Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (68)

(a novel continued)

Meanwhile in the kitchen the kids were discussing their mother’s supposed excursion.
“Do you think she really went to heaven?” Mary said.
“Sounded like a real place,” Treasa said. “I mean the way she described God and Jesus...you could almost see her glow as she told it.”
“Mom always had a vivid imagination,” Bill said.
“Not quite that vivid,” George said. “What do you think, Henry?  You haven't said two words this whole time.
Everyone looked at Henry as if they had just noticed him. He seemed to have an ability to dissolve from the present.
Henry continued slowly wiping a pan that George had just washed. “I have trouble believing in heaven at all or a God who gets nasty about ‘men with men.’ I know who I am and how I feel and if there is a God He made me this way. How can God be described as ‘loving’ when He hates the very thing He creates?” He looked at each one of them, waiting for an answer.
“I don't know,” Mary said.
“My parents...we've had our debates,” Henry said. “They believe every word of the Bible, and can’t face the truth about their son. That’s why they went to Florida for Christmas...avoidance.”
“Looks like we’re done in here,” Bill said. “Let’s go meet the parents.”
They filed out of the kitchen as Mary gave the counter a last wipe.
“That was quick work,” Minnie said.
“We left a few things for you to put away,” George said. “We didn't want to hide them on you.”

Monday, April 29, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (67)

(a novel continued)

The younger generation sat in rapt attention as Minnie told them about her trip to heavenabout Jesus and God and the angels and the tipping bowls and castle row and the colours and smells of heaven.
“But, was it really real?” Bill asked.
“If it wasn’t, it was a mighty vivid vision....No, I'm pretty sure it was real. In fact it was more real than us sitting here right now. It's hard to explain,” Minnie said.
“Must have been a little difficult to come back to this old place from something like that,” Mary said.
“I had to. You see God asked me to, and when God asks you to do something—that’s the only intelligent choice. Besides, I missed your dad.
“How about some dessert?” John said.
They all helped clear the table and Minnie brought out the Monday morning miracle pie.
“Strawberry-rhubarb, my favourite,” Bill said. He turned to Treasa, “You have to taste this. It is so, so, good.”
“Just a sliver,” Treasa said as John was about to cut her piece.
“You can afford to eat more than a sliver,” he said as he deliberately cut a piece a little bigger than the others. “Here you go.”
“I hope you don't mind if I give Bill whatever I can’t finish. I ate much too much already. Everything is so delicious. Thank-you Mrs. Beeky.”
I don't mind at all, Bill said.
“Well, thank you Treasa, and you are welcome,” Minnie said.
They finished the meal with a consensus that the strawberry-rhubarb pie was the very best ever made. 
A loud Bill burp signaled time for clean-up. Seven chairs scrapped back on the floor and George and Mary began picking up plates.

“Hold it.” John said. “We have to read the Christmas story.”
“Let’s do that later, when we’re settled down around the tree,” Minnie said.
They all agreed.

Mary and George decided that their parents should let the rest of them do the dishes. You’ve done enough, Mary said as she shooed them out of the kitchen.
“I didn’t do much,” John said.
“And there isn't much for you to do with all of us here,” George said.

In the front room John turned on the gas fireplace and the two of them watched the fire. 
“Somehow even fake flames are relaxing,” Minnie said.
“Nothing like a real fire though.” 
“Goes for most things.”
“Lord, bring our children into a real relationship with you,” John prayed.
‘I am,’ Minnie and John heard in their spirits.
“He is,” Minnie said.
“I heard it too.” 
“We better not get in the way of what He's doing.” 
“Better not. I am so full of advice for each one of those kids, but I don’t think they want my ‘old-fashioned’ advice. Good the way you could share about heaven.”
“Wasn’t that amazing...how they all listened and didn’t interrupt.”

