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Slug: The Reluctant Butterfly

Book By: SteveCopland
Childrens stories



Slug wants to fly, but the idea of being 'born again' as a butterfly frightens him. Like many other caterpillars, he wants to live his way. He is deceived into going to the center of the tree where disobedient caterpillars indulge in worldly activities.

Grunt, a crow, is flying with a gang. He wants to be accepted and look cool. The gang hunt foolish caterpillars who leave the safety of their leaves and go to the center of the tree. Grunt meets Grace who teaches him the gospel and leads him to forgiveness.

Slug eventually learns to trust and obey and is born again as a butterfly.

This book teaches children to grasp and accept that God has a special purpose for every life, and true happiness is found in living His plan.


Submitted:Feb 18, 2013    Reads: 43    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


Slug

The Reluctant Butterfly

Slug: The Reluctant Butterfly

Published by Steve Copland at Smashwords

Copyright 2011 by Steve Copland

All rights reserved solely by the author. The author guarantees all contents are original and do not infringe upon the legal rights of any other person or work. This book may be copied in full and used for the gospel of Christ in any form without the author's permission.

Chapter One

It was a warm sunny day when Slug was born. His mother laid her eggs on the end of a long branch in a tree with lots of tasty leaves. She chose a large green leaf near the end of the branch, because she knew that the branch would move in the breeze, and the birds don't like sitting on branches that move.

Slug's mother was very beautiful. She had big black eyes, a kind gentle face, and four wings covered in bright colors. She was not very old for a butterfly and Slug was the first egg she had ever laid. When she had finished laying her eggs, she flew a short distance to a field and found her husband drinking from a large blue flower. He had been waiting for her to return. She glided down to the flower, took a drink, and looked at her husband.

"Did you find a good place for our children?" he asked her, his long fingers stroking her face.

"The Creator led me to that big tree on the edge of the field," she said pointing to the place.

"He knows best, as long as we always listen to His voice we will make the right choices", he answered. "Come, let's stretch our wings and check on the eggs when the sun goes down".

High in the branches of a nearby tree were a flock of crows. Their black feathers shone in the sun as they sat chatting together about the day. Their leader, a rather nasty crow called Silk, was bragging about how he had stolen a golden necklace a little girl had left sitting on a seat, a necklace her mother had given her for her birthday.

"The silly girl just left it there so I swooped down and took it before she remembered and came running back to find it," Silk said with an evil glint in his dark eyes.

"Where is it now?" one of the smaller crows asked.

Silk turned his head towards the speaker and stared at him.

"It is in my nest, Grunt. Were you thinking to take it for yourself?"

"No, no, I would never do such a thing Silk," replied Grunt, too afraid to look straight into those cruel eyes.

Silk turned away, and without saying goodbye to anyone, leaped from the branch and left for his nest to check on his prize. A crow called Faze hopped along the branch to where Grunt was sitting.

"Why do stay with this gang, Grunt?" he asked. "Maybe you should go and live with those other crows who eat fruit and berries, those good little birds that never do anything bad."

Grunt didn't answer for a while, he was thinking. He often wondered why he stayed with this bunch of bad guys. It made him feel tough and strong, even though deep inside he knew that he should leave them. When Grunt was young he was taught to listen to the Voice inside him, the voice of the Creator. But when he had seen Silk speeding through the air, his sharp beak holding a wriggling caterpillar, and all those crows following him, thinking he was so tough and cool, Grunt decided that being cool was more important than listening to the Voice.

"The eggs will be hatching soon, Grunt. Just think, all those fat delicious caterpillars crawling onto the thick branches, just waiting to be eaten," Faze said, his small tongue sliding along his beak.

