I do believe in "The Golden Rule" from the "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 7:12 and to that end I always wanted to be able to read some key chapters of the book before I bought it. I have to many books taking up space that I bought and then I did not connect with it.
Justin James Franklin was now in his early eighties and was very conscious of the fact that he would likely not have many days like this again. He was holding the hand of his beautiful, six-year-old great-grand-daughter, walking in the sunshine of a lovely spring day in Pittsburgh. Sasha spoke continuously during every step of their walk, from the train station to their ultimate destination at The Grand Market.
This date between Sasha and Pop Pop was something that he had done with each of his children, and each of their children, and now his grandchildren’s children. The math of his age, and the age of his grandchildren, meant that this would likely be the last such date.
Sasha had driven her parents crazy from the previous evening to the early morning. She heard of the extraordinary adventure from her mom and some of her cousins, and she had the feeling in her heart that she was going to go to the ball like Cinderella. Pop Pop promised that he would drive them in his 1957 Cadillac Deville. It was only for very special family occasions that Pop Pop brought his prized possession out, such as weddings, important anniversaries, and graduations. Pop Pop also declared that if his Pirates won the World Series again that he would lead their parade with the car he named Liberty.
Sasha was to bed late organizing, and re-organizing her outfit for her big day with Pop Pop. She agonized over the hat, bow, and tights that she would wear with the pretty dress that Sasha and her mom had picked out the week before.
Sasha was then up early like it was Christmas morning as she rushed into her parent’s bedroom before it was 5:30 am. Her dad dutifully made a special breakfast while the ladies began the preparations for the day with a shower and a new hairstyle featuring the use of a straightening iron and curling iron. After breakfast, Sasha dressed and then engaged in an argument with her mother, insisting that she needed makeup for such a special day. After twenty minutes of intense conversation, they agreed that such a young and beautiful lady would only benefit from the slightest amount of gloss for her lips and a bit of blush for her cheeks. With that completed, Sasha insisted that they all sit on their porch and wait for her grandfather to arrive.
JJ lived only two blocks away, and they could have walked there in less than three minutes, but they all loved seeing the Caddy drive up to the house. As was now customary, he paid a local professional detailer to do what he would have previously done himself to get the car ready for the day. The “kid”, as Pop Pop referred to him, a forty-eight-year-old man, handed JJ the keys and stood back to enjoy what he knew would probably be the last of their inspection. Miguel Salas was well respected for his attention to detail but, he purposely allowed three fingerprints on the chrome of the Caddy so Mr. Franklin could find them and wipe them clean.
“Oh, Miguel! How could you miss this one right here on the back of the mirror?” JJ implored. “Men your age start to need glasses,” he said as Jamie smiled and offered his more sincere apology watching JJ wipe the fingerprint clean. JJ continued down the driver’s side of the car and around the back, bending as low as he could to do his inspection. “Ah! I found another one Mr. Salas. Sometimes you have to not be standing up to be able to see some of these spots. Sometimes you tall guys miss spots like this!” Miguel smiled again. Being five-foot-nine-inches tall, he was rarely accused of being tall. He had left the third smudge on the rear passenger-side door handle, and JJ quickly found that one and wiped it clean. Jamie knew the joy that JJ had in being involved in preparing the car he loved for these events.
With the final inspection finally done and the payment made, both men hugged each other as they tried to suppress tears, knowing in their hearts this would be the last transaction. As Miguel drove away, JJ stood back and looked at Liberty as he allowed over forty years of memories to come back. So many hours he and his wife had shared restoring the car, cleaning it, driving around the country in it to shows and events, and always using it to glorify God. They had never had much, but the inheritance from a favorite uncle had been a blessing and touchstone for a beautiful marriage.
JJ got in Liberty and turned left instead of right so he could go around two extra blocks before he got to his daughter’s house to pick up Sasha. Sasha and her parents could hear Liberty from two blocks away and stood so they could see Pop Pop come around the corner to their street. With phones out, picture after picture were taken of Liberty and her grandfather’s smiles flashing in the sunlight.
Sasha began to run to meet her grandfather in front of the house where he parked, but her mother held her by her arm. “A princess should be dignified and wait,” her mom instructed her as she had remembered her mom instructing her a couple of decades earlier.
