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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

TEMPTATION OF THE QUARTER CUP


When Master Potter fashioned me from crude clay, He decided to make me a vessel, a cup. At His discretion, He formed my cup with a large capacity.
"I will fill it," He promised.

In my youth, great thirst began to consume me. It seemed that unlimited years stretched before me. Every fountain of life sparkled and beckoned to me offering a fullness to which I might hold my cup and let its water bubble to fill me. I sang often, “Fill my cup, Lord, I lift it up, Lord; come and fill this thirsting of my soul...fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!”

"Just wait for My time," Master Potter cautioned. "I promised to choose the right fountain to fill your cup."

I impatiently agreed to wait. In due season, none too soon, I complained, Master Potter led me to a certain fountain of His choice. I stretched forth my empty cup with trembling joy and anticipation. Eagerness for the promised fulfillment nearly overwhelmed me.

Well, it was a good fountain. Adequate, I suppose. Yet I still felt unfulfilled, puzzled, and somehow wistful and sad.
Time went by. A lot of time.

I came to realize with excruciating dismay that this fountain would always give me less than my capacity. My cup would always be barely one-quarter full! I grew increasingly restless. What a disappointment! How could this meager provision be the Master Potter's best for me?

Or had my cup grown in capacity with maturity? Was my thirst perhaps greater?

Was this truly all that this fountain was capable of giving me? My cup could certainly hold three-quarters more!

I wanted my cup to be not merely a quarter full, or half full, but full to overflowing! Surely I wasn't being unreasonable. After all, Master Potter Himself had created me with this generous capacity. I became increasingly perplexed and disgruntled.

I began to question Master Potter's judgment. So I decided, "I shall take my cup back to Him. I shall demand a reason for His meager provision. I shall ask to change fountains!”

On my way There, I unexpectedly came upon another fountain. Oh, how ample it seemed! Master Potter had made this one too—it was labeled as His possession. How sparkling clear and abundantly it bubbled! It beckoned to me. I was drawn to it with the prospect of satisfaction. I knew instinctively that at this fountain I could experience all for which I longed, for which I was made. It would fill that other three-quarters that I desired so imperatively.
I shouted for joy! All by myself I had finally found the fountain I wanted!

Without considering whether the fountain belonged to anyone else, I yielded to temptation. Yes! I filled my cup to the brim and then it overflowed. Oh, how it slaked my thirst, more abundantly than I had ever dared to dream! I drank and drank and drank until I was drunk with abandon. I wasn't aware of anyone or anything else.
Suddenly a strong hand grasped my shoulder.

Master Potter stood beside me. He shook me lovingly, gently, but firmly until I came to myself.

I made as if to defy Him. "It was You who made me with this great capacity! Why did you give me a large cup and great thirst? Was it to taunt me by chaining me to a meager fountain that leaves me three-quarters empty? On my own I found a better fountain, another of Your fountains, which fills my cup. This one suits me a lot better. So I want this one!" I pouted, stamping my feet.

Master Potter waited until my bitterness was spent. Then He quietly and simply replied, "My child, in My love for you I deliberately permit some emptiness and I provide what you consider partial fulfillment so that I may fill your cup with Myself. Only in Me is there fullness and abundance. Only in Me is there satisfaction and the slaking of all thirsts. Indeed, I have promised that your cup will be full but not through waters from the fountains of temporal things or human relationships. They will always prove inadequate and disappointing no matter how satisfying they may seem to you at the moment."

I pondered His words. "But—this fountain—” I argued, "it fills me more than the one You provided! I like this one! I want it! I want it now! You have given me the wrong fountain!"

He was lovingly patient. "For the present, in My shaping and transforming you into My image, I have ordained that you should drink from the fountain I have chosen for you, the one that satisfies you only one-quarter full. I have a purpose and a plan for your good and not for evil. Trust Me to know what is best for you. Be content first to have the least—the quarter-cup. I will reward your obedience, your faithfulness. Have not I promised, 'all these things shall be added unto you,' and 'no good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly'? First seek Me, the One who has made you, and not satisfaction from the things which I have made."

I fell at His feet sobbing, pleading, "But I can't keep on living with my cup three-quarters empty!"

Master Potter said, "You are right. You cannot do it yourself. But you can, through My enabling."

"Teach me! Teach me how to do it then!" I cried in desperation.

"I shall," He promised. "Day by day, moment by moment, trust and obey Me, delight yourself in Me, and I shall surely give you the desires of your heart."

I clung to His feet in anguish. I had more questions to ask Him. How was He going to work things out? And when? How soon? I wanted to lift the curtain on the next scene to see what my future would hold. I was impatient to know how He would fulfill His promise. 
 
Otherwise, how could I write the conclusion to this parable?

But He didn't tell me.

O Lord! I must wait—not with reluctance or rebellion or impatience, but in joyful submission and trust.

So this parable must remain unfinished—for now—perhaps for a mortal lifetime—until all things shall one day be revealed in Eternity in the Glorious Presence of God. Then we shall know as we are known. On that day the Master Potter will finish shaping the clay that is me into the image of His perfect intention. Fullness shall be realized. There will be no empty cups nor cups one-quarter full. All cups will be overflowing! 
 