To tell the truth, Grunt didn't really like caterpillars. They were furry, prickly, and hard to swallow. The first and only one he tried, he felt like he was doing something really wrong. It wasn't just the strange taste; it was this bad feeling inside, like he was doing an evil thing. The Voice in his head had told him to stop, but all of the gang were watching him, daring him to do it. He didn't want to look like a coward or an idiot, so he grabbed that fat caterpillar and gulped it down, and then, after coughing for a while, he tried to pretend he really liked it. He hoped that the gang would think he was cool like them, but he didn't feel cool, he felt like he had done a very bad thing, he had stopped a caterpillar from ever becoming a butterfly.

"Grunt!" Faze shouted in his ear. "Did you fall asleep?"

"No, no, I was just thinking about how I can't wait for the eggs to hatch," he lied.

"We'll have a feast, Grunt, and next year there will be less of those fluttery butterflies flying about. I hate butterflies," Faze said, his black eyes staring out into the field of flowers.

Grunt stared out into the field and saw the butterflies gliding from flower to flower. It was hard to believe that a caterpillar could become something so beautiful.

"I hate them too," he lied, trying to look tough and angry.

"Just a few more days, Grunt," Faze said, "just a few more days and we can eat all those caterpillars that crawl onto the thick branches." He turned his face towards Grunt and then, trying to sound wise, he said. "It is natural for us to eat them. We were made this way, it is nature Grunt."

Grunt thought about that for a moment. He had heard stories about the first crows that were created in paradise, in some perfect garden. He couldn't remember its name, but he thought it started with 'e'. He was told that the first crows and all the birds ate fruit and berries, but after the humans did an evil thing, the world had changed. Perhaps it was true, he thought, or perhaps it was just an old story.

Faze pecked his wing. "Come on, Grunt; let's go take a look at Silk's new necklace. He is such a great thief. He enjoys showing off his stolen stuff."

Faze spread his wings and stepped of the branch. Grunt followed, and as he flew he tried to remember the name of that perfect garden. Was it 'Even', or 'Eastern'. And then he remembered. 'Eden', the 'Garden of Eden'. Just thinking about it gave him a warm feeling inside, but he quickly tried to push that feeling out of his head. He didn't want to arrive at Silk's nest looking like a nice little crow. No way! He was Grunt, a tough guy, part of the gang, and he had to look like a tough guy.

The sun began to set as Slug's parents landed on the leaf where his mother had laid her eggs. They looked at them and thanked the Creator for giving them this safe place. Then the sun went down behind the hills and God closed another day with a beautiful crimson sunset.

Chapter Two

Slug never remembered very much about the day he was born, except that he was always feeling hungry. He wanted to eat everything he saw. And he wasn't the only hungry caterpillar on that big leaf. There were lots of others eating as well. When the leaf got smaller, they crawled down a thin green branch to another leaf and started eating that one. Leaves were delicious, so green and crunchy, and there were so many of them.

At the beginning of his life, while he was sitting still, Slug had no problems eating. The problems came when he tried to walk. He had so many legs that he didn't know which ones to move first. It's hard enough trying to walk with two legs when you're little, but imagine trying to walk with sixteen of them. He tried moving the front legs, four of them, and then moving forwards, but his back legs were still stuck to the leaf, so he couldn't move. Then he tried moving his back legs and his middle legs were still stuck, so he couldn't move. He had this really strong feeling that he should always keep some legs stuck to the leaf, a feeling like a little voice inside his head.

He wasn't sure why he had to stay stuck until he ate a big hole in a leaf and looked through. Now, it must be said that Slug didn't have very good eyes, and caterpillars don't wear glasses. Slug peered down through that hole and saw caterpillars moving along leaves eating everything they saw. He suddenly realized that if he didn't stay stuck to the leaf that he would fall. He didn't like the idea of falling. He sat there looking through the hole and watching the caterpillars below. He noticed that when they crawled, they lifted up their middle feet, moved the back feet forwards and then moved their front feet.

'I'm gonna try that,' he thought to himself. He unstuck his middle feet and back feet and then moved his back feet forward. Immediately, his middle part went up in the air. When his back feet got almost to his front feet, he stuck them on the leaf, and then moved his front feet forwards. He had moved, not very far, but he had moved, and he was sitting on a new piece of leaf that he could eat.

