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              From chapter 14 of
            Summer Dreams


“I HAVE SOMETHING FOR EACH of you—just a little token that will help you remember in days to come what I will tell you today. But first, since I see each of you has a Bible, let’s read a Scripture, shall we?”
      Summer picked up a Bible Brady had left on the podium and flipped it open. “I’ll be reading several verses, and as I read, I’d like you to listen for the theme that ties them all together. Let’s start with Jeremiah 1:5.”
      The kids fumbled with their Bibles, some of them more than others. Not a single teen appeared familiar with the Word of God. Logan’s heart ached for them. Had they been raised with the Bible at their fingertips, how different might their lives have been?
      Summer’s voice rose above the rustle of turning pages.
      “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.’ Take a moment to consider what that means—how long God has known you. While you’re thinking, I’ll find Psalm 139 and read verses thirteen through sixteen.”
      Logan glanced at the Bible someone had left on a table beside him. English Standard Version. That’s why the words seemed a little different from his preferred King James Version. Probably a good thing, though. The kids were far more likely to understand the simpler, more modern terminology.
      Of all the people in the large room, only he seemed capable of tearing his gaze away from Summer. He studied the small group, mystified and amazed. Summer’s sweet voice flowed over his senses as she read.“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
      Summer looked up and out at the teens. “As we’re reading these scriptures, I’d like each of you to take them very, very personally. Apply them to yourself, because that’s who they’re talking about.” She smiled at a young man on the front row of chairs. “What’s your name?”
      The kid blinked as if he’d just awakened. Um…uh...Joseph. I mean, uh, Joey. My name’s Joey.”
      A wave of amused laughter followed the kid’s stumbling response, but it died away as soon as Summer spoke again.
      “Well, Joey, let me read a portion of this scripture again, OK?” She returned her gaze to the Bible and read again. “For you formed Joey’s inward parts; you knitted Joey together in his mother's womb.” She looked up. “That’s how I want each of you to look at these verses—as if they’re written about you individually. Because, as hard as it may be for you to believe right now, they really are. OK, let’s move on to Isaiah 43: 4.”
      She read verse after verse, all about how much God loves His people, how precious they are in His sight. With every verse, she became more confident.
      Love and admiration swelled Logan’s heart near to bursting. Every time he thought he loved Summer as much as anyone could possibly love another, she did something that made him love her more.
      After reading half a dozen or so verses, she laid the Bible aside.
      “So…can anyone tell me what central theme ran through all of the scriptures we just read?”
      At first, everyone seemed hesitant to answer, but then a girl in the middle row raised a tentative hand, and Summer nodded.
      “Love? That God loves us?”
      “Absolutely. You got it. Great job. But if you look at these verses closely, you’ll begin to see that God doesn’t just love us. We are His pride and joy, His crowning achievement. The apple of His eye—remember the verse in Zechariah? Hey, listen to this, guys—we are the cherry on top of God’s hot fudge sundae.”
      Another wave of laughter warmed the room, and Logan grinned at the visual of God seated on a huge golden throne eating a supreme hot fudge sundae with a silver spoon.
      “No One else has known you—you, Joey—since before you were even conceived. No One else loves you enough to keep count of the hairs on your head. No One else cares about you enough to die so you can be saved. No One but Jesus Christ, and He loves you unconditionally. Just as you are, forever and always.”
      Summer met Logan’s gaze. “Logan, would you mind passing out those little tokens I brought along? Kids, do me a favor, please, and don’t turn them over until I give the word.”
      He pulled the box of items from beneath his chair and distributed them upside down amongst the kids just as Summer had instructed, so that only the sparkle of fake jewels was visible.
      When he stood in front of the girl who sat apart from the others, she barely looked up. A shadow of something heartbreaking crossed her face as she reluctantly accepted the gift he offered. Fear? Terror? Revulsion? Whatever it was, Logan’s stomach curdled as he wondered what the kid had endured to make her fear even the slightest contact.
      He nodded to Summer, letting her know everyone had their token.
      She stepped out from behind the podium and walked slowly to the rows of chairs, meeting the gaze of each teen in the room. “In just a moment, I’ll show you what God finds beautiful. What He loves more than all the riches in this world and beyond. The one thing that makes the heart of the King of Kings beat faster. You’ll see, right here, right now, what it is that God values most of all.” She stopped beside the girl at the fireplace. “What’s your name, sweetie?”
      The teen lowered her eyelashes, and her pale face went even whiter.
      Summer knelt next to her. “Just tell me. You don’t have to speak to everyone.”
      Slowly, the kid lifted her gaze and met Summer’s. A tiny smile teased at the corners of her lips. “Reta,” she said. “With an e.”
      “I love it and especially with an e.” Summer rose and pointed to the item clutched in the girl’s bony fingers. “Well, Reta…are you ready to see what’s on the other side?”
      The girl nodded.
      Summer turned to the rest of the group. “You guys ready too?”
      Everyone nodded.
      “Well, OK. I know you’re a pretty smart group, and you probably already know what you’re holding, but play along anyway, all right?” She grinned when a titter of laughter arose. “I see you rolling your eyes, but that’s OK, because it doesn’t change the truth of this little object lesson in the least. I’m here today because God wanted me to tell you—all of you, and each of you individually—how beautiful you are to Him. He wanted me to tell you a secret. Are you ready to hear it?”
