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A Human Bouquet
"I love flowers! And you make such pretty bouquets and centerpieces, Mom," said Stella as she and her mother worked in the flower garden, selecting and cutting flowers for bouquets. "It's fun to help you with your florist business," Stella added. "You're so creative."
Mom smiled. "Thanks, honey," she said, looking at the wide variety of flowers in the garden. "I'm glad you like my arrangements and think I'm creative, but
" Mom paused and motioned to the flower beds all around them. "I'm not nearly as creative as God. Look at all the different kinds of flowers He made."
"Iknow," said Stella. "There are so many colors, and they're all so pretty! White and yellow daisies, red and pink dahlias--and the snapdragons and petunias and lilies come in all sorts of pretty colors."
"Yes," said Mom, "and it's not just the colors that are different. The petals are too. Lilies are shaped like trumpets, daisy petals look like teardrops, baby's breath is like little stars, and gladiola petals are all ruffly." She smiled. "God made people like that too."
"What--ruffly?" Stella teased.
Mom laughed. "No, but He made people with different colors of skin and hair and eyes. Even body shapes are different--people can be tall or short, round or thin. Their hair might be straight, wavy, or curly."
Stella grinned. "That makes them more interesting than if they were all alike."
"I think so too--I'm glad we're not all exactly the same as everybody else," said Mom. "We gather a variety of flowers for our bouquets, and the Bible says God will gather believers from every nation, tribe, people group, and language to worship Him in heaven. Won't it be wonderful to praise the Lord with believers from all over the world?"
Stella's eyes widened. "Like a human bouquet!"
"Now that's a lovely thought, Stella," Mom said with a big smile. "A beautiful human bouquet! God created each of us in His own image, and Jesus died for us all. Together we reflect the beauty of His love and grace." Emily C. King
For what seemed like the fiftieth time, Mike twirled the dial on his locker and silently prayed it would work. He glanced around nervously, hoping nobody noticed how long he'd been trying to get the locker open. This is a lousy way to start middle school, he thought, his stomach tightening into an anxious knot. He sighed and tried the numbers again, but nothing happened. In frustration, he tugged the handle harder. He was startled when someone behind him spoke.
"What's wrong, Mike?" It was Spencer, a friend who was a grade ahead of him.
Mike leaned against the locker. "This thing won't open."
"Let me try," offered Spencer.
As Mike told him the numbers, Spencer flipped the dial this way and that. When he pulled on the handle, the door opened!
"How'd you do that?" Mike was astonished. "It wouldn't work for me!"
"Try it again, and I'll watch you," said Spencer. So Mike began turning the knob. "Whoa," said Spencer. "You have to go past that number and stop at it on the second time around." Spencer took the knob and demonstrated for Mike.
"Oh, right!" Mike shook his head. "I forgot about that."
Spencer laughed. "It's just like Pastor Burt said last Sunday. Remember?"
in church?" Mike asked.
Spencer nodded. "You memorized your locker combination, but those numbers didn't do you any good because you didn't know how to use them. And memorizing Bible verses doesn't do us any good either if we don't use them. Just being able to recite a verse isn't enough--we need to know what it means and apply it to our lives."
Mike tried the lock one more time, and it opened right away. "All right! Thanks, Spencer!" he said. "And thanks for the reminder about Bible verses too," he added as he took out his book for his first class. "I know just the one I need to apply to my life right now."
Spencer gave him a thumbs-up, and Mike took a deep breath as he walked toward his classroom. "Be strong and courageous," he recited under his breath. "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Kelly M. Schaefer
"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
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