Friday, April 26, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (66)

“Could you set the table, Mary? Use the Christmas tablecloth of course and....What am I saying? You know how to set the table for Christmas.”
Mary put the extra leaf into the dining room table and took out the tablecloth and the best china.
George walked into the kitchen. “I’ve come to carve the bird.
He found the oven mitts and opened the oven right through Hershal who was still stirring the gravy. “Hey, this gravy is moving around. Look at this mom.”
Minnie glanced over. “It’s been doing that lately.”
Hershal continued stirring.
Minnie continued building her salad as if self-stir gravy were perfectly normal.
George looked in the oven, “Where is the chicken?”
“Oh,” Minnie said. I already took it out.” She pointed with her knife to the counter beside her.  
As George carved Minnie told him about the gift dilemma and her solution. “I was waiting to open the perfume until I finished my other bottle.”
“That’s quite all right, Mom,” George said. “Now I know what to get you for your birthday.”
And, I'm sorry we didn't know Henry was coming.
I hope it's okay. He had nowhere else to go this Christmas.
Of course it is. Minnie gave George a hug.

Mary finished setting the table What about candles?
“That’s what I forgot,” Minnie said.
“O well, it's not like it's dark out.” 
“Look in your stocking, Minnie,” John called out from his chair in the living room.
Minnie went over to the fireplace and pulled out a long package sticking up out of the top of her stocking. She leaned to kiss John on the top of his head, “You are so smart,” she said.
Dinner was ready within the promised half hour and everyone filed into the dining area. “Sit wherever you like,” Minnie said, “As long as you don’t take my place next to the kitchen.”
The meal-time conversation went surprisingly wellas if they all belonged. Treasa and Henry hit it off especially as they joked about family quirks that Bill and George shared. 
“He snores like a dolphin,” Treasa said of Bill.
“So does George,” Henry said.
“How does a dolphin snore?” Mary asked.
“Like this,” Henry said and he made a high-pitched snorty sound.
They all laughed.
“They got it honestly,” Minnie said.
“Yes, mom snores just like that.” Mary said.
“Not me, I don’t snore. It’s your father. Hershal knows.”
“Hershal?” Bill asked.
Minnie looked at her family. ‘Tell them.’ she heard in her heart.
“Hershal is my angel. He was stirring the gravy just now.”
“I can vouch for that,” George said. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (65)

(a novel continued)

The doorbell rang. It was George, his arms full of packages. Henry was with him. “Merry Christmas” George said.
“Well, George, Henry? Merry Christmas.” John said. “Come in, come in.”
Minnie gave them each a hug and John took their coats.
“I’ll just put these under the tree.” George said.
Minnie went to the kitchen to baste the chicken. What could she give Henry? ‘Lord, help me.’
‘Socks.’ She had bought a pack of six pair of wonderful wooly socks for John, but hadn’t put them in his stocking because they didn’t fit—in the stocking that is. 
She went upstairs to wrap the perfume for Treasa and the socks for Henry while the men visited in the front room.
The door bell rang just as Minnie was coming back down the stairs. It was Bill with a beautiful blonde woman. She looked Scandinavian. Treasa and Minnie and John shook hands. “Welcome,” Minnie said.
Bill brought in a box of gifts to be tucked under the tree. Minnie gave him the two gifts she had just wrapped. Put these under as well.” 
 A little later John happened to look out the window. “Here comes your sister.”
George and Bill ran to the door. They locked it and waved through the glass. Come in, Bill called.
Mary tried the handle. She laughed. Mary knew how to deal with her brothers; she simply waited for her father to come to the rescue, which he did immediately. “Mary, don’t pay attention to those boys.”
“I never do,” Mary said.
“Now that we’re all here,” Minnie said. “What shall we do first? Open presents, or have dinner?”
They decided they were old enough to wait for the presents. “Dinner will be ready in about half an hour then, but I could use some help.” 
Minnie retreated to the kitchen. Hershal was at the stove stirring the gravy. “Hershal!”
Mary was right behind her. “Pardon, Mom.” 
Minnie looked from Mary to Hershal and back. They both smiled at Minnie. 
“What’s hershal?” Mary said.
“It’s a word I picked up in the hospital. It means angel. I could use an angel right now. And Mary you are an angel.” She gave her daughter a quick hug.
Hershal grinned as he continued to stir the gravy.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (64)

(a novel continued)

Monday morning, faster than a cat could wink an eye, Minnie baked her pie; or at least, it seemed that way. The crust rolled out as if by itself. The strawberries and rhubarb she had taken out of the freezer Saturday night were completely thawed and provided an entire pitcher of juice. The crimped edging had never looked so neat and perfect. And the biggest miracle of all, the juices from the heaping pie didn’t spill over onto the oven floor.
‘Thank you, Lord. I know this pie is a gift from you,’ Minnie said as she pulled her glorious wonder from the oven. Then she saw Hershal. He was standing beside her. “Hershal, you scared me.”
“Fear not, God is taking care of you. Obey Him in every moment.” Hershal disappeared.

