Invitation (Fiction for Friday)

>> Friday, August 24

When tasked with writing a story for the topic "Banquet", I could think of no other feast than the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb. And I tried, believe me. It was my first thought, and it was accompanied by a favorite Bible School song from my childhood titled (what else?) The Wedding Banquet (aka I Cannot Come). Along with the persistent earworm, my Bible reading happened to take me through the Scriptures about the Wedding. The persistent earworm split, broke into beautiful harmony, and started broadcasting in stereo.

All this time, I was eking out a story. It was a pretty good idea, but then I came to a wall. I brainstormed with a buddy, and instead of no direction, I now had three. And I tried following each of them, but nothing seemed right. I'm tenacious, though, and was DETERMINED to finish SOMETHING and enter the "Banquet" writing challenge.


It was when I cried out to God the night before the 10am deadline, and told Him I only wanted to write what He wanted, but I was stuck and I couldn't go on unless He was in it. Then I sat, and was still before the Lord for a time (not easy for me). But my wandering mind took me to "What would a person wear to the Wedding Banquet, anyway?"


Why, "The Cloak of Righteousness" of course. And what does that look like? Then I saw the most beautiful thing unfold in my mind's eye. I hope I did justice to the vision God gave me, and that you are blessed.



INVITATION


Although she was very aware of his reputation, Lydia had never actually met him. That she would be asked to dine with him? The thought had never crossed her mind. But he issued the invitation himself--in person. And Lydia giddily accepted.

"I'll be hosting a banquet soon," he'd said, "and it would bring me great pleasure if you would be my guest. I have a place at my table reserved for you." His chocolaty eyes had melted her insides, and she was assured of his sincerity.

When she'd said yes, joy lit up his face, and he drew a folded garment from his coat. "My gift to you," he'd said, and let the small bundle unfurl to the ground in a shimmering cloud of pure white. "I pray you'll wear it to the banquet." He'd slipped the cloak over Lydia's shoulders, and she'd felt lighter, as if the weightless cloth was lifting her. She'd looked into his face and was ready to follow him anywhere.

"Soon," he said, "I'll be back to collect you. I can't say exactly when, but I hope you'll wait."

In the decades since his visit, Lydia had fallen about as far as a person could fall. Her descent from the suburbs to the streets was slow but steady, and now the only thing that remained of that giddy young lady with fanciful hopes and naive beliefs was her precious gift from him.

She ran her hand over the now dingy and stained cloak, its shimmer worn dull from years of serving as her backpack and grocery sack. It had kept her warm on many cold nights and cushioned her head on warm ones. She had misused it, but always appreciated its usefulness.

She didn't need a mirror to know her reflection would show the same ravages of time and trial, but Lydia had stopped worrying about the wrinkles, stains, and wear on both of them long ago; she was pretty sure homeless ex-prostitutes weren't welcome at his table.

Now, lo and behold, here he stood again. Even in the shadowy, dark space behind the dumpster she'd chosen as her shelter, she could see that his eyes hadn't changed. She started having that nice, melty feeling and looked away, embarrassed.

"Come, Lydia," he said, and held out his hand. "It's time for the banquet."

Lydia's tongue felt stuck in her throat. "But Sir, surely you don't still want me to...?"

"But surely I do! Your place at the table is ready and waiting. Come," he said, and he smiled.

"Your other guests, Sir. What will they say? I'm...?"

"Lydia, you are the guest I'm concerned about."

"Oh, but the cloak, Sir. I've ruined it. I'm so sorry. How can I...?"

"Ruined, is it? Rise, my good woman. Come out into the light. Let us see." He took Lydia's hand and pulled her to her feet, letting the cloak fall to makeshift cardboard pallet.

"Sir, I'm so ashamed. It's more than the cloak that I've ruined. I cannot come. I'm no longer worthy." Lydia could only look as high as his feet.

"Yes. You are." He picked up the cloak and led Lydia to the puddle of light from a street lamp. Shaking out the cloak, he said, "And look, your cloak isn't ruined either."

Lydia gasped to see the cloth radiating with diaphanous beauty once again. He wrapped the cloak around her shoulders and lifted her chin. She finally looked full in his face. No, he hadn't changed at all.

"Come," he said, "and take your rightful place at my table. The banquet can't begin without you."