JJ walked up the driveway in his best suit, and then bowed and held out his hand to receive his great granddaughter’s hand. “May I have the pleasure to escort my princess on her special day of adventure?”
“Why yes King Pop Pop!” Sasha said as she quickly let go of the formality of receiving his hand and hugged him. The family gathered around the car to take pictures for the special day, and then Sasha and her mother made their place to the back seat while JJ got in the driver’s seat and her dad in the passenger seat. JJ had never trusted his kids or their kids to drive Liberty, but he now trusted Sasha’s dad Mark to drive it back more than he trusted society not to damage it or steal it at the station.
After saying goodbye and watching Liberty drive away, covered in JJ’s prayers, the two went into the train station to get an ice cream treat, a mountain of dress-protecting napkins, and their tickets. As the commuter train gently rocked its way towards the center of the city, JJ told Sasha stories of the neighborhoods and old mills they passed. Stories from when he was a younger man and adventures and mischief that he had done with friends now long gone. JJ always liked to play a game of guessing what people on the train or out the window were on their way to do. Were they important business people? Inventor? Doctor? Spy? War hero? Writer? He had always been blessed with a child-like imagination, and the interaction of his imagination with that of a child of six always resulted in intrigue and laughter.
From the train station downtown, JJ would walk his companion to a sophisticated, historic, upscale dining establishment called Josef’s. His young companions in the 1960s and 1970s were treated to a restaurant that was in the midst of its glory days. To his six-year-old companion, it was still grand, but JJ, the owner, and his staff that had stayed with him for the decades could all see that it too was nearing the end of its life with grace.
The wait staff played their roles very well using excessively exaggerated formality and attention to Sasha’s every need. JJ always made it a point to order a more sophisticated dish for his guest, hoping that they would use the pressure of the surroundings and the wait-staff to try something other than chicken strips and something to put catsup on. As the meal was being served at the table, JJ asked Sasha to say grace. They held hands, and Sasha began, “Thank you, our Father for this wonder food and my nice date with Pop Pop. Please bless Mr. Josef’s restaurant, and please bless Mr. Williamson for serving us and let us be together in Heaven with him and his family. In Jesus name, amen.”
Their server Mr. Williamson, bowed to Sasha and said with a glisten in his eye, and a catch in his soft voice said, “Thank you, Miss Sasha, for including me in your prayer. God answered your prayer with your prayer. I feel very blessed.”
After a lovely lunch and even better dessert, JJ started out of the restaurant holding Sasha’s hand and soaking in the admiring glances of the many grandparents in the restaurant. It was only two blocks to the Grand Market building that was the purpose of his date.
As they walked in the large entrance into the market, they both spontaneously smiled at the sights, and sounds, and smells of the market. JJ lead them purposefully to near the center of the large stone hall. The building was of a grand dimension. It was a massive, circular edifice that, for a century, provided the opportunity to buy and sell surround by a sense of grandeur. Around the perimeter were arches that contained stalls. On top of those stalls was another level of stalls connected by a flight of granite stairs. On top of them, yet another level of stately commerce.
When they were in the center of the hall’s first level, JJ directed Sasha’s eyes down to the tiles on the floor. “What do you think of these tiles, Sasha?” JJ asked. He watched as her eyebrows furled into a frown of disappointment. “Oh, Pop Pop!” she exclaimed. “Why do they have such ugly, mismatched tiles in such a pretty place?”
“Do you think they are ugly, my beautiful girl? Do you think that the creator of the Grand Market made a terrible mistake as we stand here and look at these tiles?” Sasha looked sternly at her great grampa. “Oh Pop Pop, do you think that these tiles look good?” JJ rubbed his hand on his chin as if to reconsider his error of judgment. “Well, my beloved child, it does seem that you may be correct. Let’s walk away from these ugly, mismatched tiles and maybe find some treasures to bring home with us.” With that, they moved to the stalls at the edge of the hall with their thousands of trinkets, foods and clothing items.
