Everyone Is Welcome—Except …

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Trevor Paul Monroe looked up from the silverware drawer as Mom said to her kitchenful of boys, “Hurry up, guys, Dad will be home any minute. We need to have supper on the table when he gets here because he has to go right out again after we eat. He has a meeting at church tonight.”

“Dad’s going to be amazed at my fantastic cornbread!” Brad announced with pride as he pulled open the oven door.

Hot air rushed out into the room. It warmed Trevor’s face as he walked past, his hands full of silverware.

“Dad is going to be even more amazed at my delicious baked beans!” Ben said. He shoved his hands into two oven mitts and slowly lifted a round brown pot with a lid up to the stove top. Then he yanked off the mitts and tossed them to his brother.

Brad reached for the big rectangular pan of cornbread and set it on top of the stove beside the beans.

Trevor sniffed happily as he carefully placed the knives, forks, and spoons in their proper places on the dining room table. Cornbread and baked beans. He loved cornbread and baked beans! And Mom had said that next week she would let him help her make cornbread. Trevor grinned to himself. He was sure his cornbread would make his brothers sit up and take notice! It would be perfect!

Mom put a bowl of cold, crispy cole slaw in the middle of the table. “Don’t forget the butter,” she said, ruffling Trevor’s hair. “And the serving spoons.”

Brad whizzed into the dining room carrying the pan of cornbread. “Can I cut it?” he asked.

“Of course,” Mom answered with a smile. “You made it. You can serve it!”

“I want a big fat piece out of the middle,” Ben called from the kitchen.

“Yeah! Right!” Brad answered, making very straight and equal cuts across the pan.

The door from the garage opened, and Dad stepped into the kitchen. “Sure smells good in here!” he commented, kissing Mom on the cheek.

“It’s my cornbread!” Brad shouted over his shoulder.

“It’s my baked beans!” his twin brother retorted.

“It’s a good thing I’m hungry tonight!” Dad replied laughing.

“Wash up,” Mom said. “We’re all ready to eat.”

Soon the family was gathered around the table. Dad told the Lord they were thankful for the food He had provided and asked Him to bless it. “Amen,” the five of them said together.

Dad picked up Trevor’s plate and dished up two big spoonfuls of the dark, syrupy baked beans. Then Mom added a good serving of cole slaw.

“I want a corner piece,” Trevor said as Mom passed his plate on to Brad.

Brad grinned at his little brother. He studied the pan of golden cornbread, deciding which was the biggest corner piece. He lifted it out and set it on Trevor’s plate.

“Guess who was in my office today,” Dad said, dishing up beans for Ben. “You’ll never guess,” he went on. “Peter Shaffer.”

“I thought he was in jail,” Mom said in surprise.

“No,” Dad said. “He got out last week. He served his time. He has some dental work that needs to be taken care of, so he came by the office today to make an appointment.”

“How is he?” Mom asked. “He was always such a tough-looking man. He probably looks even tougher now.”

“That’s the good part,” Dad said, smiling. “He didn’t look tough at all. He looked happy. He told me he came to know Jesus while he was in jail. And I invited him to come worship with us at church this weekend.”

“You invited a criminal to church?” Trevor squeaked, his eyes wide.

“You don’t call him a criminal!” Brad scoffed. “You call him an ex-con. That’s what you call someone who’s been in prison.”

“Is it OK to invite ex-cons to church?” Ben asked with a frown. “What will Pastor Chuck say?”

“I’m sure he’ll say, ‘It’s good to see you, brother! God bless you!’” Dad answered in surprise. He eyed his boys. “You surely don’t think that a person who has been in jail shouldn’t come to church, do you?”

Ben squirmed. “I guess not. But it just seems kind of weird.”

“I see,” Dad said, putting down the serving spoon. “I guess we need to add something to the welcome sign in front of the church. It really needs to say, ‘Welcome to everybody—except ex-cons.’ “

“Maybe the sign should say, ‘Welcome to everybody—except Canadians,’” Mom suggested. “Or ‘Welcome to everybody—except women in fur coats.’”

Dad raised his eyebrows. “Or maybe, ‘Welcome to everybody—except one-legged blondes.’”

“That’s silly!” Trevor sputtered.

“So what do you think the sign should say?” Dad asked.

There was silence around the table. Then, “I guess it should say, ‘Welcome, Everybody!’” Brad answered softly.

Dad sighed. “Well, I’m glad we got that cleared up!” he said. “Never forget that God wants everyone we meet to be a part of His family. That’s the Good News!” He grinned. “Now, Brad, may I try a piece of your cornbread? I want to see if your recipe is anywhere near as good as mine.”

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