Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Mansion, Chapter 1



 (Note:  The title of this blog is "Reflections on Eternity."  One day, as I contemplated the topic of eternity, the idea for this imaginary story came to mind.  Any correlation to real persons is purely coincidental.  I will post chapters as they are completed.)

Out door-knocking, both Kayla and Grace whistled under their breaths, awed by the next house which stood before them, grand and impressive--a large, three-story mansion of brick.  Who would ring the bell?   

Kayla agreed to.   

The doorbell's rectangular metal shape accentuated perfectly the limestone cast of the brickwork.  A man in his late fifties opened the massive door.

“Won’t you step in?” he asked cordially.

In this neighborhood, crime watch proved unnecessary, for not a criminal existed in the entire grand city.  Neighbors treated each other with kindness, love, and cordiality.  Never did a sharp word emerge from the lips of these residents; never did they utter an abusive insult.  Everywhere, peace and joy abounded.  The girls, 15 and 13 to be exact, harbored no fear of the older man, who treated them with grace befitting princesses.  And, knowing him to be a saint, they stepped into his lovely home.

The walls were lined with exquisite artwork.

“Won’t you look around?” the man offered, as if accustomed to visitors such as Kayla and Grace.  Taking a seat on his luxurious leather couch, the man opened a large book, took his pencil, and began writing in a journal words that he loved from a large book, which Kayla noticed read Scottish Psalter. 

Kayla and Grace stood before the first magnificent piece.  Once Kayla’s parents had taken her to see an exhibition of Jan Lievens' work. Lievens, a contemporary of Rembrandt, contrasted with the Dutch great in one significant way:  while Rembrandt was noted for his use of darker shades in his paintings, Jan Lievens excelled in the use of brighter colors.  

Pictured:  Lievens' portrait of Anna Maria Van Schurman

Lievens never enjoyed as much popularity as Rembrandt, though they had chosen similar styles and subjects.  Kayla remembered standing before a number of Lievens' works, enthralled at the way the artist so evoked the ambiance of setting as to make one feel as if she were looking at a familiar friend.  For the older subjects, every line and crease told the story of hard work, of kind-hearted laughter, or of intense pain.  Younger subjects nearly breathed with jollity, joy, or sobriety.  “They’re better than photographs,” Kayla remembered whispering to her mother while in the gallery of the Art Museum.

“A good painting is always that way,” her mother had said.  “Artists have a way of capturing the essence of a person in a way a photo just can’t do.” 

Kayla couldn’t have agreed more completely; and now, as she stood in the living room of the man who hummed as he read and jotted notes, the perception was the same. 

“These people—it’s as if I know them!” she told Grace.

“No kidding.  They’re so exact—like the artist captured not only the frame and face of the people as he painted but the very motives of their heart.”

“These people, Sir, who are they?’ Kayla asked.

“Why, that, My Child, is the very reason this house exists.”

Kayla and Grace glanced at one another, puzzled.

“Ah, yes, had it not been for those individuals, Mr. Morton—for that’s my name—would not live at 265 Gold Crest Boulevard in a fine mansion.  No, he would probably be seated in but a grand studio apartment.  You wonder what an old man could mean, don’t you, girls?  Well, let me try to explain.   This girl here—she’s about your age, wouldn’t you say?” and the man looked at Grace. 

“How old are you, young lady?”

“Fifteen.”

“Yes, Shelby was fourteen and a half when I first met her.”

“You mean you knew all these people, Mr. Morton?”

“Definitely.  Their lives and mine are woven intricately.  Like I said, if it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t live here.”

“So where did you meet this girl—Shelby?”

“As I recall, Shelby was your typical teenager in the 2000s.  She was what they call an Emo.”