Our God will be all and in all and satisfying all as we are satisfied in Him.
*****

From THE RESOURCE BOOK

Isaiah 55:8,9; 30:18,21; Psalm 106:13-15; 37:4; 84:11;107:35)

Monday, September 29, 2014

GREEN TREE AND PARCHED SHRUB


"Whew! It's so hot and dry!" Green Tree shook the dust from his leaves with a swish and a shudder. "Time for the pause that refreshes." He stretched his roots imperceptibly deeper under the arid desert toward Water. They immersed with a splash. "Ahhhh!"

Parched Shrub, drooping nearby, tried to shake his brittle branch stubs but they just crackled. He glared up at Green Tree whose leaves were verdant and healthy. "You think you're somebody special, don't you?" he wheezed. "If you were down here close to the blistering sand you wouldn't act so high and mighty."

"We're in this together, good buddy," replied Green Tree surprised. "I'm rooted in the same sun-baked desert. Besides, I'm up here closer to the sun where it's even hotter."

"Well, I'm waiting for Mortal Man to water me. He promised to come when I needed him. He’ll probably arrive by Prosperity Bus anytime now," mumbled Parched Shrub.

“Just how late is the bus?”

"Oh—a few months—give or take a few weeks."

"We live in Uninhabited Salt Land," reminded Green Tree. "Did you forget? Prosperity Bus only services the Goodtimes route now."

Parched Shrub shrugged his bony branch shoulders and remained silent for a long while. Only his wheezing breath broke the stillness of the desert. Finally, "How do you get along so well through this awful drought? I even see fruit developing up there in your dense foliage."

"My hope is in Lord God," replied Green Tree. "He told us when He planted us that we shouldn't trust in Mortal Man. He promised that He would look after us Himself and never forsake us. He...."

"There you go being preachy again," interrupted Parched Shrub with a cough. "You Green Trees are all alike. You think you're better than everyone else—some kind of special apples in God's eye."

"That's not true. Lord God doesn't play favorites or keep secrets. He told all of us Greenery where to send our roots to reach Water—you included."

"Aw, I just don't trust 'im. I gave up that God-stuff when I was little."

You're still little," observed Green Tree with a smile, not intending offense. "I was as small as you are when Lord God planted me. You too can...."

"Don’t rub it in!" Parched Shrub wheezed, pretending to be angry. However, one hot tear betrayed him. It trickled down his bare branch, splashed on the sand and rapidly soaked in.

Green Tree was moved with compassion. He bent his chlorophyll-laden leafy branches low over Parched Shrub creating cool shade. "Come under my shadow, buddy. I'll shelter you from the blazing sun. It's really not far to stretch your own roots under the desert to The Divine Aquifer. You can do it! I know you can!"

Parched Shrub snuggled under Green Tree's abundant foliage. "You'd be willing to help me? Even after I’ve made fun of you and turned away from Lord God so many times?"

"Absolutely! We share common chlorophyll and we are both Lord God's creation."

“Do you think there's enough Water for both of us?" 

"Lord God said that Rivers of Living Water, cool and pure, flow abundantly in a deep Divine Aquifer right under our roots. There's more than enough for all of us Greenery.”

“How much does The Water cost?"

“It did cost a lot. More than any of us could pay. But it's free for the asking now. Lord God's Son already paid for it and offers it to everyone!"

"Oh! I'm dying of thirst!"

"Let's get going then, buddy. I'll show you the way to The Waters."

 Parched Shrub's prickly stubs tingled with new hope as his roots shuddered with anticipation under the arid desert. "I can hardly wait to go green! Stay with me, okay?"
****

From THE RESOURCE BOOK

Jeremiah 17:5-8 combined from various translations
 and versions of Scripture.
Also reflective of Psalm 1:1-6; Revelation 22:17; Isaiah 55:1.

"Thus says the Lord, cursed is the strong man who trusts in mankind, in frail, mortal man, and makes weak, human flesh his strength, and whose heart and mind turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush or stunted shrub in the desert, like a person naked and destitute, with no hope for the future. He will not see when prosperity comes and good times pass him by forever.
But he will live in stony wastes, in parched places in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitants."

"But most blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
 and whose hope and confidence are in the Lord.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water, along a riverbank, that extends its roots by a stream,
and will not be bothered when heat comes, 
nor anxious in a year of drought,
but goes right on producing luscious fruit.”


Sunday, September 28, 2014

JOE LOPPY AND G.M.

JOE LOPPY chugged and sputtered down Interstate. He could no longer keep up with traffic in Fast Lane. Not that he was an antique car. Older vehicles zipped along smoothly at 65 per. His muffler rasping and dragging, he inched his way off Panic exit. Pumping his failing brakes around the cloverleaf, he pulled in at Gas Station/Garage and coasted to a halt.

With a shudder and a shake, steam pouring from beneath his hood, Joe Loppy switched off his ignition. Fumes belched from somewhere within him for two full minutes before his engine-heart gave its final throb with a heave and groan. A hubcap fell off with a clatter and rolled back toward the highway.

Amused Attendant sauntered toward him wiping greasy hands on a rag that he stuck into the pocket of his overalls. Unable even to peer through the smudged windshield, Attendant attacked it with a sloppy sponge and squeegee. "You're in luck. We still give full service," he chuckled.

"I'm afraid," Joe Loppy confessed, "that I need some major attention."

"So when was your last tune-up?"

"I. . .I don't think I ever had one."

