"Next time you remember! or else!" That was Jake McKay. Pretty much everyone in school was afraid of him--especially me. Here it was, a week before Christmas, and everyone was in a good mood. Everyone except me.
Today, my crime had been not bringing enough lunch. The day before, he said I looked at him funny. I was getting really tired of Jake, so I did what I always do when I have a problem that needs fixing.
I went to talk to Grandpa.
"Hello, Chris! Now what's a young fellow like you doing around here when you should be out playing somewhere?" He put his arm around me and we both walked to the kitchen. Grandpa was like that. He always had a smile and a chocolate chip cookie for me when times were tough. Today, there were angel sugar cookies.
"So how was school today?" Gramps said, as he poured the milk for both of us. He looked right through me--he knew something was wrong. I might as well get to it.
"Well, you see, there's this kid, Jake--"
"Oh, Mr. McKay again, is it?" His eyebrows crunched together.
"Yeah. And he's always bugging me. And he's bigger than me, you know? So I don't know what to do. And sometimes he takes stuff--"
"You know what I always do when I have a problem, don't you Chris?" His smile was back.
"Yeah. I know, I know. You pray. But prayer won't work here. God has other things to do, big things. He's too busy to worry about my lunch or Jake--"
"Well, I tell you what. If you don't want to pray, and I do, then you can just kind of hang out with me while I pray. Deal?"
And he got right to it. "Heavenly Father, we thank you for your goodness and your grace. We are happy to have you with us, in us, to share in our joys and our sorrows."
He got quiet for a minute or two, and then, to my surprise, he added,
"Yes, and we thank you for some of our enemies too. In Jesus' name, Amen."
"Our enemies?! You thank God for our enemies?" My voice rose and cracked. Grandpa smiled.
"Yes, I thank God for some of our enemies. You see, if you don't have something to push up against, then you can't get stronger. Understand?"
"I guess," I said. But I really didn't have a clue what he was talking about.
"Besides," Grandpa added, "I know what to do about Mr. McKay now."
"I do. But I'm going to need your help--in the woodshop."
Now I had a big smile on my face. There was only one thing I liked more about my talks with Grandpa than cookies and milk--and that was helping him make something amazing in his workshop. What would it be today, I wondered.
I helped him measure out the pieces, and he cut them. We both nailed them together, and put on the hinges. When we had finished, I stepped back to admire our work--two miniature treasure chests!
"Cool, Grandpa! Is one for me?"
"Yes, it is," he replied. "But you can't take it just yet. I have some finishing touches I need to make first. "
"So, who's the other one for?"
Grandpa just smiled and said nothing.
The next day, just as I was getting ready for school, I heard Grandpa talking to Mom and Dad. When he spotted me, he said, "I have something for you," and he showed me the completed treasure chest. It even had a lock on it now, and it was full of something. As I shook it, I could hear the jingle-jangle of metal.
"Wow! And real treasure inside too! How do I open it?"
"Well, that's the tricky part. You see, I think I left the key at home. But just promise me one thing, and then after school today, I'll show you what's inside, ok?
"Promise me that you'll take this treasure chest with you to school today, and keep it with you wherever you go.
"Ok." I wondered how much money was inside. In my mind, I had already spent it on treats at the store.
My smile soon disappeared. Just before I reached school, Jake McKay spotted me--and the treasure chest. It was too big to stuff into a pocket, and he'd already seen it anyway.
"Hey, what's this, Chris? You're bringing toys with you to school? Does this belong to your baby sister's doll?" He snatched it from my hand, and as he did so, we both heard the jingle-jangle of coins inside.
"Hmm...this is more interesting than I thought it was," he said. "I think I'll keep it."
So what had started out as a sweet day had turned sour. What would I say to Gramps about the chest? When I saw him after school, the whole story just kind of spilled out of me and -- Grandpa began to laugh!
"What are you laughing at Grandpa? I just told you, Jake's got the chest."
"I heard you buddy, he said. "Now I think you should take a look at what I brought you today." He handed me the other treasure chest--identical in every way, except with this one, he gave me the key.
I opened the lock and peered inside. There were no coins--just useless scraps of metal, and three rolled up pieces of paper. I looked up at Gramps, not understanding.
He just smiled, and said, "Read."
I unrolled the paper marked #1, and read: "Don't store up for yourselves treasures on earth, . . .where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . .--Matthew 6: 19-20."
"Ok, ok, I get it, Grandp--"
I unrolled the second paper: "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ . . .--Colossians 4: 2-3."
"Ok, I know. I need to pray, but it still won't help with--"
I unrolled the last paper: "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.--Matthew 5: 44-45."
It was beginning to sink in.
"And now," said Grandpa, with as big a grin as ever, "how'd you like to take the key to Jake and help him open his?"
That key to life was the best Christmas present I have ever received.