JOY IN THE MORNING

Even though we left in the morning. It was pitch black as we drove to the airport. The storm was fierce, the roads were icy, and we held our breath most of the journey

That Sunday morning, the church service was all about joy. Kimmy danced and sang with Kids Outpour onstage while Jake got his first chance at playing bass guitar with the music team. Wes upped the volume from the controls in the sound booth.  Everybody was feeling pretty happy when Pastor Mike began enthusiastically talking about what real joy meant. There was a lot of excitement in the car as the family drove over for Sunday dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s home. To top off the meal, dessert was to feature pieces of Almond Joy bars in hot fudge syrup over homemade ice cream.

At the end of the meal, as the table was being cleared, Grandpa Myers began to talk about his favorite joy story. He cleared his throat and began, “It was a dark and stormy morning, December 2, 1992, when Great Grandma Myers, Grandma, your Aunt Karen, and I piled into a limousine headed to LaGuardia Airport where we would catch the long flight to Texas for your dad’s college graduation. A week before, your aunt Karen had flown in from Korea where she had been helping a pastor. My dad, your great grandpa, was sick in a nursing home in upper New York State, so he couldn’t make the trip.

“Even though we left in the morning. It was pitch black as we drove to the airport. The storm was fierce, the roads were icy, and we held our breath most of the journey. The winds were so strong that the airport had put masking tape on the windows to keep them from shattering with the wind gusts.”

“That must have been scary,” said Wes.

“Yes, it was, but we finally got to the airport safely, where we met your great grandmother. Many of the flights were delayed. We waited for hours and hours until they finally canceled our flight till the next day, Sunday. There was no chance we would ever make the graduation in time, since we’d still be in the air while your dad graduated. So, tearfully, with heavy hearts, we called your dad and sobbed we wouldn’t be there for his big event. We sadly returned to Great Grandmother’s place in New York City and went to bed. The next morning, Great Grandmother suggested we walk a few blocks to Queens Lutheran Church.” 

“Weren’t the horses and cart available?” asked Jake.

“No, silly, that was long before this story,” said Wes.

Grandpa continued, “Great Grandmother thought Aunt Karen might enjoy going to that church since it had both English and Korean services. After the English service, the pastor got into a conversation with Aunt Karen who mentioned her recent missions trip to Korea. She told him she was looking for a teaching job. Pastor said, ‘You should apply to our school.’

“After lunch, we left for the Korean language service. The Korean pastor made sure Aunt Karen left with a teacher’s application.  

“In the early hours the next morning, the phone woke me. A voice asked, ‘Is Edith there?’ That was my mom, your great grandma’s first name. The nursing home said her husband, Great Grandpa Myers, had died. My mom trusted God and responded ‘The Lord gives, the Lord takes, blessed is the name of the Lord.’ Another sadness to our weekend of disappointments. This was not turning out at all to be the joyful graduation weekend we had looked forward to.”

“You must have felt really bad,” said Kimmy.

“Yes, we did, but see what happened next, because God’s kindness was at work. Since we had missed the trip to Texas, I was there to help my heartbroken mom drive up to northern New York where the nursing home was. God again was at work when later, Queens Lutheran School called Aunt Karen, asking her to come in for a job interview. At the meeting they asked if she could begin teaching the following month. She agreed.  Then, one of Great Grandmother’s renters, moved away. That made an apartment two blocks away available for Aunt Karen’s new home! God provided both a job and a place for Aunt Karen to live. None of that would have happened if we had been able to make the trip to Texas.”

Grandma added, “A lot of that weekend was both scary and sad. There were lots of tears both at missing the trip for your dad’s graduation and also the passing of your great grandpa. But God had your grandpa exactly at the right place to help out your great grandma. We would have never imagined that weekend would also lead to the beginning of Aunt Karen’s greatest joy of her life, her teaching career.  I’m reminded of the verse that says, ‘Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.’ (Psalm 30:5b). In other words, life can be really sad and things might not go at all the way we had planned, but in the end, God has at heart what is best for us: real joy that lasts for eternity.”

Dad said, “Why don’t I pray? Lord, I was so disappointed that weekend when my family couldn’t be at my college graduation.  But thank You, that You never forgot us.  My dad was there to help out Great Grandma when Great Grandpa went home to heaven and You provided the introduction so that my sister could begin her wonderful teaching career at the Korean School.  You even provided an apartment Karen could afford.  Thank You that even when we feel disappointed and all the joy is sucked out of our lives, there’s always more joy waiting for us.  Amen.”