"What?" cried wide-eyed Attendant.

"Well, I was a new model ten years ago," Joe timidly ventured, "so I didn't expect to need attention so soon. All my parts were spankin’ new right off the assembly line."

"I can't believe this!" Attendant shook his head and slapped his knees. "I'll have to turn you over to G.M."

"G.M.?"

"Yes. Great Mechanic. Pull into the garage. Take the first bay. G.M. will put you through Major Inspection and then you'll know the verdict."

Joe Loppy felt as if he were entering a court room to stand trial for murder. He dreaded Major Inspection because he never experienced one before. Unable to start himself up again, he was humiliated when Attendant, groaning and mumbling, had to push him into the bay.

Up, up toward the ceiling went Joe Loppy on the hydraulic lift. Thus elevated, he could not see Great Mechanic. He could only hear His voice and submit to His scrutiny.

Joe Loppy felt clamps and lines and wires being attached to his parts and Celestial Computer switched on. After the beeps and lights and whirs ceased, he was unhooked. In ominous silence he awaited G.M.'s verdict.

"Where's your Title?" inquired Great Mechanic. His voice was strong and deep, but He didn't yell as Joe expected He might. He felt a little less fearful. Joe fumbled in his glove compartment and handed over his Vehicle Birth Certificate.

"Well, well, you are one of Our originals—a genuine G.M. classic model," declared Great Mechanic. "Why, you belong to My Son! Didn't you know that we not only build new models, but we also maintain them? You have a Lifetime Warranty, Joe! Why didn't you come to Us sooner?"

"I didn't know I was supposed to," admitted Joe sheepishly.

"Don't you have Our Owner's Manual?" questioned G.M.

Another shuffle in the glove compartment. "I recall seeing it somewhere when I was still new," he murmured. Joe finally produced The Book still sealed in its original plastic wrapper.

"My Son and I intended that the Owner's Manual be a regular guide for your good maintenance. You wouldn't be in such bad shape if you had followed Our instructions from the beginning."

Joe felt increasingly ill at ease, having run out of excuses.

"Had regular tune-ups?" Asked G.M.

"Never had one," answered Joe faintly.

"Inspections? We have qualified workers, you know, who can help you maintain standards of safety on The Road so you won't damage yourself or others."

"None of those either. Sorry." Joe Loppy confessed.

G.M. proceeded to tap and feel Joe's body. Bumps and dents covered most of his surface. "What a lot of unfortunate contacts! If you allow dents like these to go unattended, your body will rust. You can't keep an impact from occurring, but if you come to Me as dents happen, I can attend to them."

Joe winced, remembering the painful fender benders—and worse—that he suffered from not-so-friendly contacts in traffic.

"You must change all filters frequently. They pay for themselves in pure, clean intake," G.M. advised. "Keep filled with clean oil so everything will run smoothly." Joe couldn't remember the last time he even checked his oil, let alone changed it.

"Noise of any kind means trouble. Always find out the reason. Quiet means you are performing well. The condition of your muffler is incredible, Joe! Do you know how important your exhaust pipe is? You must have an efficient emission system to get rid of waste fumes or everything will back up. Suddenly you will have pollution inside if you don't vent properly. And the pollution you produce will harm others.

"You need new shock absorbers. Road conditions are unpredictable. You can sustain much damage from potholes, especially downtown on Life Road."

Joe felt dizzy trying to remember all the things he never did to keep himself in good condition. "Woe is me! Have I come to You too late? Will I ever recover?" he mumbled. 
 
Great Mechanic heard him and encouraged, "Sure you will, Joe! My Son and I have been in the manufacture and body works business for thousands of years, you know. We are universally known."

"Sir, I don't doubt your ability, but I do have high mileage on my odometer. Actually—it’s on its second time around. Maybe I'm beyond help and not worth restoring? Wouldn't I be better off in Junk Yard?" Joe shuddered.

"You should see the wrecks that come to Us! We restore them like new and put them right back on The Road again. It is never too late. We'll have you shipshape in no time since you finally came to Us. That's a promise.

"What's more, your trade-in value at End of the Road is so high you can't even calculate it. We invest in your restoration because My Son paid a lot for you. When trade-in time does come, you wouldn't believe what a wonderful new model you will become!" assured G.M.

Joe Loppy's fear and apprehension at G.M.'s Major Inspection gave way to anticipation. He shouted, "This is the best thing that ever happened to me! I'm really sorry I put off coming to You for so long. Please, Sir, take me in for the Complete Overhaul and Restoration. 

If I were human I guess I would call it 'becoming a new creation.' And . . .thanks, G.M!"