For the whole day Slug ate and ate and ate. He didn't stop for breakfast, or lunch, or dinner, 'cos he just never stopped. By the time he finished breakfast it was lunch time, so he just kept eating. He did notice, that when he was on the top side of the leaf, that he felt this warm light shining on his body. He tried looking up to the sky and saw a large orange ball, it was a bit blurry, 'cos, well, you know why, he couldn't see very well.

Later in the day, when the large orange ball had moved to the other side of the tree, Slug was feeling tired and his mouth was tired from chewing all day. He stopped eating and suddenly he heard a flutter of wings. When he looked up there were two of the most beautiful things sitting on the branch looking at him. They had big kind eyes, but it was their beautiful wings that Slug couldn't stop staring at. They moved gently as they sat there and the light from the large orange ball shone through them. Slug was amazed.

"Hello, Slug," said a soft voice. "I am your mother, and this is your father." His mother reached out with her hands and touched Slug's face. He felt this nice warm feeling inside, not warm like the big orange ball, but an inside feeling.

"Have you had a good day?" she asked.

"Hello mother and father," Slug replied, still looking at their beautiful wings. "I have been eating all day, and now I am very tired."

"You should have some sleep now, Slug, but, before you fall asleep, crawl under the leaf so that no one can see you," his father told him. "There are creatures who like to eat caterpillars, so it is better to hide when you're sleeping."

Slug thought about that. He didn't like the idea of being eaten.

"You are both very beautiful," he said to his parents, "but I look like all those others, all furry and prickly. Why don't I look like you?"

"Tomorrow we will come and talk to you and tell you many things. One day you can be like us, but first you have to grow."

"Will I have beautiful wings like you?" he asked.

"Yes you will. Actually, you already have little wings inside your body which will one day be large and strong and covered with beautiful colors," his mother explained to him, in a soft loving voice which made Slug feel really nice.

"How did you get here," he asked. "I mean, you are not stuck to the leaves like me."

"We flew here, Slug."

"What is flew?"

"We can fly," his father explained. "We can move around in the air without falling, it is the gift of the Creator."

'What is the Creator?" Slug asked.

"The Creator is not a 'what', but a 'who'. He is the One who made everything," said Slug's mother gently.

When she spoke about the Creator her voice changed a little, the same way she spoke when she said something nice to him.

"I would like to see the Creator and talk to him," Slug said.

Slug's father smiled at him.

"One day you may see Him, son, but at the moment I think you should go to sleep so that tomorrow you can eat and grow."

Slug had to agree that he was very tired, but, he had many questions. He pushed his back legs up, and crawled under the leaf and stuck himself so he couldn't fall. 'Imagine being able to fly,' he thought to himself. He peered through a hole and watched as his parents lifted their wings and stepped off the branch. They glided past him and smiled a 'goodnight' smile, and then flew away and out of sight. Within a few minutes, Slug was making snoring noises. He was fast asleep.

As the day closed, a flock of black crows circled in the air above the big tree. They stared down at the small branches, trying to see any caterpillars who had not listened to their parents and hidden under the leaves, or crawled onto thicker branches. Grunt was among them. In his heart he was glad they hadn't found any caterpillars today. He had flown away from the gang for a while and found some fresh apricots. He loved eating apricots and apples, and sometimes, if no one was watching, he would spit out any worms he accidentally put in his mouth.

When he had finished eating, he wiped all the apricot off his beak, put on his toughest face, and went back to find the gang. Silk was flying a little higher than all the others, he always did that, and he was in a very bad mood. He was always in a bad mood. Grunt thought he might be happier if he ate some fresh apricots, but he knew that Silk would never do that. Silk liked to do what others said was wrong. He liked the feeling of being bad.

After the crows had flown around for a while the sun went down behind the hills and the Creator closed another day with a beautiful sunset.