JJ had a specific path he took with each child to have them consider all of the beautiful items and interesting people that were there. It truly was a spectacle that was Disneyesque for the eyes and mind of a young child. JJ directed Sasha to the first flight of stairs, and with some difficulty, he made his way up the stairs. It confirmed for him that this would be his last time to visit this extraordinary destination.
He directed Sasha’s attention to the details of the outer wall as they walked up. Many wonders filled the stalls on the second level, and they enjoyed snow cones before heading up the last set of stairs to the third level. Sasha was a little hesitant of the height, so she stayed to the outside and averted her glance to the outer wall.
At last, they reached the third level and greeted a couple of the vendors. It was now about 30 minutes to closing time. Some vendors were packing up and willing to offer some of their wares as gifts to a pretty young girl. JJ looked down at Sasha. He could tell that she had about used up all of the energy that her young body had for one day of adventure. “Can Pop Pop pick you up and show you those ugly, mismatched tiles that we were standing on?” She put her hands out in the universal “uppy” gesture, and God blessed him with the grace to easily pick her up in his arms as he whispered a thank you to his Maker.
At the edge of the rail overlooking the center of the hall from the third level, JJ watched her face as her eyes took in the beauty of the Grand Market main level. Each of the ugly, mismatched tiles from 45 feet up took its proper position of size, color, and texture to serve as a pixel in an awe-inspiring scene of God’s beauty. The scene of an orange and gold sunset, and glistening falling over rocky hills wrapped in the hues and colors of autumn that the artist had called “His Glory.” The sunlight streaming into the hall seemed to come from the tiles themselves instead of the other way around. Sasha mouthed a “Wow!” in quiet reverence.
“Do you see the tiles that we were standing on in the center there, my love?”
“Yes Pop Pop.”
“Do you still think that the creator of the hall was able to make even ugly, mismatched tiles work together for something truly beautiful?
“Yes, Pop Pop,” she repeated in a whisper.
“My beautiful, little Sasha. We did this today so that you remember one thing that your old, silly Pop Pop wants you to know and understand long after I am with Jesus. Even when you feel like you are stuck on an ugly, mismatched patch of tiles in your life, your Creator is going to use those ugly, mismatched tiles as part of a beautiful picture. Just trust that sometimes the perspective, from on high, in eternity, is what is needed for true glory to shine through.”
With that, she laid her little head down on his shoulder and squeezed her arms around his neck. The last rays of sunlight glistened on the happy tears of an old man and a beautiful, and wiser, young girl.
Bob Jensen had decided to follow the example of Jesus and to go into the hills by himself to pray. He could feel the heaviness of depression coming on him in the past few weeks. Myriam had physically healed from the attack, but everyone in the family still suffered from emotional and spiritual gashes that were open and unhealed. Working through the stages of grief Bob could now feel himself walking into anger.
Bob climbed himself to a ridge on the Dominican side of the island that looked over into Haiti. He sat and looked out over the two countries that God had put on his heart as a young man. He truly loved the people of this island with an irrational love. Bob Jensen had the organizational skills, leadership skills, and ability to speak that would have given him the ability to make mid-six-figure salaries in almost any large corporation in America. He had “it.”
Now here he was laying on a rock, overlooking two of the poorest countries in all of the Earth. His family was living in near subsistence poverty, his wife recovering from the trauma of a severe assault and rape, his children still operating in a post-traumatic stress condition, and he was personally feeling like a failure as the provider and protector of his family.
For some reason, his mind was being pulled to guys that had attended the University of Illinois with him. He received the newsletters and saw the progress that the guys that were in his dormitory had made in their careers. Robert Scott was now the CEO of a large manufacturing company in Central Illinois. “Can you imagine that mope running a large company?” Bob thought. Bob had spent many an evening helping Robert study and understand his finance and stats classes. That guy has three homes, a multi-million dollar compensation package, and has not invested a dime or an hour serving his Creator! His first, second, and third wives live in security and prosperity, while his wife wakes up sobbing in the middle of the night!
Bob’s rage began to build, and his ability to pray diminished. He wasn’t praying to his Father on this ridge, he was shaking his fist at him. I gave up this, and I did that, and I endured this other thing, and You bless all of these people who would spit on Your Bible before they would consider opening it. “I want to know when I am going to begin to reap wheat instead of all of these tares that keep coming up!” he yelled out loud, and he could hear those words of anger ring among the rocks on that ridge.