Kimmy asked, “I’m pretty joyful. Any more of that dessert still available?”

And all the family said, “Amen!”

Questions:

  • What are some things that make you sad?
  • What are some things that bring you joy that lasts a long time?
  • What were some of the things that were sad in this story?
  • How did God bring about good while those things were sad?
  • What kind of joy does God offer us?

Prayer: each family member tell about something they are thankful for.  Someone in the family pray and thank God for each of these things and for Who God is.

CORE OF THE MATTER

We were having the best time. Then all of a sudden, just as I was about to take the last bite, I saw this huge ugly worm right where I was about to bite.

Sunday dinner at Grandpa and Grandma Myers was always a noisy, joyous time with five adults and three kids.  Everyone was excited to be together; sharing stories of the previous week. As they all dug into Grandma’s meatloaf, mashed potatoes and Jell-O salad, brother Jake couldn’t wait to share his story of the HUGE fish that unfortunately got away!

“It was the biggest one I’ve ever seen.” he announced. “Even bigger than the one that Tony caught last summer! I almost had it in, when the line broke.”

“Seems like that happens to you a lot,” Wes added. “I can’t remember when you actually brought a fish in!”

All through Jake’s fish tale, Kimmy was bouncing up and down in her chair waiting for her turn to talk about her adventure.  “It looks like you’re pretty anxious to tell us what you’ve been up to, Kimmy,” Mom said. “What’s been going on”?

“Oh, she probably just dressed up like a princess again.” Jake wisecracked.

“Nope!” Kimmy answered. “It’s about me and Sally.”

“Sally and I,” Mom corrected.

“Yeah, Sally and I had the best time. We were going to ride our bikes to the pool, but it was such a hot day we decided not to pedal that far.  And then Sally remembered that big old apple tree by the side of the road with branches just right for climbing.”

“Isn’t that tree behind a fence?” Dad asked.

“Yeah,” Kimmy answered, “But the fence is so old and rusty any kid can climb right through it. So that’s what we decided to do. We almost changed our minds, though, when a whole bunch of boys came.  They were loud and punching each other, but then they just kept moving.”

“Weren’t you scared of the boys?” Nana Ahlseen asked.  

“Nah, they’re from our school. They’re always noisy.  But me and Sally could’ve beat ‘em up easy!”

Jake added, “Yeah, that Sally’s tough. She knocked out Billy Green’s tooth last year.”

“That tooth was just a baby tooth and ready to fall out anyway,” Wes laughed.

“We’re getting a little off track here,” Dad said. “Let’s let Kimmy finish her story but maybe with a little less violence.”

“Anyway,” said Kimmy, “We got there, climbed through the fence, and got up the tree into the top branches.  It was nice and cool up there after being hot and tired.  So, we just sat there eating apples and talking about all kinds of stuff and planning what to wear on the first day back to school. The apples were bright red and juicy. We were having the best time. Then all of a sudden, just as I was about to take the last bite, I saw this huge ugly worm right where I was about to bite. Sally screamed and I threw the apple on the ground! That was so disgusting!”

“It could have been worse,” Grandpa observed.  “You could have found half a worm!”

Everybody burst out laughing, except Kimmy.  “I don’t get it,” she said.  “Why would half a worm be worse?”

“Don’t you see, Sweetheart?” Grandma asked. “That would mean you had swallowed the other half!”

“EEEWWWW gross!” Kimmy screamed.  “I’m never ever going to climb that apple tree again and I’m never ever going to eat another apple!”

Mom set a warm apple pie on the table and said, “You might want to think again about eating apples.  I’ve looked carefully and I’m pretty sure there are no worms in this pie.”

Nana Ahlseen smiled.  “You never really know what’s inside, do you? That reminds me of a verse I read this morning.  It says that God can see inside the hearts and minds of people.  I know we can have some pretty awful thoughts.  The Bible says: ‘For whatever God says to us is full of living power: it is sharper than the sharpest dagger, cutting swift and deep into our innermost thoughts and desires with all their parts, exposing us for what we really are.’ (Hebrews 4:12) In other words, there are no worms, no bad things that God can’t see, even those things hidden deep inside our hearts.”