On Christmas morning Minnie got up early to prepare the chicken. She made the traditional bread stuffing and did everything the way she had been doing Christmas dinner for the past ten years. By church time dinner preparations were well under control. She might even have time to visit with the kids in the front room after church. 
Minnie loved going to church on Christmas morning, singing the Christmas carols and hearing the Christmas story one more time. She wished the kids would have planned to join them for the church service, but knew that was unrealistic. 
When Minnie and John returned from church Bill was waiting for them. He had let himself in with the special key they kept in the secret place. He even had coffee waiting for them and had put some of Minnie's baked goods out on a plate. They hugged and kissed and visited.
“I have something to tell you,” Bill said. “I may as well tell you now, before the others get here.”
Minnie looked intently at the handsome, clean-cut young man who was her son.
“I’ve met a girl.”
“I brought her home with me.”
“Where is she?”  John asked, looking around.
“Back at the hotel. We actually came in last night. We’ve been living together for a few months. I really like her.” Bill blurted.
Now,  Minnie and John knew that their son was 27 and out on his own, making his own decisions, and had decided years ago to drop the Christian stuff from his life, but they had been praying that he would be drawn to the Lord somehow. They had been praying that he would meet a wonderful Christian woman. “Is she a Christian?” Minnie asked.
“She was brought up Christian, if that helps.” Bill said.
“So were you, son,” John said. “Does it help you?”
“If you don’t want me to bring her....”
“Of course she’s welcome to come,” Minnie said. “You could have brought her home without having to ask.”
“Well, I didn’t want her to get the once over about what she believes.”
“We’ll behave,” John said as he gave Minnie a meaningful look.
“I’m sure she’s a wonderful girl,” Minnie said. “Go get her. It can't be much fun alone in a hotel room on Christmas morning.”
Bill chugged down his coffee and stood to leave.
“What’s her name?” Minnie asked.
“Treasa,” Bill sung out the name.
After he left, Minnie said, “We’ll have to give her something. She’ll feel so awkward if there isn’t a gift for her.”
“You’ll feel awkward,” observed John.
“I have unopened perfume. It’s expensive. George gave it to me for Mother’s Day. I can give her that.” 
“And, what will George think?” 
“I’ll tell George before she opens it. He’ll understand.” 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (63)

(a novel continued)

Sunday morning Minnie woke up early. She got up without waking John and went to the kitchen. She wanted to make her Christmas dessert today. On the other hand, she didn’t like to work on Sundays. She’d been taught that Sunday was the day of rest and one shouldn’t do any work beyond the necessary. It meant one day of the week for refreshing. ‘Lord what do you think about that?’
‘It is good to rest. Come to me and rest. Enter my rest.’
Minnie had experienced that rest in heaven. She remembered the peace, the joy, the total lack of worry. God was in charge.
‘Today, enter my rest.’
‘Does that mean I don’t make the pie today?’
‘Will that worry you?’
Minnie thought about that. It could be worrying. What should she do?
‘Enter my rest, today.’
‘What is your rest?’
‘Walk in obedience to me. I am the Way, the Truth and the Light.’
Minnie remembered her life in heaven. There she had always done exactly as directed in her heart. She had felt so close to Jesus. His choice was always the option she chose without question. Now the distractions abounded, pulling her away from Him.
What was that passage that talked about rest? Minnie took the concordance down from the shelf in the dining room. She looked up the word rest. There it was in Hebrews, “for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests....” Minnie looked up the passage in the family devotions Bible. “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.”
Minnie continued reading, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
That was it of course. To enter God’s rest she would have to live that life, the life of complete obedience, not merely take the Sunday off from her daily routine. 
But, didn’t He want her to set one day apart as well? Wasn’t "keep the Sabbath Day Holy" a command from God?
‘That’s the picture.’ Minnie heard in her heart. ‘I rested when my purposes were complete.’
‘Well, my purpose isn’t complete. I must bake this pie before tomorrow.’ She took out her 10-inch glass pie plate. ‘The chicken needs to be in the oven tomorrow. There won’t be room for pie.’
‘Is your purpose, my purpose?’
The question hung in the air.
‘I don’t know.’
‘Ask me.’
‘Lord should I bake this pie, today?’
‘Will it give you peace?’
‘Only if it’s your will.’
‘That’s my girl. My rest is for today. Every day is today.’
A light went on. ‘I get it...walking in your purpose, every day is the rest. Taking Sunday off is only a picture of what you want. You want complete and total obedience, which was easy in heaven, not so much here. Lord, I need you to guide my actions. I won’t make this pie today if you don’t want me to.’
‘Will this pie give me honor and glory?’
‘Depends how it turns out.’
‘I’ll tell Hershal to help you. But, first check your calendar.’
Minnie looked at the wall calendar. She laughed at herself. ‘Christmas isn't until Tuesday. I have plenty of time to make the pie tomorrow.’
She went back to bed.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (62)