*****
from THE RESOURCE BOOK
SERVICE AND WARRANTIES

Appointment for a check up and the right place to go: Psalm 140:23, 24; 107:13.
Confessing the need for service, exams, tests: Psalm 26:2; 1 John 1:8-10; 1 Cor. 11:28; 2 Cor. 13:5.
New models produced: 2 Cor. 5:17
Title ownership and purchase price: 1 Cor. 12:27; 1 Cor. 6:20
Periodic safety inspections: Heb. 13:17
Knowledge of our poor condition: Psalm 103:14; Rom. 3:10-12
Need for body work: 2 Cor. 4:16
Oil change and clean filters: Psalm 23:5; 92:10b; 2 Cor. 7:1
Good shock absorbers essential: Psalm 112:6a; 7b
Despair about poor condition: Psalm 43:5
Quiet performance: 1 Thess. 4:11
Intrinsic value: Matt. 10:31; 12:12
Maintenance needed: Jude 21
Driving carefully and defensively: Rom. 12:17,18
Restoration needed and promised: Psalm 23:3; 51:12; Eph. 4:23, 24
Trade-in time is coming: 2 Cor. 5:1-3
Complete overhaul guaranteed: Psalm 34:6; 145:14; 34:10b
Decision for entire overhaul: Rom. 12:1
G.M. keeps His word: 1 Thess. 5:24
Thankfulness for blessings: 1 Thess. 5:18
****

Saturday, September 27, 2014

GOTHIC ARCHIE AND HIS FRIENDS


Gothic Archie invited his new friend Tim Brel to go to church with him. Tim responded eagerly, “Sure! Thanks! 'I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.' May I invite my friends too? Can we go right now?" 

Assuring Tim that his friends were welcome, Gothic Archie added, "But we have to wait for the appropriate time."

“When's that?"

"Eleven on Sunday morning, of course!" insisted Gothic Archie.

“Why only then? God’s Guidebook says we may come into the House of the Lord day and night to worship. King David wrote, 'Every day will I bless Thee.' He ought to know. He wrote most of The Hymnbook section of The Guidebook. He said, 'I will bless the Lord at all times.' But okay, no sweat. We'll come Sunday then."

The following Lord's Day Tim Brel went to Gothic Archie's home to wait while Archie attired himself in a gray suit, white shirt, conservative tie, and spit-shined black shoes. Giving Tim a disapproving once-over, Archie sniffed, "Are you going to God's House looking like that?"

"My Levis are clean, and my tee-shirt doesn't have ring around the collar," Tim defended. Gothic Archie tried to overlook what he considered Tim's totally unsuitable clothes because, after all, Tim was his new friend.

As they approached the church, Tim Brel did a double take at the lofty steeple and magnificent stained glass windows. "Well, okay, I suppose we can worship in that building as well as anywhere else. But it's only a church after God's people get inside."

"Who says so?" challenged Gothic Archie, astonished at such a disrespectful appraisal of the historic stone edifice that was First Church on Maple Avenue.

"The Apostle Paul did. He wrote to remind us that the Holy Spirit lives in us now and we are God's temples. And Jesus declared that where two or three of us get together in His name, He's there. He said that the place of worship isn't important, that God is looking for true worshipers to worship Him in spirit and in truth. That can be anywhere and anytime, can't it?"

Archie arched his eyebrows. "You sure have some unorthodox ideas, but I can't fault your sources.” 

Archie's leather shoes squeaked up the broad stone steps leading into the church. By contrast, Tim's Nike Air Zoom Pegasus running shoes with the psychedelic yellow shoe strings padded quietly along like Indian moccasins. They entered the plush-carpeted vestibule. Archie was about to point out the polished solid oak pews with padded seats and the majestic organ when Tim shouted joyfully, "Glory to God! Hallelujah!"

Archie nudged him in the ribs. "Shh! Don't embarrass me! We should be quiet in the House of the Lord."

"Quote your source," challenged Tim.

"'Be still and know that I am God' and 'My soul waits in silence for God only,'" recited Archie, pleased to have the precise Scriptures on the tip of his tongue.

"Well, I think that's supposed to be our soul's posture before Almighty God. He's totally awesome. It doesn't necessarily mean our way of worship. But I won't argue." Tim Brel stood silently, meditating on God's majesty, trying not to offend Gothic Archie with his own liberty. He lifted his hands spontaneously to the Lord in praise.

Another elbow jab. "What are you doing? It's not our custom to stand around in church with our hands in the air. You look like someone just poked a gun in your ribs! We're supposed to sit down like everyone else. There's my friend, Paddy Pew, the one in the pin-stripped suit and a carnation in his lapel. He'll usher us to our seats and give us a printed program so we'll know the order of the service."

"Archie, I respect the way you want to worship, but The Guidebook gives us lots of different ways to express our worship to Almighty God."

"Like what?" Archie looked bewildered.

"Jesus said, 'When you stand praying...' and then there's bowing down, lifting our eyes and hands unto the Lord, kneeling, and clapping and joyfully shouting. Jesus even fell on His face in the garden to pray like they did in those days, even in public worship. I can't think of any verses about sitting.... Christians used to stand all during worship in the early centuries. And in the Scripture it is written that people danced before the Lord too...."

"Oh! You wouldn't dare!" Archie turned pale. "You would scandalize our parishioners!"

"Don't worry, friend. 'So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another,'" he quoted from The Guidebook to reassure him. 

Archie looked relieved to see his Maple Avenue First Church friends coming in. "There are the Organ sisters Harriet Hammond and Cathy Drel. Sometimes Gloriah Steinway joins them for choir numbers," said Archie proudly.

"Some of my friends are arriving too. There are the Cymbal twins, Loud and Resounding, and Terry Trumpet and Harold Horn! Tammie Bourine is here with Danny Drum. I was sure they would show up!" exclaimed Tim waving a greeting.

"There's my friend Heidi Harper," said Archie pointing to three young people just arriving. "She's with her boyfriend Larry Lyre. He's an outstanding musician but people keep urging him to change his name because he's really very honest.”