Chapter Three

Slug woke up the next day feeling really…can you guess, HUNGRY. He started eating and crawling, and soon he didn't feel so hungry, so he slowed down a bit. He sat on the edge of the leaf and looked down at the world. He couldn't see much, but when he looked really hard he saw a butterfly which looked different to his parents fluttering about, gliding and bobbing between the braches.

'What would it feel like to fly?' he thought to himself. Imagine moving so fast through the trees, just missing the branches while caterpillars watched you. As he stared out beyond the tree he could see other things as well which he hadn't noticed before. Perhaps his eyes were getting a little better. He could see something moving down near the bottom of the tree. It looked rather strange from where he was sitting. He could see a lot of hair which he thought was fur at first, 'cos he had never seen hair before, and in the middle of the hair was a bright pink ribbon. He watched the hair moving around and then the hair turned into a strange looking creature. The creature lay down on the ground and then he could see that the hair was stuck to a head, and the head was on a body covered in pink stuff and it had four legs, two on the top, and two on the bottom. While he was staring at the creature, his parents arrived, gliding gracefully onto the leaf.

"Did you sleep well, Slug?" his father asked.

"Yes, father…what is that thing down there with four legs?" he asked.

His father looked down and smiled.

"That is a girl, Slug," his father replied, "and she only has two legs. The other things are called arms and she uses them to pick up things and touch things."

"What a strange creature. Does she eat leaves, can she fly?" Slug asked.

"She is a human, and she doesn't eat only leaves Slug, and no, humans cannot fly, they have no wings."

"What is that thing she has in her legs…sorry, I mean her…what did you call them?"

"Arms Slug, they are called arms. She is reading a book, Slug."

"What is a book?"

"It is when people put their words somewhere so that they can see them again later. It is called reading, and only humans do it," his father explained.

"Father," Slug asked, "what is it like to fly?"

Slug's mother decided to answer the question.

"Flying is a beautiful feeling, Slug. Do you know what it feels like when the sun warms your body and then a breeze comes along and you feel it tickle your fur."

"I am sorry mother, but what is the sun?"

"The sun is that big orange ball in the sky. The Creator made it to warm our world and make things grow."

"Yes, I know that feeling then," Slug said.

"And do you remember when you first tried to walk, and could move your legs correctly."

"I sure do. I felt like I was stuck forever," Slug said with a frown.

"Did you enjoy the feeling when you could first walk, when you were able to move? We call it freedom, a feeling of being able to go where you want to without feeling stuck."

"Yes, I remember, just like it was only yesterday," Slug said.

"It was only yesterday," laughed his father.

Slug's mother waited until they both stopped laughing and then continued.

"When we fly, we just look where we want to go and move our wings. It is freedom Slug. And we feel the warmth of the sun on our wings and the breeze flowing through them, lifting us. And we can glide over fields, and see the humans and other creatures. It is the gift of the Creator."

"I want to fly," said Slug. "Yesterday you said that I already have wings inside my body. How do I get them out so I can fly like you?"

Slug's mother looked to her husband and asked him to explain.

"This is a difficult thing to explain to you, son," he began, "but I will try. When you are a little older and much bigger, you will hear a Voice inside you telling you to crawl under a leaf and make a little house. The Voice will tell you how to do it. You will go inside the house and after some time you will become a butterfly."

Slug listened closely. "But what will happen to me, I mean, what will happen to me being a caterpillar."

"You will no longer be a caterpillar. You will be a butterfly," his father repeated.

"But what will happen to my caterpillar body?" Slug asked beginning to feel a bit strange.

"You will be re-born, Slug. The caterpillar will no longer be, and you will be a new creation."

"But…won't I just be a caterpillar with wings?

"No, the caterpillar will not exist anymore."

"Do you mean I am going to stop being alive?" Slug asked, feeling even stranger than before.

"It isn't really dying, but I suppose you could say that you are correct. You will be born again."

"But to be born again I will have to die first, is that right."

