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"What is a masquerade, anyway?" asked Lindsay, holding up a flier from school.
"It's just a fancy word for a costume party," replied Mom as she sifted through old clothes and random items from the attic. "I'm hoping we can find some costume ideas in this heap of forgotten treasures. What would you like to dress up as?"
"Maybe a panda...or an astronaut...or a butterfly?" suggested Lindsay. "I like costume parties because you can dress up and act like someone or something you're not."
Just then, Lindsay's dad burst into the room holding a plate of delicious-looking cookies. "The oven timer went off, so I pulled out your cookies. I went ahead and sprinkled on a little more sugar
" He looked at the cookies. "Okay, a lot more sugar," he said with a grin.
"Thanks, honey!" Lindsay's mom reached for a warm cookie and took a bite. Instantly, her face scrunched up, and she reached for a napkin to spit it out. "Sorry, dear, but I think you added salt instead of sugar on top of this batch."
"You're kidding!" Dad laughed. "It looked just like sugar in that clear container!"
"I guess those cookies were 'dressed up' as something different too," Mom said to Lindsay. "They looked good, but they tasted bad! What we saw was not what they turned out to be. It reminds me of a verse in the Bible that says Satan masquerades as an angel of light."
"What? He went to a masquerade party?" asked Lindsay in confusion.
"No," Mom said, laughing. "It's saying we need to be on guard against sin because appearances can be deceiving. Things that appear to be good can be rotten to the core. Think of how Satan tricked Eve in the garden. She knew God had said not to eat the forbidden fruit, but when Satan made her think it would be good for her, she disobeyed. That's why we need to be careful not to fall for Satan's tricks. He's only pretending to be an angel of light."
"Like he's wearing a costume!" said Lindsay. "He makes sin look like something it's not."
"Exactly," said Mom. "Sin is always bad, and Jesus has freed us from its power. We need to arm ourselves against Satan's tricks by remembering the truth of Jesus." Emily Rudolph
Abby used a large spoon to carefully lift a peach from the hot water Mom had poured over the fruit. After gently peeling it, she passed it to her mother. Mom cut the peach in half, broke it apart, and removed the pit. "Too bad peaches don't grow around here all year long," said Abby with a sigh. "Then we wouldn't have to can any. It's a lot of work." She lifted out another peach. "How come we do so much canning? I don't think any of my friends do it."
"Maybe not," said Mom, "but home-canned peaches taste so good--better than store-bought ones. And even better than the fresh ones you can buy when they're not in season."
"That's true," said Abby. "They are yummy!"
"Just thinking about how much we'll enjoy eating these this winter makes this job more pleasant," said Mom. "We'll have enough peaches stored up to last till after the cold weather is gone."
"Thinking of that does help--a little," said Abby. She slid the skin from a peach. "A very little!" she added with a grin.
"Did you know that Jesus talked about storing things?" asked Mom.
Abby giggled. "Oh, Mom! Jesus didn't do any canning."
"I'm sure He didn't," Mom replied with a smile. "He was talking about storing up things in our hearts, not in cans."
"In our hearts?" asked Abby. "Like Bible verses maybe?"
"Yes, but He also talked about the thoughts and feelings we store up," Mom replied. "Jesus said you can tell what a person has in his heart by the way he talks. Good thoughts and feelings about God and about people will be evident from the kind words we speak. It's as though our mouths overflow with whatever we've stored in our hearts and minds."
Abby reached over to pick up a shriveled peach and showed it to her mother. "I guess storing up bad thoughts would be like canning bad peaches," she said. "Yuck! Who would want to eat those? Bad peaches should be thrown out--and bad thoughts should too."
"You're absolutely right," said Mom. "Let's get rid of them as fast as we can and trust Jesus to fill our hearts and minds with His love." Carolyn E. Yost
Hurt on the Inside
"Look! Here comes that girl on her three-wheeler," said Marcus. "She's not too bright," he added with a snicker.
"Yeah," said Nolan. "Let's pretend we're going to run into her and see what she does."
So Marcus and Nolan steered their bikes toward the girl. Fear spread across her face as they came closer. "Stop!" she shouted.
"Watch out, dummy!" yelled Marcus, and Nolan laughed loudly. They steered away just in time to avoid actually running into the frightened girl.
Just then, Marcus saw Mrs. Vanveer, their Sunday school teacher, coming out of her house. Feeling guilty, he turned and looked the other way. CRASH! Before Marcus realized what was happening, he had run into Nolan. Down they went in a tangle of boys and bikes. Marcus felt a sharp pain where his arm was badly skinned, and Nolan was limping when he got up.
Mrs. Vanveer hurried to help them. She went back into her house to get bandages. "Do you like to get hurt?" she asked when she returned.
"Do we like to get hurt?" Marcus asked in surprise. "Of course not."
"So how would you have felt," continued Mrs. Vanveer, "if I had come out and pushed you over and then laughed when you got hurt?"
The boys stared at her blankly. "That would have been mean," Marcus finally answered.
Mrs. Vanveer nodded. "Yet you did the same thing to that girl."
"We didn't touch her!" Nolan protested. "We just teased her a little."
"Yes, and that hurt her,"replied Mrs. Vanveer. "It hurts her to be made fun of because she has special needs." The boys hung their heads, knowing she was right. "Jesus taught us to treat others kindly," continued Mrs. Vanveer. "He treated everyone with love--He loves each one of us so much, He was willing to suffer and die for us. And He wants us to love everyone too, including those we see as different from us."
Both boys looked ashamed. "I'm sorry," said Nolan.