Dad said, “Why don’t we pray about that?  Dear Lord, thanks so much that You can see deep inside of us, even the things we try to hide from you.  Please, may the verses we learn in the Bible show us the truth, even the truths that aren’t very pleasant, so that we can daily get right with You.”

Mom placed a big slice of pie covered with vanilla ice cream at Kimmy’s place.

“Mmmmmmm, there are no worms in this apple pie and there aren’t any worms in the ice cream either,” said Kimmy as apple and ice cream dribbled down her chin.

And all the family said, “Amen!”

QUESTIONS:

  • What was inside the apple?
  • What can God see inside of our minds and hearts?
  • What are some things that people try to keep hidden?
  • How can we have forgiven the bad things we try to hide?

Challenge: spend some quiet time with God, asking forgiveness for those things we have tried to hide from Him.

CHICKEN, CHICKEN, CHICKEN!

Riding in the car, Kimmy looked at her brothers and challenged them to a race.  Jake was too busy reading to care, but Wes accepted the challenge. As soon as the car was parked in Grandpa’s driveway, Wes and Kimmy jumped out and dashed toward the house. They were both out of breath as they were greeted by Grandpa Myers with one of his big bear hugs.  “Why the rush?” Grandpa asked.

“We raced like always, and I won!” Kimmy responded.

“Well, I let her win,” mumbled Wes. They sprinted off to the kitchen.  After hugs and kisses from both grandmothers, Kimmy declared herself an Olympic racer.

Wes asked Grandma, “What’s for dinner? I’m starving!”

 “One of your favorites, fried chicken,” smiled Grandma as she pointed to the stove.

Mom was just entering the room when she heard the conversation and began to laugh. “Oh my, do I have a chicken story for you! I’ll tell it while we eat.”

FIFTY POUNDS OF CHICKEN

When everything was in place, the family settled down at the table.  Grandpa said grace. Mom began, “Last Friday afternoon I went into the garage to grab something out of the freezer for dinner and noticed that someone never quite closed the freezer door.  Water was dripping from the open door onto the garage floor.  Looking further, I was surprised to find a lot of the food still frozen, but it seemed like fifty pounds of chicken had thawed. It was still very cold, but not frozen. 

THE CHOICE

I knew my evening plans had suddenly changed.  I would be spending the evening cooking all that chicken before it spoiled.  While loading my arms with chicken, I was upset until I heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit reminding me, ‘You can be grumpy and waste the evening cooking while in a bad mood, or you can make the best of it. Your choice.’

THE CHICKEN DANCE

“Once I was back in the kitchen with the chicken, I turned the radio to my favorite praise music. I then began cooking and singing at the top of my lungs. The neighbors probably heard me. There was chicken on the stove top, chicken in the oven, chicken on the grill. I laughed as I was even doing the chicken dance.  There I was, happily cooking and singing until about 9:30. Then I realized that it would be impossible to finish cooking all that chicken before bedtime.  I didn’t want to spend the next day still cooking chicken.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS ALONE

“Again, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, ‘You know, you don’t have to do this alone.  There are others who would appreciate some chicken.’ My first thought was to drop some off at the mission the following morning. Then I remembered the family of five right across the street. They might enjoy chicken.  I called them and left a message explaining that I had extra chicken for them, but it needed to be used soon.

PRAYERS FOR CHICKEN

“First thing Saturday morning, my neighbor called. She had been praying for chicken just the night before!  She said she was pouring her heart out to God, ‘I don’t need a lot, just a little extra chicken in the freezer would be nice.’” 

Wes chimed in, “God had the chicken ready to go even before the lady prayed for it.”

SUCH A LOVING GOD

Grandpa thought a moment. “I know what you mean Wes.  He is such a loving God.  God answered your neighbor’s prayer through your mom’s problem.  Your family also blessed – the open freezer was discovered before all the food went totally bad.  I love the verse: My God will use his wonderful riches in Christ Jesus to give you everything you need. (Philippians 4:19) Wes, do you want to pray for us today?”

Wes bowed his head. “God, thank-you for using my mistake of leaving the freezer door open so that our neighbor could have her chicken prayers answered.”

“And Lord, please help Wes remember that freezer doors are supposed to be closed, otherwise all our ice cream will melt,” Kimmy added.

And all the family said, “Amen!”