"Look who's with them—it's Guido Guitar. Is he your friend? What a surprise! He's my friend, too" exclaimed Tim.

"I've never met your kind of friends before," Archie shifted uncomfortably. "I had no idea they even came to worship."
"King David welcomed them and they've been members of God's family ever since," maintained Tim.

It was time to sing. Tim joined in with gusto. He clapped his hands in rhythm to praise Almighty God. Archie hunched lower behind a lady with a wide-brimmed hat. He flushed with embarrassment at what he considered Tim's ostentatious behavior. Finally he could stand it no longer. "Tim, you and your friends really seem to lack proper demeanor for worship. You don't even bow your head and close your eyes when you pray. Brother, you just..." Archie's tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth on the word brother.

He cut his intended criticism mid-sentence when he caught sight of Tim's eyes brimming with genuine tears of adoration for God. Tim was truly worshiping the Lord, notwithstanding his boisterous demonstrations. Tim was indeed his brother in the Lord!

Tim met Archie's gaze. He recognized in Archie's eyes unfeigned love for the Lord and sincere worship in spite of what he considered Archie's stuffy, pompous manner and unbending formality. "My brother!" he whispered. "Let's pray together...." 

Differences melted as each recognized the image of Jesus in the other. Gothic Archie closed his eyes and bowed his head. Tim Brel, standing, eyes turned upward and wide open but overflowing with tears of joy, lifted his hands in worship.

Together they prayed: "OUR Father, who art in Heaven, holy be Thy name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven..."
****

From THE RESOURCE BOOK
Verses for worship relevant to the story above)

Ps. 22:1; Rom. 14:5; Ps. 145:2; 34:1; 1 Cor. 6:19; Matt. 18:20; John 4:21-24; Heb. 10:24, 25; Ps. 29:9; 145:7; 100; 47:1, 6, 7; 62:1,5; 28:2; 143:6; 141:2; 1 Tim. 2:8; Ps.144:9; 33:2,3; 98:5,6; 47:5;
Matt. 26:39; Mark 11:25; Ps. 92:3; 95:1,2,6;
 Eph. 3:14; Rom. 14:11;Ps. 149:3; 150; 33:3; 149:1;
 Rom.14:16,19; Matt. 6:9,10.

Friday, September 26, 2014

THE TREASURE ITSELF


Rumors had been circulating around Kiln Kingdom for several weeks. Master Potter was soon to come and pick out one of His finished vessels for an especially honored purpose. It was whispered that The Treasure Itself would be put into one of them!

Heated discussion and speculation ensued among the vessels as to the nature of The Treasure Itself. Would it be gold nuggets? Fine wine? Precious jewels?

Pot Shelf in Finishing Hall was bustling with activity. Vessels had been stored there awaiting job allocation. Each vessel was busy polishing itself to a mirror shine and buffing its colors to brilliance.

Tall Jardinière drew himself up to his exalted utmost and looked down on the rest of the vessels from the highest shelf. "None of you stand a chance to be chosen. Everyone looks up to me. My stature alone would enhance The Treasure Itself—whatever it is."

Michelle Milkglass rocked back and forth on her shelf for attention. "I'm more suitable. You can't see through me like you can through Carl Clearglass. One glance at him and you can tell whether he's full or empty. I keep people guessing."

Aggressive Crystal Cutglass, who loved to nudge her sharp points against her neighbors just to hear and admire her melodious "ping" on contact, put in with "I'm far out of everyone's class. Just think of all the skilled craftsmanship that went into my appearance. Besides, it’s who you know that counts. I'm related to the Park Avenue debutante, Sylvia Stemware. Surely I'm more worthy to be selected than all the rest of you.”

“You talk about class,” sniffed Victoria Vaase, “the charm of my oriental carvings and delicate colors make me the most esteemed container for The Treasure Itself. My ancestry will stand me in good stead. The famous Cathay Cloisonné was my maternal grandmother, and her line goes back to the emperors of China.”

"None of you has a handle like me," bragged Peter Pitcher. “And I have such a beautiful full lip. I'm sure to be picked."

Styro Foamcup shuffled back into a corner not wanting to be noticed in such elegant company. His comment was hardly audible. "I know I'm just a nobody. I'm even disposable and wouldn't be worthy to carry The Treasure Itself.”

Precise Measuringcup standing next to him shrugged his shoulders. "People always think I'm comparing them with myself, so they shy away from me."

Marvin Mug tried to hide self-consciously at the farthest end of the shelf, believing himself too common to hold anything so special.

Pop Bottle, one of the oldsters, who insisted on wearing his baseball cap all the time, was preoccupied with polishing his trademark." Actually, I'm already full of ‘The Real Thing’ so I'm not even interested."

Cracked Pot and Leaky Coffeecup both declined to engage in the vanity discussion and declared self-consciously, "Obviously we aren't in the running. We couldn't even hold The Treasure Itself very long if we were chosen. Why did Master Potter make us less than perfect?” There was a hint of grumble in their mumbles.

Genuine Antique, also known as Aunt Gennie, kept aloof from the rest of the vessels on her exclusive shelf. She regarded herself too valuable to get near the others lest she be nicked or scratched. "Just wait and see," she murmured to anyone within earshot. "I'll be chosen for my seniority."