      The kids all nodded.
      Logan got the feeling they weren’t paying dutiful respect because Brady had asked them to. They genuinely wanted to hear what the pretty lady up front was telling them.
      “Good. Here it is.” She pulled in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You are God’s favorite.”
      A moment of silence followed her dramatically delivered statement.
      Finally, a small, hesitant voice piped up without first having raised a hand, but no one seemed to mind.
      The hope in the girl’s voice sent a lance of pain through Logan’s heart. The kid so clearly wanted the answer to be, “Why, you, of course.”
      Summer fixed her gaze on the girl, and her lips curved into the most gorgeous smile Logan had ever seen in his entire life.
      “Why, you, of course. You are God’s very favorite.” She then pointed to the girl next to that one. “And you.” She went around the room, one at a time, pointing at each and every teen in attendance. “And you. And you. And you.”
      When she’d told every single young person that they were God’s favorite, she returned to the front of the room. “Now, about that little thing you’re holding. Pretty, isn’t it?”
      There were nods and murmurs of agreement.
      She continued. “I agree. It’s pretty. But it’s only sparkle and shine.”
      Logan grinned. Yep, she was doing just what he’d thought she was.
      “It’s cheap, fake bling. It means nothing, and serves no purpose other than an aesthetic one. Just surface stuff that really doesn’t matter, you know?” She smiled. “Now, I’ll show you what does matter. On the count of three, I’d like each of you to turn over your little object and lift it up in front of your face. One…two…three.”
      All the teens lifted their mirrors and looked into them.
      Summer turned to one of the young men. “What do you see?”
      He shrugged. “Me. It’s a mirror.”
      “Oh, no…it’s so much more than that.” She tilted her head, studying the young man’s face. “What’s your name?”
      “Well, Kyle, you listen up, OK?” She looked around the group, pulling each of them into her gaze.
      “Look again, everyone. Let me tell you what you’re looking at.”
      Logan tried to grin, but he had to do it through blurry eyes when she began reciting the truth her mother had instilled in her so long ago, almost word for word as she’d related it to Logan.
      “The person in that mirror is a child of God! A prince or a princess—the much-loved child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The reflection you’re looking at is the perfect, cherished heir of Jesus Christ. No matter what happens to you in this life, or what others might say to or about you…never ever forget who you are. You are loved. You are royalty. You are God’s beautiful, chosen child!” Tears streamed down her face.
      Logan discovered they had overflowed and dampened his own cheeks, as well. A quick glimpse at Brady and Raine showed him two more tear-streaked faces.
      “That’s what God sent me here to tell you today. He made a special effort to get a shy writer who never speaks in public to come here and bring you a message directly from Him. You are his very favorite child. That means you, Joey. And you, Reta. Kyle, you too. Everyone in this room today is God’s special, chosen, ultimately loved, and favorite child!” She brushed at her eyes with the back of her hand.
      Several teens were swiping at moisture on their cheeks too.
      “Thank you—all of you—for being so respectful and attentive. You’re great kids, and I’ve enjoyed your company. But this is just one day in your life, and I’m just a lady who walked in off the street and took up a few minutes of your time. You’ll forget all about me someday, and that’s all right. Just please…please, don’t forget the love letter God sent just for you today. You’re special. You’re beautiful to the Creator of the Universe. You’re His favorite, chosen child, and He loves you more than anyone else ever could. He loves each of you the very most.” She started to walk away, and then turned back again. “For the rest of the day, and maybe the rest of your lives, I hope you’ll think of yourself as the cherry on top of God’s hot fudge sundae.” She searched the room, found Brady, and gave him a little nod.
      Logan met her halfway across the room and pulled her into his arms. He ached to kiss her, but they had an audience of teens, so he whispered into her ear instead. “You were fantastic, honey. Spellbinding. Beautiful.” He stepped back and looked into her eyes. “I feel a little like God right now.”
      She laughed. “Like God?”
      “Well, yeah. I know He loves you most, but you’re the cherry on top of my hot fudge sundae too.”

If you enjoyed this excerpt,
come along to Paradise Pines ,
and enjoy the entire series!
Spring Raine (Book 1)
Summer Dreams (Book 2)
Autumn Falls (Book 3)
Winter Wonders (Book 4)

Dear Reader:

I pray this excerpt touched you in a special way. I hope you’ll take it to heart and remember that, no matter how hard the circumstances of your life, God holds you in His hand. He has a plan for you. You are indeed His child—his favorite, adored child. You’re royalty, and God loves you with an everlasting, never-ending, eternal love!
Talk to him when you’re lonely…when you’re hurting…when you’re feeling used and abused and worthless. You are NOT worthless…you’re valued and treasured by God Himself! Turn to Him in your dark hour. Trust Him to take care of you. Believe that He loves you and holds you close to His heart. Call on Him for comfort, for guidance, for strength.
He’ll be there, because you really are His favorite, chosen, ultimately loved and treasured child.

Love in Christ,

Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your
God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you
with my victorious right hand.
~Isaiah 41:10 (NAB

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