Part I: Faith
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
"Now Patches, you must eat, sweetheart."
That was the gentle admonition from Frannie Collins, a diminutive, frail elderly lady to her calico cat. The white feline, who sported brown and black "patches" on her coat, just blinked at her companion and yawned widely before laying down in her customary spot in the bay window.
Frannie sighed and slowly returned to her favorite recliner nearby. She turned on the evening newscast and shook her head sadly at the report of a shooting in a community not too far from her own. "Father, what is this world coming to?" she queried tremulously then sent up a prayer for the families involved and for the shooter, who was quickly arrested afterward.
After dinner, as she washed the few dishes she'd used that day, she looked out the window and watched the neighbor children playing outside in the cooler air, their parents observing from the deck as they enjoyed the improved weather. For several weeks it was relentless heat and humidity, so this was a welcome change. Frannie remembered the day they'd moved in. She was one who believed in being neighborly, so she cooked them dinner and had them come over to eat. What a sweet night that turned out to be. She not only had company in the form of a friendly young couple who were expecting their first child soon, but when she shared the Gospel with them, their hearts were open to receive the message she was bringing to them in her own simple, straightforward way.
Tears blurred her vision as she smiled softly to herself. Yes, those blessed neighbors of hers had received the Savior into their hearts that night and eventually became an integral part of the church they'd all attended together. She'd taken care of both of their children when they were babies in the nursery and adored being called "Grandma Fran" by them.
Yahweh had indeed been good to her. She'd come to the faith at the tender age of seven after two of her aunts took her to a tent revival. The way the preacher spoke of his faith as something that was always with him but not visibly seen just reached out and grabbed her attention. She wanted that assurance and eagerly walked up the aisle when the altar call was given. Never had she felt such peace and love flood her entire being. Even when she went home that night, the feelings never wavered. If anything, she felt an increase in them and a sense that she was not alone as she lay in her bed and listened to her parents vent their disapproval at her aunts for taking her to that "religious service" as they termed it.
As the years passed, her parents' hearts did not soften as she tried to share what had happened with her again and again. For a while they'd dismissed her faith as the fancy of an over imaginative child, then down the road as a strange quirk of hers. It wasn't until many years later that her mother finally acknowledged that Frannie's faith was indeed real and accepted Christ into her life before dying two years later. "For to live is Christ, to die is gain," her mother whispered as she took her final breath on that balmy summer day.
She brushed away an errant tear, remembering how they were at last able to connect as they never really had before. Then a picture of her father came to mind. Frannie shook her head sadly as she recalled his taciturn manner, even up to the end. He collapsed from a sudden heart attack and died almost immediately. She prayed that he was able to make things right with the Creator before he departed from this life.
As she dried the last dish, she sighed and finished returning her tiny kitchen to its spotless glory, then walked into the living room and eased herself into her chair once again and turned on the TV to find an old movie. Patches, not one accustomed to being ignored, jumped into her lap and began to purr loudly as she smiled and stroked her fur, relaxing and closing her eyes.
In what seemed like a short time later, she opened her eyes with a start as her gaze traveled slowly around. The most amazing sight greeted her as a woman, or who she thought was one, stood before her with a soft smile. "Hello Frannie, it's time for you to come with me."
"Who are you and where are we going?" Frannie asked as peace filled her.
"I believe you know where I am taking you," the figure said, her smile never wavering.
"You mean….?" Frannie inquired wide-eyed as the angel held out her hand, her eyes twinkling with amusement. She loved this part of her job.
When they arrived, Frannie took in everything, completely awestruck. Never had she seen a place more beautiful in all her days! Beautiful didn't even begin to describe where she was standing. In front of her stood a massive stand where an ornately bound book rested. A voice in front of her spoke, His power overwhelming, but there was infinite tenderness in it as well.
"Welcome, Frances Adelaide Collins."
"Yahweh?" she breathed, hardly able to comprehend what was happening. She dropped to her knees, bowing before the Father of All Life.
"Rise daughter," He commanded gently. "I have found your name in the Lamb's Book of Life and I see that you have served me faithfully over the course of your life, even in the face of many hardships. Your faith in Me and My Son has secured you a place in My kingdom, My daughter. Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come and enter into your rest."
Tears of joy streamed from her eyes as she looked over to her left and saw the most lush meadow she ever saw and spied two figures waving to her. Frannie gasped and took off in a sprint, marveling at the strength and energy she now possessed and threw herself into their arms. "Oh Jesus, Yeshua, my Messiah, thank you so much for going to the cross and sacrificing yourself for me so that I could be here in this magnificent, glorious place," she said tearfully.
He regarded her lovingly. "You are welcome and thank you for sharing me with everyone you've met." He squeezed her hands gently and smiled.
"You gave your life for me, how could I not?" she questioned softly and looked to the woman standing next to him. "I've looked forward to seeing you again, Mom," Frannie stated as tears sprang to her eyes again.
"As have I, my dear," her mother held her closely. "I am so glad you helped to open my eyes and see what was missing in my life." She looked toward the place behind Frannie and smiled. Frannie turned and gave a jubilant shout. "Dad!" she cried as he embraced her.
"You were right, Fran. All of those years I wasted, thinking that just being a good person would be sufficient," he shook his head, "I nearly missed out, but Yahweh was merciful and I accepted the gift with minutes to spare."
"I am so glad, Dad. I prayed that was the case." She looked around as more familiar faces approached them. Family and friends who had passed before her came to greet her. She smiled, laughed and met the eyes of Jesus again.
"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God," a beloved voice quoted from John 1:12-13. Frances smiled widely and hugged her two aunts. "We just knew that we were supposed to take you to that meeting, child. We've watched your faith grow over the years and we're so thrilled to finally see you again. We've all waited for this day to come."
"I am far beyond excited to be here and see all of you. It humbles me to see what faith has done over the decades and….I'm just speechless!"
"That's what it all comes down to Frannie, the simple faith of a child. Though all of you could not see me or my Father, you believed that we were here and in what we did for you. You not only read the Word, you did what it said and proved your faithfulness to us." Jesus replied, placing an arm around her shoulders. "It is because of this that you will be sharing in what my Father and I have prepared for you. Come now, I have much to show you." Jesus led her away as the gathered assembly smiled, knowing that they would be seeing her again soon. Frannie took his arm as he started showing her around.
A/N: Next up, Hope. The song that really spoke to me as I was prioritizing things in my life was "What Faith Can Do" by Kutless. Give it a listen.