**

© 2012

Catrina Bradley
"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes." Psalm 18:24 (The Message)

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Friday Fiction: In a Pinch

>> Friday, August 3


Sara is our host for Friday Fiction today - you'll find links to some awesome (quick) reading on her Fiction Fusion blog.





After a long dry spell, I entered the FaithWriters writing challenge again! Yay!! My fun story for the "Potluck" topic didn't score well with the judges, but the readers loved it. I hope you enjoy it as well.


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In a Pinch

Candy's phone call threw Maggie into a tizzy, but she managed not to drive off the highway and to cover her consternation with aplomb. "Sure, Candy, of course I remember the potluck tonight." Maggie swallowed. "Yes, Josh and I will be there with bells on."

Maggie did remember. It was written in her datebook – for next week. A glance at the dashboard clock told her she'd better speed up a little.

Kicking off her heels as she bolted in the door, Maggie flung her keys in the general direction of the hall table. She flew to the kitchen, threw open a cabinet door and frantically shoved cans of carrots and corn out of the way. She spied her prize and plucked two cans of BeeBee's Baked Beans from the back of the shelf.

Thank you Mama K. for your side dish sermons.

The elder Kleinsdorf women, from generations before Maggie's mother-in-law, have preached the same lesson to the young women who marry their sons. “Always be prepared in a pinch.”

Maggie's signature “pinch dish” was her own Grandma's barbeque beans. ­Although I don't think canned beans was the type of thing Mama K had in mind when she admonished her daughters-in-law.

Maggie smiled, thinking of how folks back home had always crooned over Grandma's beans and clamored for the recipe. But this wasn't Foster's Hollow, and these weren't her folks. And beans didn't sound all that special anymore. What do church ladies bring to potlucks in the city?

Knowing she was fresh out of caviar and lobster, Maggie scanned her selection of canned goods and frozen foods, checked her watch, and, taking into consideration her limited options and the ticking clock, made the only logical choice.

Despite the recipe's name, Maggie had never made Company Carrots for anyone other than Josh. Her quick-dinner canned version cut the cooking time from 35 minutes to five. She prayed it would still be appropriate for company.

Maggie hoped she and Josh could saunter in nonchalantly and she could make a break for the kitchen. Her plan was foiled when a flurry flew at her as soon as they cleared the social hall doorway.

"Maggie!” Candy squealed. “And Josh, so glad you could come. Randy's over there talking football with the guys; he'd love a fellow Tech fan to back up his trash talk. Maggie, do you need the microwave? What did you bring? Please don't say beans. I love beans but we are overrun with them tonight. But if you did, it's ok.” Candy snagged the dish from Maggie's hands. “Come on, let's go to the kitchen.”

Maggie sent a pitiful look Josh's way, but he just smiled and gave her a thumbs-up as he made his way to the gaggle of men. She had no choice but to follow in Candy's weaving wake through the islands of people.

“I'm sorry,” Candy threw over her shoulder, “I didn't give you a chance to answer. I'm bad about that. Do you need to use the microwave?”

“Yes, please,” Maggie blurted out before she lost her nerve. They breezed past the buffet on the way to the kitchen, and she saw that Candy hadn't been exaggerating. Beans of all shapes, sizes, and flavors populated the long row of folding tables. In addition to five varieties of baked beans she saw three-bean salads, chickpea salads, Lima beans, butter beans, black beans, red beans and rice, succotash, and several obligatory green bean casseroles.

“So,” Candy said, bursting through the kitchen door ahead of her, “whatcha got?”

Maggie was stunned at the bustle of women, plus a few men, stirring tea, scooping ice, wrapping silverware, and otherwise making last minute preparations. They look kinda like me—harried and hurried. But they don't look panicked. They're...laughing.

“Maggie? The microwave's over here. What did you bring?”

“Oh, uh, carrots. It's not much really, but it's one of our favorite dishes.”

Candy was actually silent for a few seconds before she squealed and said, “Carrots? Oh bless you! Like I said, beans are good, but a person's digestive system can only take so much. Not to mention the ventilation system. Emma! Are those your famous baked beans you're about to nuke? Yum! But we've already got some on the table--can we save yours? Maggie brought carrots!”



(c) 2012

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