"Me too," said Marcus. "We won't ever do that again." Nolan nodded in agreement.
"I'm glad to hear it," said Mrs. Vanveer. She pointed down the street. "Here she comes around the block again. Maybe you should let her know you're sorry too." Carolyn E. Yost
George stuck close to his father as they quietly walked into the church for Mr. Benson's funeral. The elderly man had lived two houses down the street from them, and George often helped him with yardwork. In fact, just last Saturday the two of them had cut and stacked wood for the winter. But Mr. Benson wouldn't be needing any wood now.
Only the soft tones of the piano broke the silence as George and his dad walked past the casket in the foyer. It seemed strange to see Mr. Benson lying there so still with flowers all around the casket.
George was glad when they were seated. While they waited for the service to begin, pictures of Mr. Benson were shown on the big screen up front. Some showed him as a boy, some as a young man, and several as an older person. George smiled. That was the Mr. Benson he knew.
During the service, Pastor Reed talked about many things Mr. Benson had done for the church and its members. He also mentioned other ways the elderly man had served the Lord. "And now he sees Jesus face-to-face," said Pastor Reed. "We'll miss him, but if you trust Jesus as your Savior, you'll be reunited with Mr. Benson again someday."
George was thoughtful on the drive home. "Dad," he said finally, "what does a pastor say if the person who dies isn't a Christian?"
"That's a sad occasion," Dad told him, "but we must remember it's not for us to judge who is saved and who isn't saved. Only God knows for sure. We should do what we can to make sure those still living know that Jesus died and rose again to save them. We can let them know that if they trust in Him, they don't have to fear death. But when a person dies without having made a public commitment to Christ, the only thing the pastor--or any of us--can do is leave it with God."
George nodded. "I'm glad Mr. Benson knew Jesus."
"Me too," said Dad. "Let's pray and ask God to use Mr. Benson's life--and ours--to help more people know what Jesus has done for them." Linda M. Weddle
I wish we didn't have family devotions right after breakfast every day, thought Jordyn. She especially wished she could skip them on days when she was late getting downstairs and had to wait till after devotions to eat breakfast--and that happened quite often. One day when she was late, she decided to ask about it.
"How come we have to do this every single day--even when I'm really busy?" she asked when Dad ended his prayer.
Instead of answering her question right away, Dad picked up the cereal box and held it out toward her. Before she could take it, he pulled it back. "Oh
maybe you don't want breakfast today," he said.
"Of course I do!" Jordyn exclaimed. "I'm starving!"
"I see." Dad handed her the cereal. "Well, I don't suppose you'll be eating lunch today, will you?"
Jordyn looked at him in surprise. "Why wouldn't I? You know I always take a lunch to school or eat in the cafeteria."
"Oh, that's right. Well, what about dinner?" Dad asked. "Do you plan to eat dinner today too?"
"Dad!" Jordyn was beginning to get irritated. "Why are you asking all these questions? You know I always eat all my meals, including dinner."
"Yes, I know you always have in the past," Dad said, "but don't you think it might be a good idea to give up eating on busy days?"
"Give up eating?" Jordyn repeated, pouring milk onto her cereal. "When I'm busy, I need food even more than when I don't have much to do. We talked about that in health class. So why are you
" Suddenly she stopped. "Oh," she said slowly, "you're trying to tell me I need a time of devotions on busy days too, aren't you?"
"Yes," Dad said with a smile. "Perhaps it's even more important on busy days. Spending time with Jesus and reading His Word is like getting spiritual food. We need Him to nourish us with His love and grace each day. Don't you agree?"
Buttering a piece of toast, Jordyn nodded. "I'll be on time for devotions tomorrow," she said before taking a bite. Ruth I. Jay
I'm hungry for a plum," declared Jenna as she and her sister, Haley, helped their father pick peaches in the family's orchard. "We've got lots of peaches. Wouldn't it be nice to have some plums too?"
"Oh, just pretend they're plums," said Haley. "Close your eyes and think plum while you eat one. You'll find they're delicious." She grinned mischievously at her sister. "Maybe you can find some peachy plums on this tree, Jenna."
"Don't be silly," said Jenna. "This tree is plum full of peaches!" The girls giggled at their play on words.
"No plums from this tree?" asked Dad. "How about some bananas, then?"
"Dad!" exclaimed Jenna, rolling her eyes. "Bananas on a peach tree sounds even more ridiculous than plums on a peach tree."
"It really isn't though," Dad said thoughtfully. "Both are equally ridiculous, because God has designed all trees and plants to produce their own kind of fruit. A peach tree will produce peaches, not bananas or plums. A plum tree will produce plums, and a banana tree will produce bananas."
"Right, Dad. That's pretty obvious," remarked Haley dryly.
"Yes, it is," Dad said. "We don't seem to ever forget that, but what we do often forget is that Christians are like fruit trees for God. He designed us to produce
"Christians!" exclaimed Haley.
"We can't do that," objected Jenna. "We can't produce Christians. Only Jesus can save a person and make them a Christian."
Dad nodded. "That's true, Jenna, but one meaning for the word Christian is 'like Christ,' or 'Christ-like.' If the things we do and the words we say are like things Jesus Christ would do and say, others can see what He's like through us."
"And we'll be showing the fruit of the Spirit, like we read in our devotion time this morning, won't we?" asked Jenna.
"That's right," said Dad. "The fruit the Holy Spirit gives us, like kindness, patience, and self-control, shows others what Jesus is like. When we follow the Spirit's leading and display His fruit in our lives, we point people to Jesus." Holly F. Cepeda
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