The Celestial Chronicles (3)
Stories imagining Christian service from Heaven’s point of view
On the School Run
In the Courts of Heaven, Prayer Sentinel Shema received his orders and went swiftly to execute them. Not that this assignment felt urgent: previous experience of working with Janet Ducker of Middling Marsh had led to low expectations. But his Divine Master liked to use the prayer of His Redeemed before other means, and so the opportunities for Janet to earn treasure in Heaven continued.
If only he had been assigned to Mr Jeffrey, also of Middling Marsh, who was the backup plan. That mighty saint was well known in the Courts of Heaven. But since Janet would be passing the exact location of the prayer need, she was first on the list.
The assignment didn’t start well. Janet was rushing again – ousting her teenage children from bed, flying around the house, scolding and cajoling, paying scant attention to the audio Bible playing in her earbud and muttering frantic, disjointed prayers – mostly for herself. Riv, Janet’s personal angelic Guardian, raised his eyebrows when he saw Shema appear.
“Are you hoping for specific prayer?” he asked, as Janet dashed back through the house (and right through the two heavenly observers) to fetch her keys.
Shema nodded. “We need prayer for a soul in need. She’ll pass him on the way to school.” He outlined the plan to Riv.
“She’s not prepared,” said Riv unnecessarily.
Shema shrugged. “So I see. Mr Jeffrey is on standby.”
Riv knew that Janet was definitely not in the listening mood. “I think we’d better prepare Mr Jeffrey.”
A few streets away, Adin, the heavenly Guardian of Mr Jeffrey, gently nudged the old man into action. According to the report from Shema, who had just arrived, it wasn’t going well with Mrs Ducker. Mr Jeffrey shuffled out of his front door leaning on his stick. “Well, Laddie,” he said to the elderly Labrador who padded slowly beside him, “I don’t know exactly what the Lord has planned for me today, but I feel we need to take a walk.”
In the Realm of Time, in the small town of Middling Marsh, it was 8.17am when Janet Ducker joined the queue that had formed behind an accident. She had ten minutes to drop the kids at school. If she was very lucky, they would be on time; but this queue was anything but lucky. She slapped her hands on the steering wheel in frustration and her head sank back against her headrest. “Great! That’s all we need!”
Shema doubted that this was a good moment to remind her of the prayer resource at her disposal, but Riv attempted it, nonetheless. His gentle reminder went unheard.
Janet’s daughter, Josie, wailed about being late for school, again. Her son was talking over the top of his sister, tapping his mother on her shoulder…
“Stop it, Jake!” she snapped. “There’s nothing we can do about it! I’ve told you both a thousand times that we need to leave the house earlier; if you’re both late for school it’s your own fault!”
“Look, Mum!” Jake was pointing to the car mounted on the pavement, crumpled against a lamppost. They snaked inch by inch towards it in the queue, craning their necks as they passed.
Josie exclaimed, “That’s – that’s that boy, Mum! What’s his name? The one who’s come into church a couple of times?”
“Jordan,” supplied Jake.
Once again, Riv whispered in her ear, but Janet wasn’t listening. She was shaking her head in disgust. “He’s a bad lot. He’ll come to a sticky end one day, he’s lucky he’s not seriously hurt!”
They all eyeballed him, standing disconsolately on the pavement by a police officer, hands in his pockets, head hung low.
“Look! There’s Mr Jeffrey too!” Josie pointed at the frail old man walking slowly down the street towards the accident.
“He ought not to be out in this cold wind!” Janet tutted. She would tell the church ladies when they gathered for lunch. Between them they could surely cajole the dear, stubborn old man not to take such unnecessary risks.
Jake was quiet as his mother drove faster than the speed limit the remainder of the way to school. He was praying for Jordan.
To avoid any further delay, Janet took a different route home. She had a very busy day ahead.
His mission ended, Shema entered the Treasure House of Heaven and selected the gems attributed to Mr Jeffrey as reward for services rendered that day. God was speaking to the young man, Jordan, and Mr Jeffrey had faithfully added his prayers to the cause.
It had never even occurred to Janet Ducker to pray for the disreputable teenager. The last Shema had seen of her, she was rushing around her house again, frantically cleaning and tidying for the church ladies who were coming to lunch. Life was one giddy whirl of hospitality and good deeds. She was a highly valued church member.
Shema carried the precious stones he had collected down the glittering corridor to the room which bore Mr Jeffrey’s heavenly name. But not all the treasure he carried was left there. He smiled as he placed a magnificent gem in the room belonging to Jake Ducker.