Just as the ugliness of his own words began to echo back to him, he could hear the words of his Heavenly Father rise up in his spirit. “None of this is about you or for you! I had my son’s skin peeled from his body in a scourging. I had him walk with blood spilling from all areas of His body through a city of jeering mobs. My son was raised, naked, up on a cross, with nails piercing His wrists and feet. They stabbed Him in His side so that you will have an eternity of joy that you cannot come close to imagining. Eternal and infinite joy! If I asked you to endure torture for one hundred years, would it be an unfair exchange for an eternity with me, with eternal and infinite joy? Do you really believe that your suffering is greater than my love? This is not about you!
My love for you is infinite. Robert Scott is who your eyes and mind are on? I love you and trust you like I did Peter, Paul, Thomas, John, and millions of others since the world began. I have trusted that you could bear burdens that few others could. Was I wrong?
In these hardships I called you to walk through, I have put many more people around you to be ministered to by the grace you walk through these difficulties with. Some people you see and talk to, but many others you weren’t even aware of, or they heard about you from others who were with you.
It is not about you, My son. It is about the thousands of people who are weak and lost that I will put around you. Know always that your wounds are like those of Jesus, and Peter and Paul and David and Moses. You will experience pain and suffer in space and time, but it’s so infinitesimally short compared to an eternity with Me for you and the others that you help save, that you should laugh out loud at yourself right now.”
With those words, Bob did laugh out loud at how silly and childish he was behaving. With the pressures of circumstances released from his body and his eyes fully on his God and his savior, he was able to pray with a freedom that felt like a spiritual Niagara Falls. With a smile on his lips and in a loud voice that reaffirmed him as it echoed back to him, he praised his Creator. He now begged to face difficulties in increased numbers and severity if it pleased his Father and won even one more soul to be with Him in eternity. Bob praised and thanked his Father for dealing with him sternly, and for opening his eyes again to the blessings and strength that he had been given. He continued to pray as he practically ran back to their little home and church while climbing down from the rocks and mountains.
He felt like a deer with sure-footedness as he ran. Bob could not wait to tell Myriam about what God had said to him. He couldn’t wait to be salt and light to the woman that he loved and that God had blessed him with to be his partner. He couldn’t wait to lift the spirits of his children and to shower them in the love and hope that he felt.
“Thank you, Dad, that it’s not about me!”
Jerry’s plane had been late arriving back into Midway airport because of the rain he was now driving through. Traffic was moving south on the interstate at a good speed. Jerry looked down briefly at his radio to change the station to Moody radio to catch the last fifteen minutes of Alistair Begg. The familiar Scottish brogue came through his speakers and he looked up again to the road.
Just as he did, the brake lights lit up on the car in front of his and it swerved hard to the right, leaving now a pair of oncoming headlights moving northbound in a southbound lane. With no time to react he yanked the steering wheel right and prayed, “Lord save them!” as the cars collided. The sounds of the air bag explosion, metal being deformed, glass breaking and rubber squealing filled his ears. He sensed his ankles being broken on impact and then, the car lurching and spinning to the right, then the hatch door on his console opening as his rib cage moved in that direction. The plastic cover caught under his arm and directly hit a rib, snapping it and driving it through his lung. The car then began to roll and he felt his body being broken and pierced. As the car continued to slide, his conscious thoughts were praise to his God, praying for the people in the other car, and a prayer of protection for Karon and his kids if he didn’t survive.
As the car came to rest, Jerry could feel the cold rain falling on him through the broken glass. His first thought was to find his phone and to call Karon but he quickly could see that the vehicle’s torn up interior would not enable him to do it quickly. He was conscious of the fact that time had indeed become precious.
He began to take an inventory of his injuries and he immediately knew that it was not good. He could feel a significant flow of blood from his thigh. He removed his tie using a good right hand and a badly broken left hand and did the best he could to create a tourniquet for his thigh injury. “Father I thank you that I may be with you and Jesus today but please, please father give me one more opportunity to tell someone about Jesus and Your love.” Peace covered Jerry’s broken body and he rested in the cold rain waiting for the one God was choosing for him to have a last conversation with.