"You are a very clever caterpillar, Slug and you are almost right. You will be changed completely, but you will still remember what it was like to be a caterpillar", his mother explained, trying to stop Slug from worrying 'cos she could see he was getting upset.

"I don't want to die…I want to be a flying caterpillar," Slug said. "How can I do that?"

"There is no way that a caterpillar can fly Slug, you have to become a new creature, you must become a butterfly. This is the way the Creator has made us to be. It is His way," said Slug's father.

"I don't like this 'way' that you call it. What about the birds, were they caterpillars as well?"

"No, Slug. When they are hatched they are little birds, and they can fly as soon as they get bigger."

"So they don't have to be reborn, they don't have to die and get a new body? Why didn't the Creator make us like that?" Slug asked, thinking he had made a very wise discovery.

"There is a reason, Slug, but that is a story for another day. You need to eat now so that you can grow up and be ready when the Creator calls you to be reborn."

"Yes, I am hungry, but I have more questions first," Slug insisted.

"They will have to wait, Slug, because now you need to eat. It is the Creator's way, his mother said gently."

"Slug," his father said in a stern but gentle voice. "You must eat and obey the Voice within you that wants you to grow up."

Slug started getting angry. He felt like someone was making him do something he didn't want to do.

"So…I have to eat, so that I have to die and if I don't die the Creator will not let me fly. Is that right?" he asked in an angry tone.

"Do not get angry, Slug," his mother said gently. "The Creator is all wise, He knows everything, and He never asks us to do anything that is not in His perfect plan."

Slug tried to calm himself, but he was still angry. He was also getting VERY hungry. "Okay," he said, "I will have something to eat now, but I will be thinking about everything."

"We will come and see you at the end of the day, Slug. We have work to do," his parents said as they stepped off the branch.

Slug started eating. When he finished the leaf he saw that there were no more leaves on this branch. He crawled towards the brown branch, a bigger one, and saw lots of caterpillars going towards the center of the tree.

"Why are you going to the center of the tree," he asked a caterpillar who had a big green spot on his back.

"Hi…my name is Spot. Do you want to join me?'

"Nice to meet you…ummm…Spot," Slug replied, trying not to laugh at his new friend. "My name is Slug, and my parents told me never to go to the center of the tree because it is dangerous, so I better just cross the branch and eat over there."

Spot laughed. "Do you think your parents know everything, Slug?"

"I really don't know the answer to that," Slug replied. "We were just talking about flying."

"So…you want to fly do you?"

"Yes, more than anything," Slug replied, "but I don't want to die first."

"You don't need to die. I was told that there are caterpillars living near the center who know how a caterpillar can learn to fly."

"REALLY", Slug asked excitedly.

"Come with me, Slug. Let's go and discover how to fly together."

Slug thought about this and in his mind he heard a Voice. "Do Not Go", it said. The Voice frightened him a little.

"Not today, Spot. I really need to eat right now."

Spot shrugged and crawled away. "Was nice meeting you. Hope you learn to fly one day."

Slug crossed the brown branch onto a small green one with new leaves. He started to eat and started to wonder about everything he had learned that day. He felt a bit confused. He had never thought to question what his parents said, but what if they and the Creator were wrong, what if there was another way as Spot had said?'

The day passed and the sun went down behind the hills, and God made a beautiful purple sunset.

Chapter Four

Slug woke early and felt really, really hungry. He started eating a leaf beside the big brown branch that led to the center. Before long, he noticed many caterpillars going that way. It seemed to him that maybe their parents didn't tell them how dangerous it must be. He stopped eating for a moment when he saw a group of caterpillars following a big caterpillar who looked much older than the rest.

The old one stopped when he saw Slug. His fur was going grey and he had long lines on his face which made him look quite wise. When he saw Slug he stopped, and then the caterpillar behind him stopped and then some other caterpillars banged into the ones in front. They really should get glasses for caterpillars.

"Good morning," he said to Slug. "What is your name?"

"My name is Slug, and who are you?"

"They call me Samaswati. Would you like to join us, we are going to the center, to the Way of Truth".

