My Next Christmas Story ?

I write from my experiences, from my knowledge, from divine personal revelation;
I write from my imagination,
from my heart,
and from my dreams.

I don’t completely understand dreaming. I can’t exactly figure out how it works, nor can I fathom how Father God can somehow use a dream for my good, or the enemy can use one as a lie against my good.
All I know is that some dreams are infused with truth,
and some are infested with lies.
All I know is that in dreams I often fly . . .

Some of what follows is odd, somewhat “crazy”, disjointed, strange, and as Chaff Rantley would say, “don’t make much sense”. That is the way most dreams are, but there was something unique and special about the one I had last night. Many of my dreams are complex and detailed with plots and storylines that I would be glad to use if I could only remember them for more than a few seconds after I awaken.
However, in a detailed dream, God gave me what turned out to be my next Christmas story. I awoke three times then dreamed on, three times keeping the same theme, which is highly unusual in my dreaming experience. After each “chapter”, I thought, without logical cause to do so, and being only half to one-third awake, “This is my next Christmas story.”  This particular one was a dream that I somehow remembered in vivid detail. I didn’t intend for this story to be a long one, but God “wouldn’t leave me alone about it”, and I believe it turned out pretty much the way it is supposed to be.

~ ~ ~

Travelling in my black Jeep ( * I grin.*  I have never owned a Jeep and don’t care for black vehicles), I became ensnared in a freak blizzard, the 100-year kind. Because the snow was getting deep and the visibility was so poor, I pulled off the mountain highway at an isolated intersection. I was looking for a place to stop and take shelter and ended up on a gravel road. The wind was howling, and my 4-wheel drive was churning furiously. At the top of a long slope, up on a high hill, I found a small town that appeared to be roughly a quarter mile long – slightly longer than four dream football fields , stretched out along one side of the road. The barely readable sign read “Calvinton”.

The buildings were situated just off the road. I passed a small church, an old restaurant/diner/tavern, a tiny library, sheriff’s office, P.O., and city offices,  among other random buildings. Their parking lots were all adjacent to the road, or close to it. I saw a residential area behind the buildings. It felt as though I were in a very odd, unusual, part of Canada – a country I hope to visit one day, but haven’t yet in real life. It looked like one of those idyllic porcelain Christmas villages, only impoverished.

I made a U-turn at the far end of town, came back, and parked at the diner. The church was next door. I saw the church, got curious, and went in. The church parking lot was graveled, but well plowed of snow. It was chilly inside but much warmer than the wind chill outdoors. The unpadded wooden pews could have used refinishing and the lighting could have been better, but it was comfortable, if a bit drab and austere. I noticed the standard pulpit and standard small altar standing upon the standard platform.

Sitting in the left-hand back pew, was a man with slightly disheveled black hair, a black five o’clock shadow, nice slacks, dress shirt, and loafers. His arms were draped over the back of the pew and he had had one leg stretched out casually on the seat, but grew tense when he saw me and placed his foot on the floor. Looking me square in the eyes and raising his voice, he said, “Isaiah 64, God has turned his back on us and left us to die under the swords of our enemies!” I was taken aback as he shouted, “Vengeance is mine, says the god of evil! An eye for an eye! Kill them ALL!” Then he pointed an index finger at me and yelled, “If God exists, he is a bad god. Evil. If he exists, I hate him. But he does NOT exist! This is a place of death! Now get OUT of here!”

I recoiled. The black five o’clock shadow seemed to have roots in his soul. I considered running, for a second, but a hand touched my shoulder. I turned to see a man in coveralls who motioned for me to follow him. While Five O’clock glared at me, Coveralls took me to the other side of the church, toward the front, where a tall stepladder stood under the building’s only stained glass window.
“Excuse my garb, I’m the maintenance man here. I’m also the pastor. More the former than the latter, these days. My window is leaking and I’m patching it up. Oh, and don’t mind Bob, he has his reasons for ranting. I figure, what better place for him to curse God than here?”