Everyday Earthenvessel looked thoughtfully from one to the other of the contestants in the ego disputation. What was the point of joining such an argument? He had nothing special to brag about. He was perfectly common, ordinary, indistinguishable, and plain. Dozens of his kind of vessels stocked The Shop. Master Potter would have no reason to give him a second glance.

The argument came to a sudden halt at the sound of a key being turned in the lock. The door swung open and a blaze of Light nearly blinded the vessels. The vessels had not realized how dark it was in The Shop until the door opened. A figure was barely visible in the Glorious Diffusion of Light. But everyone knew that it was Master Potter, whom none had ever seen distinctly, but whose hand had fashioned them all. 

Although they couldn't see His eyes, they knew He was scanning the shelf to observe and inspect them. Master Potter stood silently for what seemed to every vessel to be a very long time.

The suspense was unbearable. Had He heard their pompous boasting? Under His gaze, the vessels stood embarrassed and silent on the shelves, no longer daring to commend themselves or crow about their distinctive properties. They felt somehow leveled to a common denominator: things created, standing before their Creator. None dared either complain about his own nothingness or flaunt his supposed somethingness. He had made them all as He saw fit and each was suitable for his or her unique place and purpose in His Kingdom.

As the blaze of Light receded somewhat, they could see that Master Potter held in His hand a rugged, wooden bucket filled with Something. Instinctively they knew that, whatever it was, this was The Treasure Itself! They had supposed that It would be carried in some splendid expensive container. As a matter of fact, the wood from which the bucket was fashioned seemed to be from a stable for housing animals, roughly hewn.

Master Potter spoke, His voice low but strong, gentle yet commanding. "All of you are my precious handiwork, whether vessels unto honor or dishonor. My House is large and various vessels are needed. I create vessels to receive and then to give forth to others. I never make vessels only to be on display as ornaments.
“There is only one qualification for receiving The Treasure Itself." 

He paused, as all the vessels held their breath and listened intently. "To be useful to Me and prepared for every good work, and to receive The Treasure Itself, you must be a clean vessel." 

Hearing that, each of the vessels from Gary Goldgoblet, the most valuable, to the cheapest, Styro Foamcup, felt utterly begrimed. All now believed themselves to be completely unworthy to receive The Treasure Itself and were ashamed of their bravado and presumption.

Not wishing to leave them in the morass of their hopelessness, Master Potter continued, "None of you is unsoiled, no, not one. Nor can you cleanse yourselves. So I have provided for your cleansing. The One Called Alongside To Help is here with Me to cleanse the vessel chosen to receive The Treasure Itself."

The vessels all jiggled and quivered with expectancy now, waiting for the grand announcement of the one chosen. His declaration was clear and simple. "You are all chosen. Each of you will receive IT! And the greatest among you will be the one who serves others." Stunned silence gave way to joyful jingling, tingling excitement at the startling news.

"The Treasure Itself is The Water of Life. I will give it first to Everyday Earthenvessel as a symbol that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of Me and not from you." A gasp followed His announcement. All eyes turned toward lowly, humble, Earthenvessel.

"After Everyday Earthenvessel receives, he shall immediately share The Treasure Itself with Peter Pitcher, who will share it with Crystal Cutglass, who will share it with Michelle Milkglass, who will pass it to Precise Measuringcup, on and on until all of you on every shelf in every room of every house in Kiln Kingdom shall be full to overflowing with The Treasure Itself."

"But won't The Treasure Itself run out before we have all received? If we share with the others, we won't have anything left for ourselves!" blurted out Victoria Vaase.

"The Treasure Itself, The Living Water that I give you, shall never run out. It shall become in each of you a well of water springing up. The more you overflow to other vessels, the fuller you will become. By sharing, you lose nothing—you continue in your own fullness," Master Potter explained.

"It's a miracle!" gasped Pop Bottle.

Master Potter turned toward him. "Of course it is." Then, looking squarely at Pop, he cautioned, "Be sure you first empty yourself of what you mistakenly thought was ‘the real thing’ before you receive The Living Water."

Then, addressing Cracked Pot and Leaky Coffeecup, "Hurry and share your Water so that none be lost. And in receiving and sharing, you yourselves will be sealed and healed and made whole." 

As Master Potter concluded, He began generously to pour The Treasure Itself, The Living Water, into Earthenvessel from the humble but holy wooden bucket. Everyday Earthenvessel had to bow to pour it into Peter Pitcher, who bowed to let it overflow to Crystal Cutglass, on and on into the other vessels who pressed around eagerly, inviting "Fill me, fill me that I may overflow!"

And so it was that Kiln Kingdom received The Treasure Itself and supplied all the vessels, great and small, costly and common, those newly made, and those that were in storage for some time, with The Living Water forevermore.
****
From THE RESOURCE BOOK

1 Cor. 1:27-29; 2 Cor. 4:7; John 4:10,14; 
Rom. 12:3-8; Matt. 20:20-28

Thursday, September 25, 2014

IN EXPLANATION OF MY FABLES

This is to let you know what I'm up to in writing these fiction mini-fables.

Working title:
GOTHIC ARCHIE and OTHER IMAGINEERINGS:
Fables of God's Kingdom for Grown-ups
by Leona Choy

INTRODUCTION

I am primarily known as a non-fiction writer. But this modest volume is obviously fiction! I had a delightful time trying my wings imagining and writing these mini-stories for a change. I hope my readers will not only be entertained but find some meaningful take-away value.