(a novel continued)

In the car on the way home, Minnie and John thanked the Lord for what He had done. 
“It’s a good thing we fasted,” Minnie said.
“Our minister looks a little worn out,” John said.
“We really should be praying for him.” 
So they did. They prayed Reverend Peters would be revived and energized by the power of the Holy Spirit, that he would operate with the wisdom of the Lord, that the joy of the Lord would fill his heart, so that he overflowed with joy and love and peace and patience and wisdom and understanding, so that he would know exactly what to say and do and when to say and do it. 
“In Jesus name, Amen.” John finished as he pulled the car into their narrow driveway.

Saturday they made their final Christmas preparations. All three children would be coming even Mary as this year her pastor directed his followers home for the holiday. Minnie and John surmised an ulterior motivewhat? they wondered. Regardless, they were overjoyed.
Bill would be flying  in on Christmas Day and leaving again on Boxing Day. 
George was coming. He always came without Henry and usually stayed at least one night. 
Minnie freshened up their bedrooms. Over the years, she had thought of doing a major redecoration and reclaiming one of the rooms as a craft room, another as an office, and the third as a model guest room, but she hadn't changed anything except the sheets. At least this way the kids would know they were welcome. Besides where would she put their stuff? They might want their childhood treasures someday when they had children of their own. 

In the front room four brightly wrapped gifts sat under the tree and five red stockings hung from the mantel. They had debated about the stockings. Minnie recognized the value of childhood memories wrapped in those socks. John didn’t think them necessary—they were so Santa Clausbut he realized Minnie liked the stocking more than he didn’t, so he gave in. He bought a few little things to put in her's and Minnie took care of the others.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (61)

(a novel continued)

On December 21, the fourth Friday in December, Minnie and John were ready to visit their pastor. They had prayed to Jesus to reveal the exact timing and at 11 o’clock that morning they knew the hour had come. John phoned Rev. Peters. “We have something we want to run past you,” John said into the phone.
Pastor Peters said there was no time like the present and invited them to meet him in his study at the church. He would be there until noon.
John and Minnie drove over to the church in silence. When they pulled into the parking lot, Minnie wondered out loud how they were going to approach the subject. “Do we tell him about my extraordinary visit to heaven and let him draw his own conclusions?”
“I think we should let the Lord handle this one.” John said. “He knows Pastor Peters better than we do. The man prayed that the doctors would use wisdom in bringing you out of the coma and for God to guide their hands. He visited you several times during your stay in the hospital and always spoke comforting words to me. He had me think about preparing for your possible death. I honestly don’t know if he will find your heavenly visit plausible.”
“Okay,” Minnie said, “We will only do what we see the Father doing and only say what we hear Him saying—it worked for Jesus, it should work for us. He did say we would do far greater things than He did.”
They prayed quietly in their hearts as Pastor Peters escorted them into his study. “Good to see you doing so well,” Pastor Peters said to Minnie. He motioned them to sit in two chairs arranged in front of his desk. “Now, what can I do for you?”
Minnie and John listened quietly with their spirits. The Lord surprised them with their request.
“I am so grateful to be alive,” Minnie said, “that I want to have a special service, a sort of celebration, a thank you for healing me.”
“You know,” Paster Peters said, “that would be a fine idea, but with Christmas and New Year’s coming we really don’t need any more special services. Look at this schedule. He pointed to an erasable appointment calendar on the wall beside him. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, a Christmas Eve service on Monday, Tuesday we have a Christmas morning service and  then the following weekend Sunday morning, Sunday evening, a special New Year’s Eve service on Monday and finally New Year’s morning. Eight services in two weeks.” 
Minnie and John nodded. 
“I don’t think we would get more than a handful of people out for an extra service on top of all that,” Pastor Peters said. “And, I’m leaving for a few weeks in January for a scheduled holiday.”
Minnie and John heard the Lord say, “Wait.”
Pastor Peters stood up. Minnie and John sat glued to their chairs.
“I’ll tell you what,” the pastor said as he moved toward the door. “In February people are ready for some kind of celebration. We could even work in a Valentine’s theme—sending a love note to the Lord.”
Minnie heard a ‘yes’ in her heart. “That would be just right,” she said.
“We can work out the details later,” Pastor Peter said. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (60)

