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Movie Night in Heaven

 Shortly after I arrived in heaven, my earthly father met me. His face radiated vitality and his spirit exuded renewal. When he slipped away from earth, his body was emaciated, his skin transparent. He’d lost both legs to diabetes along with his will to live. His new body was radically different than his old. It reminded me of a picture of him in the military. Smiling from ear to ear, body fit, face tanned, the look of a bright future in his eyes.

His new legs were strong and ready to serve.

I sat next to him on along with my mother on my first movie night.

“Pass the popcorn, Sister. I love the cheese.” He did that lop-sided grin that always made me smile. I did.

“So what goes on here?” We sat in a stadium that would make any earthly arena seem like a backyard garage. Hundreds of thousands from every tribe and nation sat on seats that stretched as far as I could see. The seats all faced a screen that was round, suspended in mid-air. Shiny and bright.

“It’s movie night.” Dad said through two handfuls of cheese popcorn in his mouth and continued. “The ending is always the same.”

Grabbing a handful of the popcorn I asked, “Doesn’t that get boring?”

He stopped chewing and gawked at me. “Are you crazy? It’s the greatest story ever told! You’ll see.” Mom nodded from his other side. He continued chewing. “The story begins with one redeemed life.”

“That sounds amazing! Whose life are we going to see tonight?”

My daddy looked at me like the young man in the military uniform, “Mine.”

Drunk at the Drum

The scene opened with a man staggering down a dock crowded with men dressed in navy uniforms. Every once in a while, he’d fall to one side, hit a fellow sailor, mumble something, and continue on his way. Then he stopped, swayed and stared. At that point, I realized it was the younger version of my father.

My eyes moved in the direction of his stare and noticed about eight ladies dressed in what I recognized to be Salvation Army uniforms with black bonnets tied securely on their heads. They stood in a circle on the docks, a bass drum resting on the ground in front of them. A few soldiers stood and listened, some jeered, but most passed them without a glance, eager to meet their loved ones or find some sort of entertainment in the area.

One of the ladies shouted to the unruly crowd, “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?”

I saw tears in my young father’s eyes as he made his way unsteadily through the crowd and collapsed at the drum. “Lord, save me! Save me!” he wailed as the ladies surrounded him and began to pray. I heard cheers and bursts of Hallelujahs and Amens from those seated around me in the stadium.

The scene quickly changed to a stage. My parents—young and eager—marched across it as a voice bellowed, “Lieutenant and Mrs. Ramon Wert, you have been assigned to be the Corp Officers in charge of The Salvation Army in LaPorte, Indiana!” They saluted, grinning from ear to ear as they marched off. The praises became almost deafening as I tried to make sense of the next screen.

A mobile home stood in the center. Plastic trucks and rusty trikes littered the yard. Two red-headed boys hid behind the porch, wide-eyed, staring up at a red-headed man with tattoos etched on his arms. “Get off my property! I told you not to come back! If you do, I’m going to kill you! Leave my family alone!” He almost spat at my young father in his army uniform.

Dad smiled, “I’ll be back!” He stated cheerfully as he got into the 1950’s black sedan.

The red-haired man appeared again, this time in a church building, kneeling at an altar next to his blond wife. Four young boys looked on, not with fear, but with wonder, as my dad knelt next to the couple, one hand raised toward heaven, the other clutching his Bible which rested on the man’s shoulder.

“Do you believe that Jesus paid for your sins, lived a perfect life on earth, died a horrific death on the cross, and rose again?” Dad paused, “Do you trust in Christ alone for your salvation?” The man nodded and the scene faded.

The arena erupted again. Some stood on chairs, some stomped their feet on the floor. A black-haired Asian woman next to me yelled, “More! More! More!”

And then I saw us. Dad and I stood outside of their mobile home off of a busy street in Clearwater, Florida. Tampa Bay flowed in the background of their tiny yard. Birds swooped around us as dad fed them scraps of bread.

I’d been crying. “I just don’t know what to do! Mom is so sick and in so much pain!” I wiped my nose on my t-shirt. “I’m afraid.”

Dad set his bread on the plastic lawn chair, put his arm around me and looked me straight in the eyes. “This is where your faith comes in, Pauline. You need to learn to trust the Lord.” Later, the movie showed my mom smiling at her husband, coming home from the hospital.

The final scene took place in the nursing home. Dad’s chest rose slowly up and down. Finally, it stopped. I took his hand while above me angels descended beckoning my daddy to follow them. While I cried, his soul-body left this earth smiling broadly as he touched my face.

Then he was gone.

I heard a cry, faint at first, growing louder and louder, like maybe the sound of Niagara Falls but intensified. Colors filled the stadium as the thunder increased. Instinctively, we fell to our knees.

“Ray Wert,” the voice bellowed. “Stand before me!” Out of the corner of my eye, for I could not bear to look up, my father stood. “You were once my enemy, now you are my friend. You were doomed, now you are redeemed.”

Thunder clapped—through eyes clenched shut in awesome fear, that blinding light almost burned them. “By my wounds you were healed! Well done, Ray Wert, my good and faithful servant.”

“Arise my brother, arise all of you, for The Lamb has been slain, and we rejoice together!”