These selections may at first seem slanted toward juvenile readers, since I have presented them in a fairy tale or fantasy format. They are, in fact, adult-oriented because of their symbolic and allegorical content.

I have written these sketches to communicate biblical truth both for enjoyment and spiritual relevance. I have taken my own path to creatively express such truth and principles through humor and hyperbole and at times by interweaving my contemporary poetry within the narrative. These selections are what I choose to call “imagineerings” (my own word) developed from the following writing devices: parable, allegory, fable, metaphor, simile, analogy, and dialogue.

I have quite freely employed personification, a poetic device which attributes human characteristics, emotions, or speech to inanimate objects, animals, or ideas. Personification is an enchanting podium where ideas or emotions speak for themselves. I focus a spotlight on simple ideas and amplify them with fantasy to unlock the doors of the reader's imagination. In so doing I use poetic, artistic, or dramatic license.

I have tried to present these life-contemplations in subtle ways without moralizing. I respect the intelligence and imagination of the reader to draw his own moral conclusions or applications. These pieces are not necessarily autobiographical, although some do reflect my personal responses to life and my relationship with God. Others echo the experiences and thoughts of humankind in general.

Each of these vignettes may stand alone, but overall they have something in common: a Christian worldview. When I “speak for God” in the dialogues, it is not in any prophetic or inspired sense. I support or source my ideation with relevant biblical references either quoted in full or only cited. I call those supporting pillars at the conclusion of each story, “From The Resource Book,” which is obviously the Christian Scriptures. 

I welcome the reader to enjoy these unconventional original "imagineerings" with me!

THE PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED PRINCESS


"Pearls, unlike other jewels, are drawn from the animate creation. They are produced by life—a life which has reacted to and overcome the working of death. When the oyster is wounded, it secretly, in the depths, produces its pearl.
"It was through the wounding of Jesus for our transgressions that His life was released to us, a part of His Body. By a divine miracle 'a glorious church' was thereby brought into being, bearing throughout, in faultless integrity, the moral character of Christ. And Matthew 13 suggests to us how infinitely precious to the Father is that most goodly pearl..."         Watchman Nee

Oceana Oyster was young and somewhat frivolous. She loved to frolic about, flapping her bivalve in rhythm with the swaying emerald seaweed. Rocky Shoal was as far as Mother-of-Pearl allowed her to float. Sandbank was positively out-of-bounds.

"It's a dangerous place," warned Mother-of-Pearl. "Ollie Octopus always hangs around there. The sand gets all stirred up when he twirls his tentacles. Sand isn't good for Our Family, you know."

Oceana paid little attention. She had heard that caution a thousand times ever since she was in Oyster Bed nursery. She didn't have the slightest idea why flying sand was bad for The Family—and she never thought to ask.

"You must settle down soon and 'get attached,'" advised Mother-of-Pearl. "That will keep you safe."

Oceana plugged her bivalves so she wouldn't hear that horrid suggestion. Becoming attached would limit her adolescent freedom. So, ignoring the warning, she recklessly floated off limits as usual one morning. Sure enough, Ollie and his cousin Ornery Octopus were chasing each other through the seaweed. What fun! I don't see what harm to play with them for awhile, thought Oceana.

She fearlessly propelled herself toward Sandbank. "Ouch! Something has filtered into my shell—it's scratchy! I can't get it out!" whined Oceana.

She bobbed this way and that, even turning a few somersaults. But she could not dislodge the pesky grain of sand. Mother-of-Pearl would surely scold her for going to Sandbank. Disheartened and dreading the consequences of her disobedience, Oceana drifted slowly back to Oyster Bed where she lived with the rest of Mollusk Family.

She headed straight for her secret hiding place beneath Rock Corner and sank as far as she could out of sight. Oceana peeked out and saw the rest of The Family gathering to share the events of the day. She hoped no one would notice her until she got rid of that foreign object. How aggravating it was! Over and over she rotated her soft body against the irritating substance, but she could not detach it.

Nothing ever escaped Mother-of-Pearl's keen eyes. She spotted her young oyster child secluded in the shadows. "What's the matter, Oceana? Come join the rest of The Family."

Reluctantly, Oceana obeyed. Nothing could remain a secret in Oyster Bed for very long, so she confessed to Mother-of-Pearl what happened. Her parent held her tenderly close and rocked her thoughtfully in the gentle currents of sheltered Oyster Bed. Then she decided. "We must call a Family Council for advice."

Being a junior oyster, Oceana was obliged to listen to the instruction of her elders. They were usually right and things turned out well from their counsel. But at this particular Family Council everyone expressed a different opinion. They asked Oceana to float to the center of the circle. Her pale complexion turned pink with embarrassment as she felt everyone's eyes upon her.

Aunt Molly Mollusk recommended, "Pretend it isn't there. It will go away. That's what I always do about things I don't like."

Cousin Marvin Mussel, the pushy relative who was always flexing his bulging bivalves, boomed rudely, "Keep your shell shut, youngster. Don't complain. After all, it isn't an ocean-shaking problem. We have enough to worry about with aliens invading our territory. Those humans are body-snatching us and depleting our Oyster Family."

"Just keep working on it no matter how long it takes," offered Charlie Clam. "Sooner or later you'll get it out. Be patient. By all means you must get rid of it."