Da-Xia Xhang was attending Buffalo University and working at a local hotel to help pay her way. She liked the job because she was able to do it robotically to allow her mind to focus on her studies, her family back in China or various social distractions here with her classmates.
Da-Xia was always amazed at the way different people left the room. Some made the room back up like it was never occupied, others had almost everything in the room strewn everywhere with all of the lights and TV on. It was fun to see the people as the left a room and to guess what the room would look like when she entered it.
She entered room 555 and she could feel a warmth as she entered. She believed that the aura of a person could linger in a room after they had left. She turned on the room’s light and she could see that on the desk was an opened Gideon Bible and a note pad.
As was her custom she made an immediate right turn to start in the bathroom. Immediately she could see that the person who had occupied the room had picked up all of the towels and put them on the counter beside the sink so she wouldn’t have to bend down and collect them all. The used soap bar and wrappers were in the garbage can. Someone had thoughtfully made it easy for her to clean.
In a few minutes she was done with the bathroom and she walked into the room. With a quick glance she could see that on the desk beside the Bible were some money and the note pad. She quickly made the one queen bed that had been used. She moved to the desk and sat down in the chair to alleviate her curiosity. She picked up the money that was left for her and put it in the pocket on her smock. Everyone tips their waitress but almost no one tips the person cleaning their hotel room. Then she picked up a neatly written note and read it.
“Thank you for your diligence in cleaning this room for me. On the Bible you will find a token of my appreciation in the form of $10. One of the dollars is a golden American $1 coin. The Bible talks of God’s children being like one coin among many being lost, but how he diligently seeks after the one lost and all of Heaven rejoices when it is found. Please keep it as a remembrance of how precious you are.
The other nine are in single dollars to make it easy for you to give $1 to God’s work, as the first 10% of all you get should be given back to him. Give it to someone in need or drop it in a collection plate.
Chances are I will never meet you in this world but I do pray that we do in Heaven and that Jesus himself introduces us. I left the Bible open to the Proverb I read today. There are 30 Proverbs and about the same number of days each month and that is how I start my day. Maybe it will have something useful for you today.
I prayed this prayer for you today, “Father I thank you for my friend who is cleaning this room after me. Bless them with a nice day, remove any worries or doubts from their life, bless and protect their families and draw them close to you so that we can meet in Heaven. Let them know they are loved. Amen.” Any prayers you have for me and my family are appreciated.
Da-Xia Xhang re-read the note. It was rare to get a tip but very much more rare to get a nice note too. Her eyes then moved over to the Bible that the mysterious “J” had left open to Proverbs 11 which was the day of that month. She was raised in China where the open distribution of Bibles was resisted and often persecuted. China did allow “registered churches” like the Catholic church but it was rare for Chinese people to see Bibles or to have an opportunity to read it. She was a little ahead in her rooms so far so she took the time to start reading the Gideons’ Bible:
“A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight.
When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.”
Da-Xia could feel something inside of her lighting up as she continued to read through Proverbs 11. The wisdom seemed to wash over her on the inside and she had a hunger to keep reading. She giggled to herself thinking of other women she had known when she read verse 22:
“As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.”
She quickly finished the chapter and debated with herself whether it was a sin to steal the Bible from the room. She then decided to take it and to leave the money that J had left for her in the room in an envelope for the Gideons representative when he came next.
Da-Xia went on and finished the rest of the rooms on her list but received no other tips and no other nice notes. As she returned to the supply room she ran into Ruby, one of her co-workers.
“Ruby my I ask you a question?” she asked in her typical shy and quiet Asian manner.
“Of course, child. You go right ahead.”
“Ruby you are a Christian, right?”
“Why yes I am a born again, Bible believing, red blooded daughter of the Most High God. Why do you ask Sugar?” Da-Xia explained to her the tip and the note and her reading the Bible for the first time.
“Ruby would I be able to go to your church with you?”
“Oh child it would be my honor to bring you there!” Ruby exclaimed as she hugged her. “I am so ashamed that I haven’t invited you sooner. Jesus forgive me.”