(a novel continued)

“Isn’t this totally amazing?” Judy said to Rex in particular.
“Yes,” he nodded. “In all my years ministering at Rockwood or anywhere, I have never heard such an amazing story.”
“Ministering?” John said.
“Judy neglected to mention that she is married to a pastor. It sometimes gets in the way of free-flowing conversation if people know. I apologize.” 

That night when Minnie and John crawled into bed, they said a prayer of thanks. It occurred to them their new friends might be part of God’s strategy to win the city. He simply hadn’t told them. Or had He?

The next three weeks whizzed by. When Minnie did her Christmas shopping, she found those just right gifts for each of her children and a warm duvet for Johnto share with her of course. She baked sugar cookies and brownies and speculaas and accepted an invitation to a cookie exchange at Nan's house. 
For the cookie exchange she made twelve dozen favourite chocolate chip cookies and wrapped them in twelve packages. 

Nan had invited an eclectic group of women, mostly unchurched. Even though Minnie and Nan had been friends for years, Minnie hadn't met any of the other guests until now. Minnie alone belonged in the category of Christian friend who stuck with Nan even though she left the church when she divorced her personable, alcoholic husband: “The church couldn't understand why I would leave such a nice man.
The twelve women spent the evening sipping wine, sharing stories and laughing. Birthing stories abounded. 
Nan honoured Minnie as the woman who went to heaven.  
“What was that like?” asked Amie, who had given birth in a Chevy at the side of the road on the way to the hospital.
“Heavenly.” Minnie said.
The women were fascinated.
“So you believe you were in heaven?” said Sue who didn't have children and didn't want any, thank you very much.
“It could have been a vivid dream,” said Cindy, the fan of Caesarian birth which makes it easier to plan your life.
“It could have,” Minnie admitted. “All I know is, I love Jesus more than I ever have and I want to go back.”
Later that evening each woman left Nan’s house with twelve dozen different types of cookies and much to think about.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (59)

(a novel continued)

While Minnie and John were buying a hot chocolate at the snack truck parked on the shoreline the woman approached them. “Hi Minnie. How are you?”
“Fine...and how are you?”
“Very well thanks.”
Minnie still didn’t know who this woman could be. 
John seemed amused. He didn’t say a word. Ordinarily Minnie would have introduced him. 
“Jesus help,” Minnie breathed.
“Ask her,” she heard in her heart.
“Okay,” Minnie looked squarely at the woman. “I know I know you, but I have no idea how.” There she had said it.
“You wouldn’t,” the woman said. “I was your nurse in the hospital. I read your chart and ran your tests every day for two weeks. I thought for sure you weren’t coming back. When you came out of it I had been transferred to another floor, but I kept up with your progress. I would sometimes drop in just to read your chart. Truthfully, your case fascinated me.”
“How so?”
“Let’s sit down over on those benches,” the woman’s husband said.
On the way to the benches they introduced each other and by the time they sat down they felt like friends. The nurse, Judy, and her husband, Rex were Bible-believing Christians from Rockwood Gospel Tabernacle in New Haven.
“Several times I saw an angel bending over you,” Judy said.
“When?” John asked.
“Usually it was during the night shift, just before morning,” Judy said.
Minnie asked her to describe him.
“He was tall and had a very kind face. He smiled a lot—a crooked smile.”
“That was Hershal,” Minnie said.
“Yes, Hershal is my ministering angel.” Minnie proceed to tell Judy all about her experience in heaven. John and Rex listen with rapt attention.
“You didn’t tell me all that,” John said.
“I didn’t remember some of it, until just now,” said Minnie.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (58)

