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Previous Message From Virtual Church

Meet Mr. Bob

People at the Willow Inn think of Mr. Bob as an old time rock fan. Mr. Bob, now 58, comes to the Willow Inn every Friday night about 8:30 and he stays until after midnight . No one remembers when he started showing up on his Friday night out. No one remembers because Mr. Bob started his tradition before any of the current crowd at the Willow was ever born. Mr. Bob has a last name but no one knows or cares. In the far corner of the Willow sits a table reserved on Friday night just for Mr. Bob. Of all the things in Mr. Bob’s life, having a table held for him in a place stinking from decades of stale beer and cigarette smoke is the pinnacle. On Friday night the place is packed. There is always a live band on Friday. The music has changed and then changed back over the sixty years since the Willow started. However, on a recent Friday night things were a bit different for Mr. Bob. At his regular time, Mr. Bob pulled up to the front of the Willow and noticed something different. The parking lot was empty. The door to the Willow was open but no music could be heard from out in the parking lot as is usually the case.

Mr. Bob opened the door of his van that has been specially equipped with hand controls. Mr. Bob pulled up on his legs and swung himself around so he could exit the van. Sliding down out of the seat, he grabbed his crutches and steadied himself with them as he pushed the van door shut. Things are getting tougher by the day for Mr. Bob. His age and his disability are beginning to take their toll. Mr. Bob could be a modern prophet Job, although Mr. Bob never had as much to lose in the beginning like the famous prophet. Mr. Bob’s life has been filled with tragedy, pain, and heartache. When he was ten years old, he was in a car accident with his mom and he was badly injured. His mother died a short time later with complications from the accident. Mr. Bob loved sports but being crippled for life meant sports of any kind was out of the question. Crippled and in the hospital for months, his school work lagged and he fell behind. He graduated two years behind his starting class and had too many physical difficulties to go to college. Various jobs brought failure, most not of his doing. His attempts at starting business ventures failed, nearly always for reasons unrelated to Mr. Bob or his efforts. His father tried to keep the family together after the accident but having to work two jobs and losing Bob’s mother put a strain on the family beyond anyone’s ability to imagine. Mr. Bob led a lonely life. He fell in love with a girl from across town and married her but like the prophet Job, his wife died after only a few years of their marriage. As the years rolled by, Mr. Bob rightfully began to think all of life was against him. As he aged, Mr. Bob lost heart and lost hope. However, Mr. Bob’s view of his life was about to change at the Willow Inn.

Although the parking lot was empty, Mr. Bob struggled over to the front door of the Willow and hobbled inside. The place was empty except for one guy. No band. No barkeep. No customers. At Mr. Bob’s reserved table, sat a man dressed in white. Mr. Bob approached his table and asked the gentleman dressed in white, “Where is everyone?” The man dressed in white who introduced himself as “Rewtok”, replied “They all took a break. Please come over here and take a seat Howard.” Startled, Mr. Bob asked, “How’d you know my name? Nobody knows my name. I don’t use my first name. I don’t ever use my first name.” Rewtok smiled and said, “Well, it is sort of my job to know what others do not.” As Mr. Bob more or less collapsed from exhaustion into the chair at Mr. Bob’s regular table Rewtok said, “Howard, have you ever wondered what your life would have been like if you had not been in the accident with your mom?” Mr. Bob shot back in an instant, “I not only wonder what my life would have been like, I know for certain what my life would have been like. I know for certain my life would have been better. Who wants to live like I do? Who wants to live with the pain? Who wants to live with the suffering? Let me tell you, I know for sure my life and the life of everyone I know would have been better.” For just a minute there was silence as Rewtok paused to speak. Then Rewtok said, “Howard, we have added a new door to the Willow just for you. We call the new door Portal 16. If you will, I’d like you to go with me through Portal 16 and have a look see at your life if you had not been in the accident.” Mr. Bob replied, “You must be joking.” Rewtok replied, “No, Howard, I’m not joking. The door is the real deal. Look in back of me. You’ve been in here for over thirty years. Ever see that door in the back before?” Mr. Bob stretched sideways in his chair and saw the new door. With some thought and trepidation, Mr. Bob said, “No, I’ve never seen that door. OK, let’s go see what my life would have been.”