Questions:

  • What did Mom have too much of?
  • Why was she grumpy?
  • Instead of being grumpy, what did she choose to do?
  • How did God use Mom’s overabundance of chicken to help the neighbor?
  • What does God promise in Philippians 4:19

Prayer time: thank God for everything He has done today

LESSONS AT THE POOL

Over fish sticks that Sunday, the kids started talking about their swimming lessons.  Kimmy swam like a fish, Jake could dive like he was getting ready for the Olympics, and Wes always sank to the bottom of the pool.  No matter how he tried, Wes just couldn’t float.  As Jake was teasing Wes, Wes said, “I don’t think I have anything to be embarrassed about, after what you and your friends did at swimming lessons this past week.”

Nana Ahsleen raised her eyebrows and looked over at Jake’s parents.  Dad said, “It certainly wasn’t one of Jake’s most mature moments.  Jake, why don’t you tell everybody what you did?” Jake’s face promptly turned bright red. 

“Hey Jake, while you are choking on your food, why don’t I start the story?” said Kimmy.

Jake slowly nodded.

JAKE’S LAUGH BEHIND THE DOOR

Kimmy continued, “On Wednesdays we are bused to the pool for our swimming lessons. A group of old men use the pool the same time as us, but usually we just wave at them and jump in a part of the pool that is roped off. Anyway, this Wednesday they divided our classes up into groups.  I impressed everybody how fast I could swim from one end of the pool to the other. Then class was over and we rushed to the locker rooms to get dry and dressed.  We girls came out of the locker room, but we could hear a lot of noise still coming from the guys’ changing room.  Wes was already dressed and out in the pool area, but we could hear Jake’s loud laugh behind the door.”

THE NEW VERSION OF VOLLEYBALL

“Something wasn’t right,” Wes piped up.  “I asked the swimming teacher, Mrs. Johnson if I could check on my brother.  Opening the door, I saw Jake’s face and knew he was in trouble.  The guys were all dressed, so I gave Mrs. Johnson the all-clear sign.  She walked around the boys’ locker room and discovered the floor was soaked. She made her way to the toilets where most of the water seemed to be. Mrs. Johnson was not happy! Jake and his friends had decided to play their own version of volleyball over the toilet cubicle walls.  In place of a volleyball, they used pieces of clothing belonging to the men who had changed for the pool before we got there.  One of the toilets was full to overflowing with a piece of men’s clothing and it certainly wasn’t the man’s socks.

THE SOGGY MESS

Mrs. Johnson fished out the soggy white mess and carried it outside to the pool area.  She looked around at the old guys who were in the water, crouched down at the edge of the pool and motioned for the biggest man to come over.    After he got to the side of the pool, Mrs. Johnson OPENED what she held in her hands, held them up. She asked the man if this was his underwear. He quickly grabbed it, jumped out of the pool, and ran to the locker room.” 

Nana and the entire Myers family tried not to laugh but pretty soon they were howling in laughter.  Jake wished he could just sink under the table and disappear.  “Yeah Jake, why don’t you try playing in the pool water next time instead of the toilet water?” Wes snickered.

WHAT JAKE LEARNED

“Jake,” Mom asked, “did you learn anything from all of this?  You already made that phone call to Mr. Smith and apologized about his clothing. We know you are also are going to be raking Mr. Smith’s leaves for the next month.”

A WISE PERSON

Nana Ahlseen quietly said, “You know Jake, there is a verse in Proverbs 14:16 “A wise person is careful and stays out of trouble.” Looking back do you think you were very wise in what you did with Mr. Smith’s clothing?” 

Jake hung his head and said, “I wasn’t very smart when I thought we should play volleyball with his underwear.”

JAKE FORGIVEN

Nana continued, “I think you also learned another Bible truth. Proverbs 28:13 says, ‘If you hide your sins, you will not succeed. If you confess and reject them, you will receive mercy.’  After you apologized to Mr. Smith and confessed to your parents and God, what happened?”

“They forgave me. Mr. Smith even accepted my apology.” Jake lowered his head and said, “Can I say the prayer today? Lord Jesus, I’m so sorry about how I embarrassed Mr. Smith.  Thank You that He forgave me and that You have forgiven me.  And also, Lord, could you please help Wes learn how to float?”

And all the family said, “Amen!”

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

  • What had Jake done?
  • Why was he embarrassed?
  • What are two things Jake learned?
  • Who forgave Jake?

Suggestion: someone reading this pray, regarding all the lessons that God is trying to teach us and we still have to learn, just like Jake