“Shelby—an Emo?” Grace interrupted.  “Her long blond hair, curled in ringlets, her dress—why, I thought she might be from the 1950s, not the 2000s—“

“Let me explain,” Mr. Morton continued.  “Shelby and her mother lived in a lovely home in a small, rural community in the Midwest--across the street from me.  One day, as Shelby sat outside, listening to her I-pod and staring blankly across the street, I felt compelled to speak to her.  I had just arrived home from work at the office in Chicago and wanted to walk into my home, sit in the air conditioning, and just enjoy life for a couple hours; but the feeling was insistent.  I recognized the still, small voice as that of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  So I walked over to Shelby with a cold bottle of soda and asked her if she was thirsty."

'Thanks, Jeff,' she said, calling me by my first name, 'but I’m not thirsty.'

'Is your soul thirsty?' I asked her.

"Shelby looked at me.  Behind her long bangs, I could make out two blue eyes, masked in so much black makeup the girl looked as if she’d gotten seven black eyes, one on top of the other."

'Is this some of your Jesus talk?'  Shelby asked.

'Shelby,' I said, 'you are a sinner.'

'Well, thanks for the encouragement,' she responded, kicking at a rock on the roadside.

'And God says you need Him.  I wanted to give you some cool soda to quench a bit of your thirst on this hot, summer day; but God longs to fill the longing in your heart.  He wants to give you His Son, Who will take away the guilt of your sin and bring you into a relationship with Himself.'

Shelby didn't look up.

'Shelby,' I pleaded with her, 'Your life has no meaning or purpose without Jesus.  Come to Him.  Make Him the Boss in your life.  He will do a much better job running your life than you can.'

'I don’t know why I’m listening to you, Jeff,' Shelby said, 'but your words make sense.  My life sure doesn’t.'

'Listen,' I told her, 'my wife Mandy would love to do a Bible study with you—you know, sit down and talk about Christ and how He can change your life.'

'I might actually like that,' Shelby said.

'Great.'

"Well, that was the beginning of a deeper friendship with Shelby that resulted in her putting her faith in Christ."

“What happened next, Mr. Morton?” Grace wondered.

“Through the course of their Bible studies together, Mandy found out that Shelby had wanted to take her life.”

“Suicide?”

“Yes—she’d wanted to—and that very day I went up to her and talked to her of her soul, she was sitting there thinking of a way.  That I-pod she was listening to was feeding her desire with some horrible music on the topic.  But then God captured her heart.  She went home and multiple times read through the little pamphlet I had left her.  Understanding her need, Shelby repented of her sins and believed on Christ.  Immediately, she received a new heart.  I almost didn’t recognize the new Shelby.  One day, as Shelby stepped into her new Ford Mustang—a gift from her mother for her sixteenth birthday—I stepped back in shock to consider the once haunted eyes of my neighbor.  

 

Shelby now looked jubilant.  Her ten-year-old cousin rode in the car with her, and I waved to them.  Shelby had begun attending church, and her entire outlook on life had changed.  Her radiant smile, obedient spirit, and now wholesome appearance glowed with meaning and purpose.  After volunteering to help at that year’s Vacation Bible School, Shelby also served as camp counselor at a local Christian camp.

"Then what?”

"Then, one February day on an icy road, Shelby lost control of her beautiful red car.  It hit a tree.  Tragedy struck the home across the street, for sixteen-year-old Shelby was killed instantly.  Months of mourning followed as her mother and the church family grieved this untimely loss; but we rested in the assurance that Shelby was with her Savior.” 

“You had a part in seeing Shelby come to Christ, then,” Grace said, conclusively. 

“Yes—in a small way, my interest in her resulted in Shelby’s conversion.”

“And the King then granted that this lovely framed artwork adorn your house in His land?”

“Yes.”

“Incredible!”

“If only the folks on the other side knew how lovely eternal things really were, they would live differently!  That fine wall serves as a reminder of Christ’s work through me on earth.  How I praise Him for every work done in my body through the power of His Holy Spirit.  But I wonder—would I have an even larger home adorned with even more beautiful artwork—if every time His Spirit had spoken, I had obeyed?” 


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