Slug stared at this old caterpillar with the odd name. He had this strange way of talking, as though everyone must listen to him.

"It is dangerous to go to the center", Slug told him. "Why are you taking all these caterpillars to a dangerous place. They will die."

"We all die, Slug, some sooner some later", said the old one. "There is always danger in seeking truth."

Slug didn't know what to say to that, but while he was thinking, the old one kept talking.

"All roads lead to the center Slug, all branches point that way. The center is where the great road to truth is, the way to the top."

"My parents say that the center is a bad place for caterpillars and that we must obey the Creator," said Slug, trying to think of something wise to say.

"And who made the branches Slug, who made the center, who made the big road from which all the branches grow."

"The Creator I suppose," replied Slug.

"Then if you want to find truth, you must go to the center," he said.

"Perhaps the Creator made the center for other creatures, not us. My parents say we must eat and grow and then change into butterflies. They said we must be born again."

"Ahhh…so you want to fly Slug," asked Samaswati with a strange smile on his whiskery face.

"More than anything," Slug answered.

"Then you must follow the road to truth, you must go to the top." He said pointing up.

"Caterpillars cannot fly, Mr Samaswati," stated Slug.

"Did your parents also tell you that you have wings, Slug," the old one asked, stroking his grey beard.

"Yes they did. But I can't use them as they are within my body."

"So bring them out, Slug, and use them."

Now Slug was getting confused by this conversation. He was staring hard at this old caterpillar with the strange name and he couldn't see any wings sticking out on him.

"Can you fly?" asked Slug.

"I will soon be able to fly, Slug. I am on the road to truth."

Slug was thinking that this old caterpillar must be a bit crazy, but, why were all these others wanting to follow him. Perhaps he was just confusing them.

"Well, it was nice to meet you, Samaswati. I need to eat now 'cos I am very hungry," said Slug hoping Samaswati would just go away and let him think.

"If you change your mind, come to the center. We will welcome you." And with that he left and all the caterpillars with him, many of them crawling towards the center.

Some time later his parents arrived.

"Mother, father," he asked, "what is the road to truth?"

"Truth is to obey the Voice inside you, Slug, the voice of the Creator," his father replied. "Where did you hear this idea?"

"An old caterpillar called Samaswati told me to go to the center and get onto the road to truth."

His father frowned.

"There are many caterpillars who will tell you to disobey the Creator's voice. You must not listen to them. It is sin to disobey the Lord."

"What is sin, asked Slug.

"Sin is when a creature disobeys the Creator, son," his mother told him. "The Creator made a perfect world and all the creatures obeyed him. He then made the humans and they were made in His image. The world was made for them and He put them in a beautiful garden called Eden. Then along came the Creator's enemy who tricked them into disobeying the Creator. He told them that they could become like the Creator instantly and the people believed him. They were told never to eat fruit from the tree in the center, but they disobeyed. Because all of the world was made for them, their actions brought sin into all the world and changed everything. In the beginning, a caterpillar could go to the center of the tree, and the birds would talk to them. There was no killing, only love. But, now sin is everywhere and all the birds and animals are driven by a different voice sometimes, the voice of a sin nature. Everywhere animals and birds kill, they even try to kill butterflies."

"So why doesn't the Creator just change things back again," asked Slug.

"The Creator will do this, Slug. But, until He does, He looks to see which of his creations will obey His voice. There is much more to this story, but that is for another day my son. In the meantime, trust us and obey the Voice inside you, otherwise you will die like the others who follow the wrong way, those who listen to their sinful voice inside."

"Samaswati said that we all die anyway."

"Yes it is true, but, once there was no death, only life. Death came from sin and all creatures are affected by sin. But, there is a life after death, a life in Paradise, a new Garden of Eden."

"Will I go to this Paradise," asked Slug.

"All who obey the Creator will see Him and live with Him because they love Him and follow His voice. Those who disobey Him will not."