We shook hands, made introductions, and talked. The lithe, eagle-eyed, middle-aged pastor eagerly told me of himself, the town, and Bob. He talked non-stop. It seemed as though he hadn’t had anyone to speak with for a long time. I learned many things: Due to dire circumstances he got his seminarial/divinity/pastor’s degree at the online, and mail-order, San Juan’s School of Faith and Bible College.  He joked – he was a ” St John’s Fool of Scathe”. Being a fan of spoonerisms, I got it and laughed.  This pastor confided that although his degree was online-mail order, he was serious about bringing the presence of God and His Word to this little town. The pastor said Bob was one of his best parishioners, in that, “hardly anyone else ever comes here any more”. He’s my lost sheep, a congregation of one. But, he stopped listening to me long ago, and probably stopped seeing me. Perhaps he listens to me pray. Perhaps something seeps in. No outward signs yet, sad to say . . .”
It seems Bob and his wife had attended services there until the wife had passed away during the birth of their son. Together, they had operated the town’s combination attorney/accountant/tax preparers’, and insurance office. They had done quite well, as you can imagine, until tragedy took her. Bob had gone a bit off kilter; some said he went mad.
He told me how The Word was sorely needed here due to the greater tragedy that befell when a terrible school bus accident killed most of the village’s children and the heart of the town along with them. That was 13 years ago. All the families with surviving children gradually moved away. His congregation faded, the schoolhouse sat empty, and the heart of the town sank. Sure, life went on. Business, and commerce, and ranching, went on. Going to work and coming home went on. But it was like a town without a reason. Its heartbeat weak, its pulse thready.
Some people still attended services, like Mary Ann something, Sheila somebody, some ranchers male and female, and his foster son, for whom he had great love and compassion as he did for every soul in town. Bob stayed home on Sunday morning. That was the nonexistent god’s day.

“Well, I’ve talked enough, gotta get this done. You should go next door to the tavern, meet some of the folks, have a brat and a brew. Good meeting ya. Oh, and we would appreciate a prayer or three if you wouldn’t mind.”
Bob’s glare never wavered. He strained to hear every word, it was obvious.

I awoke, well, partially. “This is my next Christmas story,” I thought. “What? The snow is the only thing common to the Christmas season. That was strange . . .”
I rolled over.

Part Two

I walked through the blizzard to the diner and went in. Adjacent to the main eating area where there were booths and tables, through a wide door, there was an indoor Biergarten sort of room under a lean-to roof. “This must be the tavern,” I thought. I wandered in and sat on the bench on one side of the single long wooden table in the center of the room. I ordered, and the waitress, Sheila, delivered my lunch. it was huge, delicious, and inexpensive. I ate with several ordinary down-to-earth townsfolk. As is my habit, I conversed with anyone willing. They were amiable. And the food was a delicious, though curious, mix of Austrian, German and Norwegian fare. Ha! Yes, Norwegian!  There was lots of good craft beer. There was a great lot of conversing. People were jovial enough, yet there was an underlying feeling of a distressing loneliness; of something missing, of going through the motions – an emptiness.

My dream persona was a freelance writer, published in various magazines and newspapers. Once the woman named Mary Ann discovered that, she began to place old photos of the town, newspaper articles, old documents, even artifacts, like outdated baseballs and gloves, in a pile in front of me. I found out the woman was a retired teacher; kind, and insightful, who now worked in the “city” government office and also in the library. She had experienced a premonition that some positive press would save the wasting soul of Calvinton. I was intrigued with the idea of writing about the town, its denizens, and its history. On top of the pile, there was a newspaper article illustrating better days. The town’s buildings were gaily decorated, children were snowball fighting, a manger scene glorified the front sidewalk of the church. Figure skaters used the frozen pond. Hockey was played. There were colored lights; a tree lot. The caption said, “Christmas in the High Country”.

Suddenly, there was the strangest sight outside the window looking across the slope of the hill. An ice-removal maintainer was working to open the road. There were two large green and blue bulldozers hooked up in series, pulling a very long military style (think WWII Seabees style equipment) grader with huge, heavy, blade in the center. The grader had a rectangular body consisting of about 3 x 4 x 60 feet of solid steel. It was going slowly; a turtle’s pace, yet sparks were shooting off the blade as it peeled up the hard, thick ice on the uphill pull. I can’t explain the sparks, nor any of what follows.
Between the two front dozers, was attached a sky blue race-car with a woman inside, army-helmeted head leaning out the window, who appeared to be directing the operation using a walkie-talkie. The three front machines (dozer – car – dozer) were connected in a line with huge log-chains by which they pulled the long, boxlike, blading machine.
The blade itself looked stout and sharp enough to cut the top right off a granite boulder. There was also a great, large, bulldozer pushing the whole train. At one point the blade rode up over the ice causing the female foreman in the car to want to stop , back up, and reset to get under the ice again. The front dozer stopped but the one behind her didn’t, which crumpled the rear of her nice, pristine race-car. She was livid, screaming into the walkie , “I said stop, you lamebrained     @$#%$^&&^##@%^     so-and-sos!!!”, while waving her arms and bouncing up and down in her seat. She finally got the whole, complex rig backed up and reset. After a long effort, they reached the top of the hill. I told you it was a weird dream . . .