Rewtok and Mr. Bob stood up and paced the thirty feet to the back of the Willow . Rewtok pushed open the new door and he and Mr. Bob walked through Portal 16. What was on the other side of Portal 16 was daylight at 8:30 at night. What was on the other side of Portal 16 was the same world as the world the Willow was in except the time was about noon . Sitting a few feet away from Portal 16 was a golf cart. Rewtok said, “Climb on board, we’ll take a riding tour.” Mr. Bob ambled over to the golf cart and struggled to get up onto the seat while pulling his crutches up next to him for the ride. Once Mr. Bob was seated, Rewtok, who was seated behind the wheel, pushed down on the accelerator and the cart sped off from the alley behind the Willow . At the end of the alley, Rewtok turned right onto Washington Blvd. and then headed down the street for two blocks. Rewtok and Mr. Bob pulled into the Action Auto Sales Agency, a place Mr. Bob had never seen or heard of before. The sales agency was a large auto dealership. Rewtok said, “We’ve gone back in time about twenty years because in this life you did not live to be fifty-eight. In this life, you died much younger than you are now because you were murdered.” Mr. Bob said in a stunned voice, “I was murdered? How could I have been murdered?” Newtok replied, “It’s a long story. But let’s just say you were not a nice person and you made enemies. Look over there, see that woman? That woman was the woman you married in the life you have now. In this life, in this life free of your accident you did not marry her, you used her. In this life you made her into your private whore. In this life, free of the accident, you were strong, selfish, full of ego, and used every person to your advantage. Look over there at the entry to the service area. See yourself?” Mr. Bob said, “Yes, I see me but I’m not acting like me.” What Mr. Bob saw was himself as a much younger man swearing and cussing out one of his agency employee’s. Rewtok said, “You treated people horribly. You got by with such mistreatment of others because you only hired people who were desperate for a job. You hired people who had few options. With power over others, you used your power to berate them and mistreat them. In this, more perfect life without an accident, you were not humble, kind, caring, or compassionate like you are now. In this life, this more perfect life, you fathered children out of wedlock and you did not care. You hurt people. You took from people. You repossessed cars and property from people when you did not need to do so. You built up a lot of enemies along the way. Eventually, someone you hurt who was not stable got a gun and did you in.” For a long time Mr. Bob sat and thought. Then he said, “I’ve seen enough. Can we go back to my present life?” Rewtok said, “Sure, we’ll go back right now.” In a few minutes they were at the new door at the Willow . Both climbed out of the golf cart and Rewtok opened the door for Mr. Bob. They both walked inside and Rewtok said, “Let’s sit down.” They both sat down at Mr. Bob’s table. Mr. Bob said, “How could I have turned out so different? How can a horrible accident that tears up your life and kills your mother make you different than you would have been without the accident?” Rewtok replied, “Let’s think back. Remember Bernice, the wonderful neighbor you had growing up? After your accident Bernice prayed for you and your dad every day. In the mornings, when you were still not able to get around, she would come over and take care of you. Her goodness sort of rubbed off on you. In your darkness, Bernice brought a lot of light you would never have seen otherwise. Without your accident, you went on to be great in sports. You lettered in football and basketball. You were a sports star here in your town. People let you know you were a star and your ego got inflated. One thing led to another. Without the accident, as you grew into adolescence all the adulation from your fans turned you into the person you just saw at the dealership. What you need to understand is that bad things do not happen for good reasons. However, when bad things happen good reasons can be made in reverse if we learn to be humble, kind, caring, and compassionate. On one hand, bad things happening can make people bitter and hateful. On the other hand, bad things happening can make people be more like God wants them to be. After you got better after the accident, Bernice took you to church every Sunday. Because of her compassion and care, and because you began to pray along with her, your life was changed for the better. Your life was not for the better in physical terms, but your life was for the better in spiritual terms. In this life right now, you have a lot of stinking physical problems, but your spirit is a shining light. You may feel like giving up because there is not much hope for the future. However, you do not see how much of a light you bring to others. I know you come here every Friday night. I also know you do not drink alcohol because you love God as a result of Bernice. When you come here, you come to get away from your burdens but when you come into the Willow , the people you see need to see you. You may not know it, but people in here love you. You bring a little light and hope to people desperately trying to get away from their own pain and problems. Because of your accident, you have become more of what you were always destined to become.”

Mr. Bob sat in silence. There was so much to think about. Then Mr. Bob said, “This is a selfish question but it looms pretty big for me. I’m scared of my future. What about my future? My present physical problems are getting worse. Every day is a day with more and more pain the doctors cannot do anything about. I live alone. I have no children or anyone to look after me if I got really down and could not take care of myself. What is in my future?” With great compassion Rewtok said, “I am not permitted to get into your future. But you can always take care of your future by taking care of your present. Try not to worry. Try to remain full of hope. You have no idea how many lives you have touched. Keep at it. Keep going. God knows you and He is with you. I know you still pray a little every day. Try to pray a little more. God is listening and in spiritual ways He will bless you. I have to go now. After I leave, the Willow will start to fill up with the regular crowd. You don’t know it, but some of these people who come here had grandparents and parents whose lives you touched. A lot of these people will never see the light or know the light like you do. They are not the church-going type. Neither were their parents or grandparents. But you are a light to them. Your goodness, kindness, and compassion feed them to keep them going. They don’t know it on a conscious level, but for them, you are the kind of person they would like to be and the kind of person God wants them to be. I have to go back now. Thank you for your time.”

Mr. Bob and Rewtok stood up and shook hands. Rewtok walked out Portal 16 and the doorway immediately disappeared. Mr. Bob sat down and started to think about all the people he had known who came into Willow . Within a few minutes the crowd started coming in. Like always, Mr. Bob started shaking hands and telling them how good it was to see them. As always, he asked about their life. As always, he asked about their family, their job, and how things were going. As always, Mr. Bob spread the light in a dark place.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (KJV)

This story first appeared in November 2004, in the Virtual Church web site at http://www.findthepower.com

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018