(a novel continued)

Minnie and John both woke up at five Saturday morning.
"It must be time for breakfast," John said.
"I think so," Minnie said.
"Bacon and eggs."
John put four strips of bacon in the microwave and fried up two eggs, over easy, just the way they liked them.
Minnie set the table.
"Hershal himself couldn't have done a better job, " Minnie said when John brought the food into the dining room.
"You haven't tasted this yet."
"The smell alone tells me." 
They sat side-by -side enjoying every bite. "We should fast more often," Minnie said.
“I love you.” John said.
They kissed. “Remember how our kids didn’t want us to kiss in front of them?” John said.
“They said it was gross.” .
“It’s  not,” John kissed her again.
“Do you know that the bay is frozen over already?” Minnie said.
“Do you want to go skating?”
"We'll have to wait until it's light out."
"How about this afternoon when it's warmer."
They found their skates in the basement on a shelf behind the furnace. John’s blades were sharp, shiny and ready to go. Minnie’s blades had rust on them. “Shoot, I let Nan use them last year. I forgot to check them when she brought them back.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll sharpen them up.” John took the skates out to his workshop and had the blades sharp and almost shiny in less than twenty minutes. 
They dressed in warm sweaters and drove down to the bay. Several dozen people were skating up and down, avoiding bumpy spots and the game of pick-up hockey over to the left. “Do you want to play?” Minnie asked John.
"If only I had my stick." John said. "He took Minnie's hand to show her he wasn't serious about the hockey.
They had skated around in a large circle on the smoothest part of the ice several times when Minnie noticed a  familiar face. “I know that woman,” she said to John, "not the man with her, but the woman."
“Go say hi.”
“I can’t do that, I don’t know her.”
“You just said you know her.”
“But, I don’t know how.”
“Ask her who she is?”
“That’s totally embarrassing. What if I only think I know her?”
“At least you'll find out.”
They skated past the couple again. The woman nodded at Minnie.
“She must know me.”

Monday, April 15, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (57)

(a novel continued)

For the rest of the day, they variously prayed, thought about food, read their Bibles and watched the evening news. 
Their stomachs felt hollow. 
"I'm going to bed now," Minnie said.
"It's only eight o'clock," 
"If I don't, I may go to the kitchen and be tempted."
"Good night then." John said.
In bed Minnie wondered why talking with Jesus couldn't be more like she had experienced in heaven.
"I'm always here," she heard in her spirit.
"God, you seem so distant."
"I am at the centre of your being where you invited me to be. When you were in heaven you were in the centre of my being."
"Aren't you everywhere?"
"I Am in all, but sin....."
"So this is as good as it gets for now?"
"Live from my presence, not from your circumstances."
Minnie fell asleep.
She dreamt she was kneeling in a sealed cardboard box, pen in hand. She used the pen to poke holes in the box. She poked a large circle of holes until she was able to punch out the circle and crawl through into a larger stronger cardboard box.
In the larger box she knelt and prayed.
The Lord told her to draw a door on the side of the box. She sketched a rectangle with hinges. When she drew the door knob, the door opened. She stepped out into a metal box as big as a house and filled with people.
Together Minnie and the others knelt and prayed. The Lord told them to draw a cross on the wall. The cross became a bright light and then a flaming sword. They used the sword to cut a doorway which led out onto an open plain. A lion growled in the distance.
Minnie woke up. Beside her, John was laying on his back snoring.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (56)

(a novel continued)

She thought about her children.
George and Henry had been together for three years. Obvious to anyone who spent time with them, they loved and cared for each other. They suited each other. They were great best buddies. The kissing...that was gross.
John and Minnie had  talked to George about his sexual relationship. “Your body is just not designed for it.” Minnie had argued. 
“George, what do you with all those passages in the Bible that call homosexuality a perversion?” John said.
George had calmly replied, “God made me this way. I like men. Women don’t do anything for me.” He clinched his argument with a Bible verse, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Billy was also a story. He was a diligent armed forces man who took pride in his work. He lived on base and flew to hot spots in the world at a moment’s notice. He swore and drank. Right now he didn’t have a place in his life for Christmas ornaments, or for God it seemed.

