Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Dr. Pepper - Part 2

By Linda Goodman
© 2000

Being a part of Asbury Methodist Church was like having dozens of parents and hundreds of brothers and sisters.  I was a straight A student in school, but my parents never made a big deal out of that, probably because they did not want my C-student siblings to feel inferior.  When I showed my report card to Mrs. Hilton, however, she was so excited that she told everyone she saw, “Guess what!  Linda got straight A’s on her report card!”  She even put an announcement about it on the church bulletin board. 

            I was by no means the only child so honored.  The bulletin board was filled with announcements by proud Sunday School teachers:  Joe Sam hit a homerun at Saturday’s ball game!  Ann Marie is playing an angel in the school Christmas Play!  Gillian has a baby brother!  Good news, Mr. Wade explained to me, was meant to be shared. 

            The Wades, in fact, treated me as though I belonged to their own family. I was included in picnics and movie outings.  I was given an open invitation to breakfast, lunch, and dinner at their home. Lori Ann was a best friend who was more like a sister.

            I must admit, though, that I was upset when I passed to the second grade at school.  That meant that I would be promoted out of Mrs. Hilton’s Sunday School class.  My disappointment disappeared, however, once I found out that Mrs. Sawyer was the best second grade Sunday School teacher in the whole wide world.

            My favorite Sunday school teacher ever, though, was my third grade Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Gilliam.  I liked Mrs. Gilliam best because she was from the mountains, like me, and talked just like I did.  Also, Mrs. Gilliam was a storyteller.  She didn’t just teach a lesson, she told the lesson as a story, like she was right there watching the whole thing as it took place. I can still recall the day that she told us the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. 

            “Now, boys and girls, Jesus loved his friend Lazarus more than a chicken loves a June bug, so you know he was mighty upset when he got a message that Lazarus was ‘like unto death.’  Yet Jesus didn’t go see Lazarus right away. His disciples didn’t want him to go at all.  It was dangerous for Jesus to go to Jerusalem at that time, with all those Pharisees and Sadducees after him.

            But Jesus told them he was going anyway, because God, his father, was going to use Lazarus to show His power.  But Jesus waited a while.  And by the time he got to Lazarus’ house, Lazarus was already dead!

            Lazarus’ sister Mary was just a crying.  ‘Lord,’ she said, ‘if you’da come sooner, Lazarus would still be alive.  You coulda saved him.’

            And Jesus was so moved by the grief he witnessed in Mary and her sister Martha, and all their friends and loved ones, that he just cried!  It says so right in the Bible, boys and girls.  Jesus wept!

            Then Jesus told Mary to take him to Lazarus’ tomb, which was really just a cave, and when they got there, he told her to have her friends move the stone away from the entrance. 

            Now I can just see Mary shaking her head and saying, ‘Are you sure you want me to do that, Lord?  I mean, he’s been dead for four days.  He’s liable to stink to high heaven!’

            But Jesus commanded that it be done and it was done.  And I suspect, boys and girls, that once that stone was rolled away a powerful, powerful stink came out of that tomb, because you know that people who have been dead for four days don’t smell pretty. And I can see Mary and the rest of them holding their noses and hanging back.  But not Jesus!

Jesus walked right up to the entrance to that tomb and called, ‘Lazarus, you come out of there!’

All those people thought Jesus was crazy….until Lazarus did come out of that cave, STILL DRESSED IN HIS BURIAL CLOTHES!!!  He’d come back from the land of the dead!

And do you think that for one minute that the folks who saw that could keep quiet about it?  Of course they couldn’t!  They shouted it from the roof tops.  They became witnesses for Jesus!

And that’s what you need to do, boys and girls. Become witnesses for Jesus!  Tell about all the good things he has done in your life.  Tell your families, your neighbors, your classmates! Tell everybody you see!”

That story amazed me.  Just a few weeks earlier, I had gone to the funeral of my uncle Dennis.  While we were waiting for that funeral to begin, I walked up to the casket and I reached out and touched Uncle Dennis’ face.  But I pulled my hand back real quick because his skin felt hard and cold.  That’s when I realized that my Uncle Dennis was gone.  What lay in that casket was just a cold, empty shell.

And yet Jesus and taken a cold, empty shell just like the one I had witnessed, and brought it back to life – made it a living, breathing human being once more!

