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Previous Message From Virtual Church

The Bear

SuZee had everything. She had fame, fortune, and a rock singing career that had already made her a legend at the age of twenty-three. On the cover of Rolling Stone multiple times, every concert was sold out as soon as the concert date was announced. Her stage or performing life was like living in a dream world. While on stage, with tens of thousands of fans screaming “Suuu Zeeee, Suuu Zeeee, Suuu Zeeee”, she was totally removed from of anything normal people call reality. But when the show was over, when the lights went out, when it was just SuZee alone with herself, then the pain, torture, torment, and chaos began.

What people did not know about SuZee was in her past was a hateful mother who did not want her and a stepfather who repeatedly tried to molest her. She was not a popular person at school. To get away from the horrors at home, SuZee ran away from home at the age of 15, lied about her age to get a waitress job, and lived in flop houses and homeless shelters until she was 17. However, she knew she could sing. When she was in the sixth grade an elementary school teacher told her she had a rare gift for singing. At the age of seventeen, her first public singing appearance on a local talent night resulted in a standing ovation. Invited back the next night, she produced another standing O. Within three weeks the place was packed every night to hear her sing. Within three months she was signed to a recording contract with a mid-major label and scheduled for a regional tour. Once her work got air time on the FM dials, she was an instant hit.

However, there were those terrible private moments. There were those terrible moments of inner torment and anguish she could not dispel. To dispel the terrible darkness within her she turned to drugs, alcohol, and sex. Because of her singing style and stage presence, fans and critics called her the next Janice Joplin. With her private life spinning out of control, SuZee was headed for the same early death by drugs and burnout experienced by Janice.

When she couldn’t bear to be alone and the drugs and alcohol did not take away enough of the pain, SuZee would drive to a nearby fast food place with the golden arches and eat till she couldn’t eat any more. If anyone knew her there, no one bothered her. It was like she was a regular person doing regular things. It was in this place SuZee met the bag lady. The bag lady was not homeless or dirty. In fact, the bag lady appeared to be well off in financial terms. The bag lady was probably in her late 80’s and tottered from one table to the next saying hello and giving everyone a small gift from a shopping bag full of goodies. Every day was Christmas when the bag lady was in the restaurant. The gifts or prizes weren’t much. The bag lady usually gave away pieces of bubble gum, sports cards, or other small stuff young people tend to think is cool. Somehow it always seemed the bag lady was always in the fast food place when SuZee came in. No matter what time of the day or night it was, even late at night just before closing time, if SuZee was in the fast food place, so was the bag lady.

One evening, late at night, just before the crew behind the counter closed everything down, SuZee came in to grab a quick burger and fries. As SuZee sat down at one of the little tables near the far corner of restaurant, the bag lady moved over to SuZee’s table and asked, “Honey, may I sit down?” A little surprised that the bag lady wanted to sit down with her, SuZee replied, “Sure, have a seat.” The bag lady began, “Honey, I am not going to be coming in here ever again because I have to go back. I have a special gift for you. The gift is a treasure if you learn to treasure it. What you give to the gift and what you do with the gift will come back to you many times over. What you see in the gift will be seen by others through you and through your life. I know about your life. I know about the public life and I know about your terrible private life. This little gift will help you with your private life.” The bag lady reached into her shopping bag and pulled out the cutest, most adorable teddy bear ever created. The fur was coal black. The strands of the fur went every which direction. There were two little beady eyes, and very big fuzzy ears. The arms and legs were hinged and moved independently of one another. The belly protruded out as if the bear had just eaten twice as much as his belly could hold. The bear looked like one of the early teddy bears made back in the early 1900’s. For some reason, SuZee both laughed and cried when the bag lady handed the bear over to her. The bear was ragged looking but was also cute and loveable. When SuZee touched the teddy, some kind of magical and wonderful thing happened within her. The bag lady got up to leave and said to SuZee, “Remember that all things godly are the essence of love.” SuZee, choking back tears, said, “Thank you. I will keep the bear forever.” SuZee went to stand up to hug the bag lady and say goodbye but somehow the bag lady was gone. It was as if the bag lady had just vanished into thin air. However, the bear remained seated on the table looking as cute and cuddly as ever.

SuZee finished her last bit of fries, gathered up all the papers and wrappers, grabbed the bear, and headed out the door. As soon as SuZee grabbed the bear, that thing happened again. In fact, every time, SuZee grabbed the bear, that wonderful, mystical, magical, supernatural thing happened. It was if the bear had some kind of special power. For reasons SuZee could not explain, SuZee began to think about the bear all the time. Night and day, SuZee would think about the bear. Everywhere SuZee went, she took the bear with her. As long as she held the bear, everything was wonderful. When she put the bear down and was not holding it, after awhile everything went back to its terrible normal state. When she went on stage, she took the bear with her. Everywhere SuZee went, so went the bear. Fans went crazy over the teddy thing and a whole teddy bear revival trend emerged within the most unlikely group…hard rock fans. Every concert was a time of teddy bear mania. Every fan brought a teddy. Even the heavily tattooed skin heads who seem to be at every hard rock venue brought a teddy bear.

