There was a post come from the Celestial City, with matter of great importance . . . .
A one time copy center manager, he’d been asked by a neighbor to print invitations to a special, multi-decades-marking natal celebration. “Why not?” he thought. “Just 25 color prints. A small favor, really.” Plus, it would give him the opportunity to kick the tires on his newly installed high quality Oce’ C6550 color multi-functional printer with EFI external raster image processor on high quality 24#, 92-white, letter-size stock. The celebrant was affectionately even if mischievously called “Judy” by her family and closer friends. Apparently she was a Wizard of Oz devotee’ and happened to share a birthday with its star, an iconic and somewhat more celebrated Judy.
The invitation layout was made up of four panels, each a quarter page, containing necessary date, time, location, directions, and RSVP instructions. Two quarter panels were printed on each side, along vertically opposite short edges. The printed pages were then folded in half short-wise and in half again long-wise. Voila! Invitations ready to send. The prominent panel featured a gleaming pair of ruby slippers – a movie moment frozen in time just nanoseconds before a heel click would beam their wearer, Dorothy (and Toto, too) safely back home to Kansas sod.
Well, “Judy” – so called – was a friend of his.
“Judy’s” given name was Grace. In time, she would succumb to the weakening effects of age and infirmity, as we all have, or will. In her final days, he was kept apprised of her condition by her daughter, Bonnie. You see, it was Bonnie twelve years earlier who asked if he would print the special multi-decades-marking natal celebration invitations on the high quality Oce’ C6550 color multi-functional printer with EFI external raster image processor on high quality 24#, 92-white, letter-size stock. And that favor granted sparked his friendship with “Judy.” Through the years, “Judy” would come to visit Bonnie and her family seasonally. And on those occasions he and “Judy” would catch up – usually just 10-15 minutes after church. Each would cheer the other with his and her rapier-sharp humor and wit, general updates, and tales drawn from life experiences and from places lived or visited. She had traveled extensively. He not so much. But he had spent a few years in Kansas. Each would encourage the other in his and her peculiar circumstances.
Still more years passed. He, too, began to feel and be limited by the effects of age, infirmity and the aftermath of one or two poor bicycle steering decisions. The news of “Judy’s” passing came sadly, even if not surprisingly, and was a reminder of the sure comfort they both possessed, and about which they had spoken. His comfort firmly held, had not yet been fulfilled. Hers having been fulfilled, was no less firmly held. They both knew neither was ever truly their own. You see, both belonged, body and soul, both in life and in death, to their faithful Saviour Jesus Christ who had fully paid for all their sins with His precious blood, setting them free from all the power of the devil, and preserving them in such a way that without the will of the heavenly Father not a hair could fall from their heads. Indeed, all things – whether wasting illness or the aftermath of one or two poor bicycle steering decisions – would unfailingly work together for their salvation. They both therefore, by His Holy Spirit were assured of eternal life and had been made heartily willing and able to live, and ready to die, for Him.
How fitting “Judy’s” real name had proven. Grace. A trophy of God’s grace, she gracefully and fearlessly awaited death. Death wielded in feigned absoluteness by the great adversary, the king of terrors, the accuser now defeated. Death, now vanquished and stingless. Dominator turned doorway. Earth-suit failing, her final earth-days would be marked by visits from dear ones and friends, near ones and far ones. Some visiting “Judy” those days sat near her bedside and tuned their voices for heaven, turning them heavenward, singing glorious hymns gloriously – anthems to send her on. And as their ringing voices rang more faintly, she slept and slipped from this life to the next, shedding her earth-suit’s surly shell to don luminescent robes of righteousness given her by the Redeemer, treading streets of gold amongst the great host of heaven.
It was only a few days earlier that his lovely and heroic wife reminded him of John Bunyan’s Christiana:
There was a post come from the Celestial City, with matter of great importance to one Christiana . . . . So inquiry was made for her, and the house was found out where she was. So the post presented her with a letter. The contents were, “Hail, good woman; I bring thee tidings that the Master calleth for thee, and expecteth that thou should’st stand in his presence, in clothes of immortality within these ten days.” When he had read this letter to her, he gave her therewith a sure token that he was a true messenger, and was come to bid her make haste to be gone. The token was, an arrow with a point sharpened with love, let easily into her heart, which by degrees wrought so effectually with her, that at the time appointed she must be gone.
Now the day drew on that Christiana must be gone. So the road was full of people to see her take her journey. But, behold, all the banks beyond the river were full of horses and chariots, which were come down from above to accompany her to the city gate. She came forth, and entered the river, with a beckon of farewell to those that followed her. The last words that she was heard to say were, “I come, Lord, to be with thee, and to bless thee!” So she went and called, and entered in at the gate with . . . ceremonies of joy . . . .
Those cinematic ruby slippers were an amusing but fitting symbol. Recalling her rapier-sharp humor and wit, he knew she would have thought so, too. Equipped from faith’s armory, as shoes for her feet, she had put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. As our iconic and somewhat more celebrated real Judy’s ruby shod Dorothy was spell bound and safely whisked back to Kansas sod, so Christ’s blood red atonement has covered and made sure the feet of pilgrims bound for their heavenly homes. He chuckled, knowing “Judy” would also have quickly pointed out the importance of a string of pearls and a matching purse.
He would see her again – on Kansas sod, perhaps. Yes, Judy was a friend of his.