Just then, a good looking, tall, very fit, young man of about 18 walked in. He said, “Aii-ara-bu-nee.” I immediately saw his challenge. Deaf Boy, I called him. Sad to say I have no proper name for him at this time. Blame the dreamstate. He wore a starched-and-pressed, button down, light maroon with white pinstripes, long sleeved shirt, jeans, and work boots. He worked at the town’s combination grocery/feed/hardware store. Deaf Boy sat beside me and got it across to me how if I put my head bones against his in a certain way, or used a plastic glass against the side of his head to talk into, He could translate the vibrations into something meaningful. It worked! Eventually, I pieced together from him and various others that he was the preacher’s foster son, deaf at birth, super intelligent, and that Mary Ann had home-schooled him at the library using picture-books to teach him reading and writing, and most everything else. She also taught him some lip reading and signing, but he preferred the head vibes and even learned his own kind of speech. Everybody loved him. So did I.

Then the large, muscular, sheriff and his deputy came in. They wore the stereotypical tight, military style khaki shirts, the wide brim hats, and the sunglasses. They were all sidearms and shiny boots as they sat down on either side of me, I presume, to check out the stranger in town. Even though they said nothing, it was slightly intimidating until the pretty, good-natured, Sheila came to my defense telling them quietly and politely, but firmly, to back off, which they did. “How about giving him some slack. Come get a cuppa fresh coffee” she said. They followed her like puppies. Did I pick up on the quick “look” that passed between Sheila and Deaf Boy? You bet I did.

Rats. Roused again . . . “This is my next Christmas story,” I thought fuzzily for the second time. How funny and strange. At least some vestiges of Christmas had surfaced this time. I smacked three times thinking it was done, and turned over again. Perhaps I only dreamed that I had awoken . . .

~ ~ ~

Part Three

 It was mid-afternoon in Calvinton as my dream-self returned to the Biergarten. I was sitting in front of, and delving into, Mary Ann’s growing heap of memorabilia. Out of the blue, I felt compelled to return to the church. Bob’s plight was bothering me. God wouldn’t leave me alone about it. I had to learn more about Bob and about Calvinton.
The wind driving the snowfall sideways had not abated. Drifts were building on the downwind side of everything standing. I entered the church and closed the door gently. Bob was still in his place, but he was bent over and had his hands on his forehead, shielding his eyes. He didn’t look up or acknowledge my presence.

The preacher caught my eye. He was motioning for me to join him in front of the left-hand front pew where he now had the step ladder set up under a rectangular opening that led to the attic storage space. Beside the ladder were three of the pieces of the church’s manger scene – Mary, the Child in his manger bed, and Joseph.
“Would you mind following me up the ladder and handing me Mary in a minute?”
“Be glad to help,” I grinned.
He went up and I heard him moving things around.
“Okay, ready for Mary.”
I carried Jesus’ mother up and handed her to Preacher.
“Come on up, it’s warmer up here.”
I did, and watched as he covered Mary with a sheet. The whole process of lifting her up above all, and caring for her, seemed somewhat symbolic, if you get my drift.

“I got to know some people next door, and some things about this town. I would like to write an article about this interesting community, but I need to know more, if only to satisfy my own curiosity.”

He motioned me to sit in one of the two folding chairs conveniently placed near Mary. “What would you like to know?” he asked.

“Well, I’ve made a few assumptions and formed a few guesses, but I want to be able to write the truth. First, I’d like to know what happened after Bob’s wife died. You mentioned a son?

“Yes, the baby was born healthy,” he paused and stared at me. “It wasn’t long before it was apparent that the boy didn’t respond to sounds,” he paused again, seeming to discern my ability to perceive beyond the surface of things. “If you guessed that Jess is my foster son, you are correct. Bob was suffering terrible grief at the loss of Iris. When he discovered little Jess was handicapped with deafness, the bottom fell out. He couldn’t conceive of how he could raise care for and raise the boy without a mother, without his wife. Bob withdrew into himself and later developed a strong hatred for the God he convinced himself was responsible. At very least, He ignored prayers and did nothing, in Bob’s mind. He wanted to hurt that god – if indeed he even existed. Jess, essentially had no-one. So, needing a form of sacrifice in my ministry, and because of my compassion for the child and his family, I took him into my home and cared for him with the help of a few kind people in the church. Iris was an avid believer and would have wanted Jess to be raised as a Bible-believing Christ follower. Bob knows, on some level that Jess is his baby boy. We think that he comes here to be near the boy and not just to rail against “his enemy”. We think that, bit by bit, the message of the cross will sink in. We also never kept Jess from knowing he is Bob’s son. He prays every day for his dad to be well and whole again.”