And, Mary would probably throw the ornaments away as soon as her 'pastor' realized she had something that held her to a previous life. He might produce a rousing sermon on being willing to give up things that are dear and precious, even small things—things from your childhood....
Minnie imagined Mary would chuck the ornaments freely and deliberately as if she had been told by God himself.

John and Minnie carried the cardboard boxes down stairs and parked them in the living room in front of the tree. “We’ll keep putting these ornaments on a tree until the kids are ready to take them,” Minnie said.
She pulled out a popsicle-stick angel Billy had made in kindergarten. “Remember this one?" Decorating a tree had become ‘old’ for Billy when he was 12, but he always, always insisted on hanging this ornament himself. 
"I'll put it on the mantle for Bill." 
 "If he comes," John said.
John picked out Mary’s grade-one picture in a lumpy baked-dough frame. She was wearing her blue dress and had a big smile on her face. “This is my all-time favourite,” John said.
“Remember how George liked to place the glass ornaments in front of the lights so that the light shone through them?” Minnie said.
“Remember how you insisted that all the angels had to be near the top of the tree?” John said.
“Remember how you insisted we had to hang the icicles individually so they each one hung down straight?” Minnie said.
“I thought it was the only way,” John said. He flung a few icicles at the tree. “Now I know better.”
With the tree entirely decorated, they sat down. Normally this would be when they enjoyed a cookie and a glass of eggnog from Christmas glasses with poinsettias painted on them.
Instead they prayed, “Jesus help our children to find You.” In her spirit, Minnie heard, ‘I’m on it.’ When she shared this with John, he admitted that he had heard the very same phrase. 
“This is  much better than worrying,” Minnie said.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (55)

(a novel continued)

The first day of their proposed fast, the first day in December, John left for work early to receive the annual truckload of Christmas trees he and his two workers would be selling from the nursery. 
Minnie wandered around the house tidying up. She tried not to think about the food she hadn't eaten. She drank a glass of water, and another glass of water. Then she remembered she was supposed to be praying. She prayed that the people of Haven would want to hear about Jesus. She prayed that Christians of Haven would want to talk about Jesus. She prayed that she and John would be able to do what Jesus was asking of them. 

John came home at about noon with a Christmas spruce. 
"Where should we put it this year?" he asked.
"That's a nice full one," Minnie said. "Maybe in the front window. I always like it there.
"I'll get the decorations." She was happy for the distractionto keep her mind off food.
Minnie was still pulling cardboard cartons out of the attic space in the eaves on the third floor when John came up to help her. "I think this is it," she said, "Five boxes."
“We should just buy one of those pre-decorated trees.” John said.
“And what would we do with all these memory-filled decorations?” 
“Divide them up between the children.”
“We both know they aren’t ready for anything like that. George is the only one who would appreciate them…”
Minnie sighed.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (54)

(a novel continued)

Minnie felt better as soon as they began praying.
"Okay Lord, this is your idea," John prayed. "How do we divide this town? 
You know what I mean, Lord," he added.
They sat quietly listening. 
"Did you hear anything?" John asked.
"I don't know if it was just my own  thought," Minnie said, "but I heard, 'I am leading you.'"
"I heard, 'commonsense.'"
"We must be on the right track."

They divided North and South Haven, and old and new Haven by neighbourhood and colour-coded these so that their map became a patchwork of red, yellow, blue and green. Then they assigned a coloured section to each church with the more densely populated sections going to the larger churches. The Catholics would be asked to pray for the entire town. 
"After all Haven is their parish," John said.

