Jenna! This is so much nicer than Mom’s set!
I grew up in the age of flannel-graph. For those who didn’t (i.e. anyone born after 1980), I will try to explain the innovative wonder. The flannel-graph consisted of a large board covered with flannel that usually stood on an easel. It was used with paper characters that also had a flannel backing which enabled them to stick to the flannel board. Can you picture it? It really was a modern day marvel of the 60’s and 70’s, and it was used religiously in my Sunday School class (see what I did there?) to tell Bible stories. To this day, when I recall classic Bible stories, I can picture those paper characters on the board.
The memories are making me smile even as I type this. You see, my mom was a Sunday School teacher and…drum-roll please…she owned her very own flannel-graph board and collection of stories! My sister, Jenna, and I would take turns playing the teacher or the student. (Jenna would say that I got to take a few more turns being the teacher than she did!) And in our many hours of playing with the flannel-graph, we encountered a couple of challenges…
* All of the characters looked alike! The flannel-graph artist apparently had a very low budget or a very low repertoire. If you were to mix up the characters during your play, you were in a heap of trouble. Because David looked a lot like Daniel who also looked a lot like Joseph. They just had different colored robes and sashes. At times, you were even instructed to use the same character to play different people!
* But that wasn’t the worst part – The set only came with one glowing angel and a few versions of Jesus (one kneeling/one standing/one holding all of the kids on his lap). This was a true flaw in the system because (believe it or not) angels and Jesus are in a lot of stories! Just by their sheer usage, these characters became wrinkled and worn out. Eventually, my mom insisted that we use other characters to play the glowing angel and Jesus. In those days, there was no getting online to order replacement parts!
But I digress…. This morning, I was thinking about that one glowing angel. In the Bible, the book of Daniel tells the account of, (you guessed it!), Daniel – a young man who was captured in Israel and taken as a slave to the country of Babylon. Because of his intelligence and good looks, he was given a position in the palace as a counselor to King Nebuchadnezzar.
Not surprisingly, this resulted in jealousy and resentment from the other resident counselors. Eventually, after Daniel had been promoted to a top position within the empire, they conspired together and came up with a plan to have Daniel executed. They presented the king with the idea that if a person should ask anyone for favor except the king, they should be thrown into the lion’s den. They knew that Daniel would not stop praying to his God, and they intended to use it for his demise. These people were not messing around! The Bible tells us that the king, not realizing that his counselors were targeting Daniel, agreed to the plan. And within a few days, Daniel was indeed thrown into the lion’s den. This is what the Bible tells us happened:
A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring, and that of his government, so that no one could rescue Daniel from the lions. Then the king returned to his palace and went to bed without dinner. He refused his usual entertainment and didn’t sleep all night. Very early the next morning he hurried out to the lions’ den and called out in anguish, “O Daniel, servant of the Living God, was your God, who you worship continually, able to deliver you from the lions?” Then he heard a voice! “Your Majesty, live forever!” It was Daniel! My God has sent an angel,” he said, “to shut the lions’ mouths so that they can’t touch me; for I am innocent before God, nor, sir, have I wronged you. The King was beside himself with joy and ordered Daniel lifted from the den. And not a scratch was found on him; because he believed in his God. Daniel 6:17-23
And I can still picture that glowing angel being placed on the board as the lions moved from ferocious, wild beasts to domesticated cats lying all about the floor of the den as Daniel knelt there praying. I highly recommend that you read the entire story!
In the flannel-graph world, sometimes the glowing angel represented an angel sent by God. At other times, it represented God Himself coming into the story. But, in the end, it didn’t matter. Because this is the earth-shaking, mind-blowing, life-altering message of the Bible:
Wherever we are, and whatever we are doing
Our God is always with us.
Look at these remarkable promises:
“Be strong! Be courageous! Don’t be afraid, for the Lord will go before you and will be with you; He will not fail nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:8
“I will not abandon you or fail to help you. Be strong and brave.” Joshua 1:5-6
“For God has said, ‘I will never, never fail you nor forsake you.’ That is why we can say without any doubt or fear, ‘The Lord is my Helper and I am not afraid of anything that mere man can do to me.’” Hebrews 13:5
As I was choosing which promises I wanted to include, it made me tear up how many times this promise was stated in the Bible. I once read that the promise of God’s presence and protection is found in the Bible 365 times – one promise for every day of the year. Our Heavenly Father longs for us to remember that He is always with us. And He knew how easy it would be for us to forget in this lifetime. So, as we go about our day today, what if we pictured Him in every room? In every circumstance? Because that is the reality! The Almighty God of the universe goes with us always. He will never leave us or turn His back on us. If our lives are ever put into flannel-graph form, a glowing angel would come with every story ( : . Let’s move today with that confidence and peace.