“You and Mary Ann have certainly done a remarkably good thing with Jess. I commend you.”

“Thanks, but Jess, himself, made it easy. He is a very bright and loving young man.

“And what about the dire straights Calvinton seems to be in? The community seems to have lost its spirit. It seems to be bleeding internally. Mary Ann has high hopes that I can somehow bring a revival through publishing a few pro-Calvinton articles. 

“I think she has a point, but, in my opinion, healing of this town requires a qualified Physician, if you get my meaning. The heart and soul of a community is no less in the hands of its Creator than the hearts and souls of its citizens. They have, to a large extent, turned their backs on Him, allowing His enemy’s conniving cohorts to put in place lies of every destructive kind. I pray against those devils constantly along with my little circle of Guardians in the church. I have even had visions of families with children returning, and, until that time, turning the vacant schoolhouse into a center of learning for the deaf. Jess and Mary Ann would be a nice fit in a place like that. Bottom line is that the church must become the center of the community again, somehow. There must be a body of believers – the Bride – before this town can see restoration. 

“I’ll have to agree on that point. I will try to reflect your hopes in my writing.”

“Thanks, my friend. Well, it’s getting late. Shall we finish this task and head to the diner for some supper? My treat!”

“Sounds good to me!”

I went first down the ladder. The figures of Joseph and the baby Jesus were still together. Joseph was kneeling next to the manger with his hand touching his adopted baby’s head as if in a blessing, as if in wonder, as if in love. Preacher hadn’t come down yet and I saw why. From the opening in the ceiling, he motioned to me with his eyes to look up the aisle. Bob was walking hesitantly toward me.

“You really should leave,” he insisted gruffly. “There’s nothing for you here and you can’t help. There is really no God here. This is the place where the damned come to lose themselves. Is that what you want? You need to go!”

“Well, only the damned can be saved,” I muttered barely above my breath.

“What? . . . What did you say?” his pitch was rising.

“Nothing, I was just . . .
I prayed silently. “Oh God help me, I’m in over my head here,”

At that moment, Bob’s eyes fell upon the scene of Joseph worshiping his son. He was transfixed. It was as though they were speaking to him. I sensed a crux, a tipping point. I heard myself say, “Sir, would you mind if I prayed with you for a little while?” Now I was in it. Oh, God, what do I say now? I have no idea!
I silently begged God to work the miracle upon Bob’s heart that He had upon mine.

“It won’t do any good. It’s too late for me.” Nevertheless he turned and sat in the front left-hand pew. “I won’t stop you, Stranger, but I sure don’t see the point. There is nobody here to pray to.”

As if in answer to my desperation, a picture with a caption appeared in my spirit. “Just worship me, that’s all.” The picture was a child on his knees beside his bed, hands folded, large eyes looking up. “Brilliant,” I thought. I sat on the floor beside Bob’s knees and folded my arms on the bench next to him. Before I buried my face in my arms, I saw that he was shaking his head and rolling his eyes.

“No! I can’t just stop not believing. I would lose myself, lose who I am. I won’t do it. I’m not listening!” If God is real, and I’m pretty sure He’s not, He must hate me bad.

Perceptive Preacher had wisdom and good timing. I heard him put on some background music. Soft and gentle, an instrumental version of Great Is Thy Faithfulness. I’m not much of an out-loud pray-er, but I launched it anyway:

“Father God, I thank you for that time when I was still Your enemy and You sent me a messenger who told me: ‘It’s never too late; He loves you; Told me ‘He is with you, not against you; There is nothing that He can’t forgive.’
Back when I couldn’t believe, I was afraid of the truth, Father, I was blind, and lost, and losing my life, yet I was was told of what You had endured to save me.
I was so broken. Thank you for healing me. Thanks for having a greater plan for me and working all things for my good in spite of my lack of understanding.