Slug felt inside his heart that these words were clear and easy to understand, not confusing like Samaswati's words.

"Thank you for telling me mother and father. I want to obey the Creator, so I will eat now. I am very hungry."

"We will see you tomorrow, Slug. Be careful who you listen to. The Creator has many enemies and some of them do not even know that they are telling lies. We must be careful who our friends are, Slug," his father said.

They flew away.

Up in the sky a group of crows was circling and watching a long line of caterpillars crawling towards the center of the tree. Silk was leading them, his dark cruel eyes staring below. They were also watching a little girl in a pink dress who was crawling on her knees near the tree, searching for something under the seat.

"She searches for her necklace," Silk laughed. "But she will never find it again. It is safely hidden in my nest."

Grunt listened to Silk boast and hated the sound of his voice. 'Why did he love to be so evil', Grunt wondered. Grunt saw that the little girl had sat on the seat and was wiping tears from her eyes. He felt sorry for her. He suddenly had an idea. What if he rescued the necklace from Silk's nest and took it to the girl? The thought was so scary that he nearly banged into Faze who was flying close to him.

"Watch where you're going, stupid," Faze said, pecking him on the head.

Grunt ducked and flew off to sit on a pole with big wires on it. He sat there for a long time and watched the sun go down. He had a lot to think about.

And that day there were no clouds in the sky. The sky became dark without a sunset, and Grunt wondered how ugly the world would be without the Creator.

Chapter Five

Slug woke early, finished eating all the leaves on the branch and crossed to another. He was busy munching away when he heard laughing close by. He crawled towards the noise and found two caterpillars sitting together on a brown branch. One of the caterpillars kept putting his mouth on the other's mouth and making a sucky noise. Slug stared at them for a while and couldn't understand what they were doing. They were holding legs and making strange noises, and then they went away towards the center.

Later that morning his parents arrived and Slug told them what he saw.

"What were they doing," he asked his parents.

His father got that frown on his face again, but his mother looked at him with her gentle eyes and explained.

"Your father and I are married, Slug," she said. "After we became butterflies He showed us that we must be together for all our lives and have children. Caterpillars are supposed to wait until they are butterflies before the Creator tells them to be together, but, some of them do not listen to Him. The two you saw were listening to the wrong voice, they were doing something unnatural for caterpillars, they were kissing."

"I sometimes think about other caterpillars and wonder about having children and being in-love like you and father. Is that wrong?" Slug said honestly.

"No, Slug, it is not wrong to have these thoughts. They are natural. But, the Lord has set a time for everything, a perfect time. He will choose the right butterfly for you and she will be with you all of your life."

"But they looked like they were loving each other," Slug insisted. "What can be wrong with that? Why must I wait?"

"That is not real love, Slug, and when we do what is not the Creator's plan for our lives, it is sin. The other animals have a different way, but we are what He made us to be. You must listen to Him or you may never know true love."

"Why does the Creator have so many rules? Why can we not just follow what we want?" asked Slug, trying not to sound angry.

"Because since the humans sinned, there are two voices within us, Slug. Sin calls us to disobey, and the Creator calls us to obey. Once there were no rules, because in the Garden of Eden all animals, birds and caterpillars only wanted to obey the Lord. We need rules so that we can find true happiness because our sinful voice tries to destroy us," his father explained. "The way that seems right to us is usually wrong and leads to death, Slug. The Creator's voice leads to life."

After his parents left, Slug forgot about kissing for a while and went back to eating. He thought it would be nice to have someone kissing him and telling him they loved him, but, in his heart he knew that his parents were right. Inside him another voice made him feel angry. Why couldn't he be like other caterpillars, why must he wait and be a butterfly, why must he die and be re-born before he could do all the things he wanted to do? These angry thoughts stayed with him for most of the day and he decided that he needed another opinion. Perhaps his parents were wrong about this he started to think. He was confused. One Voice told him they were right and another voice, the voice of sin, told him to doubt them and to disobey the Creator.