As a result of the teddy bear, SuZee’s life began to change. The pain, the torment, and the chaos were gone. SuZee no longer resorted to drugs, alcohol, and sex as diversions or escapes. Things also began to change in her music. SuZee didn’t feel the desire to sing the same kind of hard rock profanity lyrics with all the implied violence as in the past. As a result of the changes inside of her, she started singing softer more lyrical songs. When her new music began to be heard, CD sales declined, attendance at concerts dwindled, and the recording company execs called a meeting with her. A few days before the meeting, something also happened with the bear. What happened with the bear was the power was beginning to fade. Shortly, there was no power in or from the bear at all. SuZee was crushed. Crying fitfully for hours on end, SuZee started talking to the bear as if the bear was a person. SuZee pulled herself together enough to get to the meeting with the execs of the recording company but she cried through the whole meeting. The execs wanted SuZee to go back to the old ways. The execs wanted the same kind of hard rock profanity and violence in the music that had made them millions. SuZee was so distraught by the absence of the power from the teddy bear and the demands of the execs, she could make no response to the execs demands. SuZee rushed out of the meeting in an emotional shambles hugging the bear.

SuZee got home and collapsed on the couch. Sobbing uncontrollably, she squeezed the bear to her chest and begged the bear to come back. SuZee fell asleep for a short time and when she awoke she noticed the bear had what appeared to be a little dirty spot on the bear’s forehead between the eyes. SuZee said, “Wow, you got a dirty spot on your head. We are going to have to clean you up.” SuZee got up from the couch carrying the bear out to the kitchen. SuZee sat the bear down on the counter next to the sink and SuZee moistened a paper towel with some water and a small spot of dish detergent. SuZee took the bear and gently brushed the dirty spot on the bear’s head with the moistened paper towel. As she brushed, there was a tingle or tingling sensation in SuZee’s spine. The more SuZee brushed and tended to the bear, the more the tingling sensation turned into the old power the bear used to possess. Not fully realizing what was happening, SuZee finished cleaning away the dirty spot and then decided to gently brush the bear’s fur with a hair brush. As SuZee kept tending to the bear, and caring for the bear, more and more of the old power came back. In a flash like lightening, SuZee realized what she had done. In a flash, SuZee remembered what the bag lady had said about the bear being a treasure if she learned to treasure it. The bag lady said what SuZee would give the bear and what SuZee would do with the bear would come back many times over. In addition, what SuZee saw in the bear would be seen by others. Realizations began to pile up on top of each other for SuZee. SuZee began to realize that when she loved the bear, love came back. When she gave love away because of the bear, love came back. She realized her love for the bear was seen by others and was shown back in the love for other teddy bears by the fans. SuZee thought to herself, “Wow!!! That’s it! That is why the power went away. The power went away from the bear because I did not love. The power went away because I did not care about the bear, but only cared about myself and what I could get out of the bear.” SuZee also began to understand about the essence of all things godly and about all things godly being the essence of love.

From that moment on, things changed in SuZee’s life. Her record label dropped her when she refused to go back to the profane hard rock format. Her old fans drifted away from her new music. SuZee made friends with senior citizens at a local assisted living center who helped her make teddy bears for sick children. The essence of love SuZee found in the bear got passed on to children at a local children’s hospital. SuZee still sang but her songs changed and most of the time her singing was done to uplift and inspire others at local events rather than for all the old reasons she sang before the bear came into her life.

One day, SuZee met a fifteen-year-old girl in the hospital who had been in a tragic accident. Baring some kind of miracle from God, the girl would be confined to a wheel chair for life. The girl was extremely depressed and felt quite hopeless. SuZee visited the girl and tried to encourage her. SuZee showed the girl the bear and told the girl about the power of love that comes from the bear. SuZee explained the bear was SuZee’s whole life. At this, the girl in the hospital bed broke into tears and exclaimed, “That is nice, but me, I do not have a life any more!” SuZee was deeply touched and held the girls hand and asked God what she should do. The silence in the room was deafening. For reasons known only to God and to SuZee, SuZee gave the bear away to the girl so badly injured in the accident. SuZee had given away her whole life to a fifteen-year-old girl she did not know. As SuZee walked out of the hospital that day, she expected the power from the bear to disappear, but SuZee thought she could handle the absence of the power by loving others more. However, SuZee was full of doubt and dread about what the future would hold. Would giving away the bear to someone else be enough to keep the power of love alive? Would giving away the bear to someone else carry a penalty for SuZee that SuZee could not withstand? In fear and dread, SuZee opened her car door to drive home. As SuZee slid into the driver’s seat of her car, she noticed a box sitting in the passenger seat next to her. SuZee gently opened the box and found inside…two teddy bears. Not exactly the same size, shape, or color as the first bear but bears nonetheless, and there was that love thing with them, just like the first bear. It seemed the bag lady was right, what you give away comes back to you many times over.

Eventually SuZee gave these bears away too. Although teddy bears never appeared again like these last two bears, the power of love from the bears never left SuZee or SuZee’s life. What SuZee gave away came back to SuZee many, many times over in the days and years ahead. SuZee learned the essence of all things godly is love. SuZee also learned the essence of all things godly is giving love away.

John 13:1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. (NIV)

John 13:34  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV)

John 14:15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (NIV)

John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." 22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" 23 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (NIV)

This story appeared as the May, 2004, Virtual Church message in Shepherd's Care Ministries virtual church 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