"That's the easy part done," Minnie said. "Now, how do we get the churches to agree? Ministers generally don't have time for other people's plans." 
Again they prayed and listened.
"Fasting," Minnie said. "Jesus wants us to fast?"
"He showed me three days," John said. 
"Jesus wants us to fast for three days? It makes me dizzy to miss a meal." 
"There are different kinds of fasts," John said. "I was reading something about a Daniel fast. You eat fruit and vegetables and drink only water."
"Sounds like a cheat," Minnie said. 
"We could just not eat." John said.
"I suppose the Lord will help us through."
They decided to start after supper on Thursday evening and to finish Sunday. They would allow themselves water. 
On Thursday evening after supper Minnie had some qualms. “Shouldn’t we ask Jesus when to start?” 
“I guess that wouldn't hurt.”
So, they asked Jesus. It was a good thing they did. He gave them a different schedule. He told them to fast the first three Fridays in December and on the fourth Friday they were to approach the pastor of their church. 

In the meantime, most evenings in November John and Minnie drove the streets of Haven, praying as they went. They prayed that the Lord would bless the people, that he would turn their thoughts toward him. By month's end they had covered the entire town. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (53)

(a novel continued)

"We'll have to get all the churches involved." John said to Minnie over supper the next evening. He was still wearing his work clothes and he smelled like earth and hand soap. 
"The churches never do things together," Minnie said. She suddenly felt very tired.
"I don't know. When it looked like we were losing our charitable status, there was a prayer meeting in just about every church in town." John used the last bite of a dinner roll to wipe the gravy from his plate. "Good dinner Minnie, thanks." He popped the roll into his mouth.
"Would you like dessert?"
"Maybe later with coffee, after we look at the map. I was thinking we could divide the town among the churches."
Minnie carried their plates to the kitchen and wiped up while John went out to the truck to get the detailed town map he kept in the glove box. He spread it across the table. Minnie sat down.
John counted 17 churches. Haven was naturally divided into four quarters. Cranberry Creek ran down the middle dividing the town into east Haven and west Haven. Main Street ran from east to west. South of Main the town was referred to as Old Haven and north of Main was called New Haven The majority of the churches were located in Old Haven with the Catholic cathedral dead center on Main Street beside the creek
"That's about four churches for each quarter," John said. 
"How are you going to divide them? Count the houses?"
John looked at Minnie. "Are you okay?" 
"Not really."
"Let's pray," John said.
"Why didn't I think of that?" 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Minnie Goes to Heaven (52)

(a novel continued)

Three weeks after coming home from the hospital Minnie was up most of the day. A month later, she was ready to go Christmas shopping even though it was only October.
“This year I want to get each of the kids something special,” she told John at breakfast.
“Something special to let them know how much we love them.”
“Sounds expensive. I better get to work.” John got up from his place at the table, kissed Minnie lightly on the cheek and headed for the door.
Come back here. It's Saturday. Have another cup of coffee.

John grinned and sat down again. It was Saturday and this time of year there wasn't much at the nursery that couldn't wait. He loved being with his Minnie even though he didn't quite understand her.
“Jesus will lead me to the very best gifts for the kids. He knows what we should get.” Minnie said.
 If you say so.” 
“Why don’t you ask Jesus to appear to you as well?” Minnie said.
“I'm not ready to die, thank you.”
“Just because you don't go to visit Him in heaven doesn’t mean He can’t connect with you down here. Just ask Him.”

That very evening John sat back in his Lazy-boy and prayed, “Jesus, thank you for sending Minnie back to me. I would like that connection seems to have with you. Please Lord.” He kept his eyes closed.
In his mind’s eye he saw Jesus. Jesus wore a white robe and looked very much like His picture on the Bible storybook Minnie and John had read to their children when they were young. 
Jesus stood before John with his arms extended. He said, “I’m here for you John.”
John felt bubbly inside despite himself. “What would you like to tell me?” he asked.
“I love you John.”
“And I you, Lord.”
“I have a mission for you John. Should you accept, your life will never be the same.”
“What is it Lord?”
“I would like you and Minnie to partner with me to bring this whole town into my kingdom.”
“That’s a bit overwhelming.”
“Not for me.”
“Well, if you put it that way...but how?”
“You’ve already started. Just keep talking to me?”
Jesus shook John’s hand and He was gone.
John opened his eyes. Minnie was staring at him.
“John, where were you just now?
“Talking to Jesus.” He pulled her into the chair with him. I'm so glad you're back.
So am I.
Over the next few days, Jesus told Minnie exactly what to buy for each of her children for Christmas and He gave John a strategy for winning the town to Himself. The strategy was simple. Pray and encourage all the Christians in town to pray over every home on every street.