Mellifluous Mellita Sand Dollar was not part of the Mollusk Family but she overheard the discussion when she happened to propel by and wanted to put in her two cents worth. "It's an environmental issue. Oyster Bed is too near that depreciating Sandbank community. You should all relocate to a higher class neighborhood like we sea urchins did. We now have a fashionable piece of real estate at Ocean Bottom."

Steven Starfish was not a relative either but was presently dating Mellita Sand Dollar. Some whispered that he had stars in his eyes with the intention of becoming attached and acquiring her family inheritance. Steven asserted, "You are a victim—you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time." He could not talk without gesturing and looked very authoritative as he radiated his five arms from his central disk. "Ollie Octopus is the one who is guilty. I'm sure that Attorney Allen Alligator would be glad to represent you. You should sue Ollie in Coral Court along with his cousin Ornery, the accomplice. If you win the case you'll strike it rich. Then it won't matter how uncomfortable you are."

Arriving late as usual, Sophie Scallop clapped her fluted shell valve together rapidly to gain everyone's attention. She was the much respected matriarch of The Family and the keeper of the Oceanic Archives. Her radial ribs and wavy outer edges made her look much younger than her years. Surely she would have some good advice from her long experience.

"First of all, we shouldn't allow non-Family opinions from those two intruders," she swayed toward Mellita and Steven. "They are only echinoderms. This concern is exclusively for Ostreidae Family." Sophie enjoyed flaunting her extensive vocabulary. Rumor had it that she was seen hanging around with a professor from The School of Fish off Coral Reef.

"Personally, I think it's heredity. The records show that Oceana's great, great grandmother, Odessa Oyster, encountered a similar problem. No one knows exactly what caused it, but she failed on three attempts to get rid of some kind of object in her shell. Even the famous surgeon, Dr. Sylvester Swordfish, operated on her unsuccessfully. They say she finally stopped trying to get rid of it. She accepted her plight and covered the object with her teardrops, making herself as comfortable as possible under the circumstances."

The Mollusk Family members were spellbound. You could have heard a fishhook drop. Sophie Scallop continued, "The senior oysters at Coral Reef who remember Odessa say that she was never heard to complain. Gradually the inner rough place became smooth. She not only learned to live with her handicap, but she became one of the happiest and most respected oysters in the Colony."

"But that's not all!" Sophie paused for effect, savoring the attention of her audience like an actress in the spotlight. "Odessa was attached by then and living at Cleftin Rock with her own family. They say she always kept her shell closed in the daytime, but when the moon came out at night, so the story goes, she would open...her...shell...and...."

The Family seemed frozen with suspense. "...and then, some say, they saw a beautiful iridescent, lustrous Treasure in her shell! It was dazzling white with a bluish tinge—like a dewdrop in the moonlight! And no one knew where it came from! They called her Princess Odessa ever after." 

Sophie finished with a clap of her shell valve for effect. Or maybe she was just out of breath.

"Oh...ah...oo...." all the Mollusks exclaimed, awed by Sophie's account. They had never heard such a spectacular tale about one of their Family ancestors.

Oceana Oyster was enchanted with the legend. She swayed gently in the currents of Oyster Bed thinking deep and serious thoughts far beyond her age. How thrilling and wonderful to be descended from a real princess! But distress from the irritating grain of sand in her shell constantly intruded upon her musings.

Would it be possible, she pondered, could she do the same as her royal great, great grandmother? Could she cover the foreign object with her teardrops? And would she, too, become a happy oyster no matter how uncomfortable she might feel? Her bivalve shell quivered in anticipation.

Oceana floated off to her secluded, secret place under Rock Corner. The rest of The Family were still chattering excitedly about Princess Odessa and seemed to have forgotten all about her.
Her teardrops began to fall on the grain of sand in her shell. But they were tears of joy and anticipation more than sadness or frustration. Yes, she decided, young as she was, she would accept the problem that life had brought her even if it was her fault. She would follow the example of her noble ancestor.

Sure enough, day by day as the rough place was bathed both with her teardrops and her smiles, it became smoother and less painful.
Now they tell another story at Coral Reef: A happy oyster maiden was given a new name after The Ostreidae Family made an amazing discovery. A dazzling Special Treasure had appeared in her shell, too!

And ever afterward they addressed Oceana Oyster respectfully by the royal title of Princess Pearl!
****

PEARL OF GREAT PRICE

PEARL:
issue of animate creation
produced by life in conflict with
an adversity
secretly
silently
tearfully
submissively
yet triumphantly
wrought in darkness
manifesting victory
overcoming the consequence
of a wound and
producing a gem of value
to man.

REDEMPTION:
issue of supernatural creation
PEARL of greatest price
no greater sacrifice
than the Very Christ
in sinless integrity
wounded for me
suffering humility
embracing humanity
crucified in agony
risen in glory
reigning eternally
banishing darkness
overcoming the dominion
of death
producing a glorious Church:
the PEARL of utmost delight
to the Bridegroom!
*****

From THE RESOURCE BOOK

2 Cor. 12:7-10 NASB
"And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me—
to keep me from exalting myself!
Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Isaiah 40:4b,5 Modern Language Bible
"...and all rough places made smooth...then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

(From Leona's forthcoming fiction/fantasy book 
GOTHIC ARCHIE AND OTHER IMAGINEERINGS)