Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Cross (as in the Cross of Christ) (08/17/06)
TITLE: COASTING HOME
By Marilee Alvey
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Jason squinted. It wasn’t the brightness. Everything was just so…vivid. All around him, sights, colors, and sounds were over the top overwhelming. He felt….exhilaration. Breathing was never this easy. Bewildering. A strange new feeling…. What was it? Peace? Joy? Contentment? Like eating a caramel sundae…. Jason’s legs suddenly betrayed him.
A slender young man rushed up to support him.
“Lean on me.”
“Where am I?”
“Some call it ‘Heaven.’ Some, ‘Paradise.’ I just call it ‘home.’ Hi, I’m Bartholomew.”
“That’s an odd name.”
“Are you kidding? Not around here!”
Jason became aware of the most soothing, comforting music he’d ever heard. Praise songs infused the air continually. Strangely, he could hear every one and they were still harmonious, all playing together. If that were done on earth it would sound like a thousand car horns honking, yet, here it was so sweet to the ear.
“So, how’d you get here?”
A wave of disgust tackled him. “Ohhh……I’d rather not say.”
“Why, in Heaven, not?”
“The last thing I remember is lying on a cart and getting a shot.”
Jason hung his head.
Bartholomew leaned over and placed his hand on Jason’s shoulder. “It’s okay. You’re here to stay.”
Under his breath Jason stammered, ‘I…I killed someone.”
“Drugs. I needed money. I yelled, I threatened, then squeezed the trigger. He had to go….or so it seemed to me at that moment.”
“Wish I could say that’s a new one, but, unfortunately, it’s familiar.”
Jason tried to stand up.
“Why can’t I walk?”
“Don’t worry. You'll adjust quickly. Lots of people have a tough time with that at first. Your legs work, it’s just that they’re heavy with shame. That’s the easiest way I can put it.”
Hearing a swishing sound, he looked up. The most exquisite beings glided overhead, wearing, not white, as he’d imagined, but soft hues of, perhaps, two thousand pastel colors and shadings. His very pores seemed to exude joy.
“I feel like I don’t belong here.”
“Yeah, I know. You’re right, too.”
“Thanks a lot for that thought. That’s very uplifting. How’d they elect you greeter?”
“Well, I’d worked at Walmart… No, just kidding. I volunteered to be a greeter because I came in much like you. I remember the terrible shock of it and wanted to help others. What I meant about that earlier remark was that none of us belong here. Take a look at those clothes you’re wearing.”
Jason glanced down at his body for the first time. There was no kind way to put it. He wore rags.
“Oh, don’t worry about that. I’m gonna take you over for processing. You’ll get new ones. Everyone comes like that. It’s pretty funny. Some remember being in ballgowns and tuxes, yet, when they look at them up here, it’s like they’re filthy rags. The sad thing is that we are all without excuse. We quickly realize we’ve earned our rags. So, about your late arrival into faith, know what I always say? Better late than never, huh?
Okay, now, try standing up. Lean on me, friend.”
Jason was able to straighten up a bit, still leaning on Bartholomew.
“Yes, quite a bit.” Suddenly, Jason’s sense of smell kicked in. “Heaven smells like fresh baked bread!”
“Yes, sometimes, but don’t worry. It’ll get better.”
Feeling a bit stronger, Jason wanted to get over what he’d been dreading. “So when do I go and review my bad stuff?”
“Jason, you accepted Jesus.”
“How’d you know?”
“Well, for starters, you’d be in the judgement seat right now if you hadn’t.”
“Something’s bothering me.”
“Bartholomew, I can’t be here. I’ve done nothing for the Kingdom.”
“Didn’t you hear that it’s faith, not works that gets you here, so no man may boast? Seems you’ve got humility down pat. Tell you what. We’re gonna take a little trip that’ll help a lot.”
“Where are we going?”
“In mere seconds we’re gonna be visiting the man you killed.”
“Thankfully. He arrived here a bit earlier than he’d planned. He’ll help you a whole lot. Then, it’s on to Jesus. Get his reassuring hug and you’ll feel deep in your heart you belong.”
“Bartholomew, how do you know so much?”
“I was a latecomer, too. Not only did I accept the cross of Christ, I hung beside Him. We haven’t been formally introduced. Jason, I’m the thief on the cross.”
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