“Is it true?” I asked Mrs. Gilliam after class.  “Did Jesus really bring a dead man back to life?”

“Well, of course it’s true, Linda,” she replied, “cause it’s in the Bible.  And if the Good Book says it’s so, then, it’s so.”

“But if Jesus could do that,” I responded, “he could do anything!”

“That right,” Mrs. Gilliam agreed.  “But don’t tell me.  I already know.  Go tell people who don’t know.  Be a witness for Jesus!”

I did exactly what she told me to do.  I told my parents, who claimed that they already knew that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (they had learned about it at the Stone Mountain Primitive Baptist Church).  I told all my neighbors, most of whom thought that they had already heard something about it.  On Monday, I told everybody I saw at school, students and teachers alike.  By Friday, kids weren’t making fun of the way that I talked anymore.  Instead, when they saw me they ran as fast as they could in the other direction.

After hearing more than he cared to listen to, my friend Glenn Allen snarled, “Why don’t you just shut up about all this God stuff?  Don’t nobody want to hear that!”

“But Glenn Allen,” I protested, “What I’m telling you is true.  Maybe I just ain’t telling it right.  You should come to Sunday School with me and hear Mrs. Gilliam tell about it.”

“I ain’t going to no church!” he shouted.  “My daddy says churches ain’t interested in nothing but your money anyways.”

“That’s not true,” I corrected him.  “Why, I don’t have hardly any money, but the folks at Asbury Methodist Church love me.”

“Oh, sure,” he taunted.  “they act like they like you to your face.  But behind your back they’re probably calling you names like tightwad and cheapskate.”

He made me so mad that I did some very unchristian things.  First, I called Glenn Allen a name:  “Glenn Allen, you’re a dirty, rotten Liar!”

Then I insulted his sister: “And your sister has boogers in her nose!”

Later that evening, though, I realized that Glenn Allen had gotten to me.  I started thinking about the money that others put into the plate on Sunday.  Mr. Wade usually put in a whole $5.00 bill.  Lori Ann put in at least a quarter.  My allowance was only a nickel a week.  That wasn’t enough to pay for anything that the church needed. 

By the following Sunday, I was so distraught that I asked Mr. Wade if I could talk to him after church.  He took me into the preacher’s study and closed the door.  “What’s on your mind, Linda?” he asked.

“Well….” I stammered, “I just want to know if folks here at Asbury are calling me a cheapskate and a tightwad.”

“Linda!” he was shocked.  “Why would you even ask that?”

“Well, because my friend Glenn Allen told me that churches ain’t interested in nothing but money, and I don’t got hardly any of that,” I explained.

He shook his head.  “Linda, I can’t speak for other churches, but here at Asbury, we are more interested in you than we are in your money.  Why, we believe that you, and children like you, are the most important investment we have.”

“What’s an investment?” I wanted to know.

“An investment, Linda, is something that grows,” he told me.

“Well, I did grow a whole dress size last year,” I replied.

“Not that kind of growth,” he chuckled.  “Children have an innocent faith that shines through them so clearly that others can’t help but notice it.  When they see what you have, they can’t help but want it, too.  Some of them might even give their hearts to Jesus, even join a church.  Maybe some of them will even join Asbury.  Our church will grow because of your lovely, innocent faith.

And as far as money goes, just remember the story of the widow’s mite.  Do you remember that from last week’s sermon?”

I remembered it all right.  That widow gave hardly anything at all, just like me, but Jesus blessed her anyway.  He even put her story right in the Bible, so that everyone would know that what was in your heart was more important than what was in your pocketbook.

I felt a lot better after talking to Mr. Wade.  But I was confused, too.  I lived in the ugliest apartment building in the ugliest block of the ugliest project in Portsmouth.  My family had no car and no telephone.  I could not see how anyone would want what I had.
To be continued…….


  1. It stopped just when it was getting better. Can't wait for the rest. :-)

  2. So glad you are enjoying the story, Sheila. The 3rd and final part will post of May 31.

  3. I so agree with Sheila! I WANT MORE!!!!! And three is not enough... Just carry right on up until the present, no matter how many stories it takes! :P (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  4. Sandi, I think you are my biggest fan! I am so please to be in the same family with you.

  5. Linda, the story is beautiful! Every time I read your stories, they move me so much that I have tears on my eyes :))

  6. Thank you Victoria. I am so glad that you are enjoying my stories.