory that she sang.

“The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6b-8 ESV). But “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.  Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!  You have multiplied, O LORD my God, Your wondrous deeds and Your thoughts toward us; none can compare with You!  I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told” (Psalms 40:1-5 ESV).

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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