Thank You for making a way, a path, for me to get into Your eternal home from where my loved ones beckon to me. I do want to spend Forever with You and with them, dear Lord.
Shedding a few tears, I continued; thank you for loving me, Father. I ask the same grace and mercy and compassion for my friend, here.
I praise You in his place, for he doesn’t know how right now.
Gather him to You, Father.
I ask and I plead in Jesus’ name. Amen”

Halfway through, I heard Bob begin to weep. Before I was finished, he was on the floor beside me, sobbing, with his head buried in his arms on the seat like mine. There was only music for a long time. He became quiet. I heard him very softly whisper, “Iris”. . .  then “Amen”.

There was only soft music, then there was light. I raised my head and looked up. Sunlight was streaming through Preacher’s stained glass window. Even the air seemed to be transformed. “The storm must be over,” I thought. “In more ways than one.”

I heard the door open, looked, and saw Mary Ann hurrying into the sanctuary. I stood, and Bob stood beside me. I think Bob had wept the “scales” right off his eyes. There was a look of fear and surprise on his face, yet I noticed the unmistakable glint of hope in in his eyes. I also perceived an aura of weight dropping off his once drooping shoulders.

Mary Ann was concerned and exited.”Is everything alright? We saw a strange light coming from here and thought there might be a fire.”

Behind her came the two lawmen, the feed store owner, assorted ranchers and townspeople began streaming into the church, mimicking the sunlight streaming through the stained glass. Someone said, “Yup, it was dreary outside when the snow stopped, we felt a far away shakin’, like an avalanche, and then saw lights in the church windows. We thought there had been an explosion and the church was on fire. The door was flung open, then we heard an angelic kinda music and the sun come out!”

Someone else observed, “That’s right, we were kind of, well, drawn over here!”

Another stated, “Sheesh, I ain’t been in the church fer quite a while, this place sure seems differnt! I like it!”

It was as though a shockwave of The Baby’s first loud birth-cry had gone out from the manger, radiating in a circular pattern over the whole town.

Some of the last to enter, were Sheila and Deaf Boy – I mean Jess – hand in hand. The crowd opened to let them through. Bob had the barest hint of a peaceful smile on his face when their eyes met. Jess assessed the situation and discerned. Bob looked at Joseph and his infant son, then back at Jess.

“I, . . . I, . . . I don’t know what to say, except, this stranger here . . . this messenger . . .  God is here! He is real, and alive! I know because He just touched me. I owe Him an apology. I owe all of you an apology. It was like being in prison . . . I have wasted so much time, but no more!

He brushed away the remaining tears and walked slowly, hesitantly toward the young man and held out his hand. Jess’ voice was low, yet bold and sincere.
“Ah – ub – oo, -Nan.”
He bypassed the outstretched hand and instead embraced his birth father. Cheek to cheek and headbone to headbone, Bob’s long pent and overdue reply was, “I love you too, son, . . . we . . . both do. Your mother would be so proud . . .

The sun streaming in took on the qualities of a warm tropical breeze as it wafted through the expanding group of Calvintonites and out the still-open church door. Some in the front of the crowd took a knee facing the altar where Preacher stood smiling. Some bowed their heads. Some looked up at the sunlit window. And all knew that redeeming transformation was taking place right where they stood.

Myself? I noticed “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” was still playing, and I whispered a heartfelt “Thank You”.

I awoke for the third and final time. (Or am I still dreaming? : )
Yes, I’m certain this is, indeed, My Next Christmas Story!

~   ~   ~

Epilogue


Assuredly, I built upon the framework of my dream.

I filled in many blanks, added missing details, and surely, I embellished.
That’s what a writer does, especially one who dreams. in the Spirit.

But it took a dream to let me witness something I have longed for – a redeemed soul, due, in part, to one of my prayers. But I still couldn’t figure it out, “My Next Christmas Story?” What did that mean? It wasn’t even close to Christmas, and it seemed like Christmas themes were only a small part of the dream-story. It wasn’t even reality, although many, rightly, in my opinion, argue the reality of dreams.
I pondered, then it hit me like an avalanche! I had witnessed the miracle of Christ being born into a man. God with Bob. Jesus, coming to live in him just like He came to live in the world – and in me! To save us out of love for us.
Being born into the spirit of a single lost and needful man, and not only that, but into the spirit of a stagnant, ill, and needful town. Christmas! Christbirth! Jesus, born into the world, a town, a person, for redemption – for love’s sake. And, also, for Resurrection. Redemption and Resurrection of everything. Next Christmas Story, indeed! Not only that, but why not My Next Easter Story as well?

©Gloryteller Len @Gloryteller.com
All rights reserved


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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. My Father's Child
    May 30, 2017 @ 10:59:18

    Absolutely awesome God dream!

    Reply

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