He wasn't the only one having problems. Grunt was also trying to make decisions. He was hungry and he had been sitting on this big pole all night trying to sleep. He didn't know if he should go and find some fresh apricots or go and be with the gang. He just wanted other crows to like him. He thought about his life and he was sad. He thought about the stories of the Creator and the Garden of Eden and he wished things could go back to being like that. As he was sitting there he saw the little girl again. She was carrying a black book and going to the seat near the big tree. Grunt felt sorry for her.

Then he decided to speak to the Creator. "If you can hear me, show me what to do," he prayed.

Then he had another idea. Faze had promised to show him the necklace that Silk had stolen. He would join the gang and get Faze to take him to Silk's nest, but, first he needed to find something to eat. He flew away from the tree, quite a long way, and saw a tree with red cherries. He liked cherries. He landed on a branch and started to eat, trying to hide himself under the leaves so that no-one would see him. Just then another crow arrived and landed beside him.

"I don't think we have met," she said. "My name is Grace."

"I am called Grunt," he told her.

She took a peck at a cherry. "I know almost all the crows around here, so I don't know why I have never met you."

Grunt didn't want to tell her that he had been staying with the gang. He felt ashamed.

"I have never been to this tree before," he told her truthfully.

"But which group do you stay with, Grunt? We all have a group. You don't have anything to do with those crows who kill do you?"

"I don't like eating caterpillars," Grunt said, and suddenly realized that she would guess.

"It seems that you have tried it, Grunt. Have you been flying with that cruel Silk and his bad friends?"

Grunt stopped eating and looked away. He knew that she knew and he felt bad. He wanted to just fly away, but, something made him stay.

"I am ashamed to tell you, Grace," he started. "I never had many friends and they asked me to join them. I thought it would be cool to belong to that gang and to look tough, but, I hate it there. I don't feel like I belong there," he told her. "But now it is too late. I have become a bad crow and no-one will want me to live with them after I have been in the gang."

"Do you know what my name means, Grunt?" she asked.

"No," he replied.

"Grace is when we are forgiven even when we don't deserve to be forgiven. The Creator will forgive you Grunt and other crows will accept you when they see how you have changed. We all make mistakes in our life and if we ask forgiveness, the Creator forgives us. This is grace," she explained.

"I want to leave that gang, but there is something I need to do first. Will you ask the Creator to help me," Grunt asked.

"Why don't you ask Him yourself?"

"I am afraid that He hates me now," Grunt said.

"He hates no-one, Grunt; He just hates the bad things that His creatures do. He will hear you and help you if the thing you plan to do is a good thing," she told him.

"It is a good thing, a very good thing, and after I do it then perhaps He will forgive me," Grunt said.

"Grunt. You cannot do anything to make Him forgive you. We cannot earn forgiveness, only ask for it and believe He has forgiven. Grace is a free gift from Him, you cannot ever earn it."

"But I want to do it anyway. I will do it just to show Him that I really want to change. Is that Okay?"

"Yes, I think so. But remember, it is He who changes us inside, we just have to listen to His Voice and obey. But I will also pray for you."

And then she did exactly that. Grunt had never heard anyone pray in front of someone before and he felt a bit strange, but, it seemed the most natural thing as well.

"Creator, Lord," she said. "You know all things. My new friend Grunt needs you. He has been doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons. He needs to know your love and forgiveness, and He needs your help. Please keep him safe and help him to believe in your forgiveness and to learn to pray. Amen."

"I must go," she said. "It was nice to meet you. I live in a group beyond the field and you may visit us anytime."

Then she flew away.

Grunt sat there and ate some more cherries. Then he suddenly remembered his own prayer. He had asked the creator to show him what to do and Grace had come along. Did He send her, he wondered? He knew what he must do, but he just needed the courage to do it.

Clouds had been growing in the sky all day, getting ready to rain, and as the sun went down, they turned a beautiful orange, yellow and red. Grunt knew in his heart that the one she called 'Lord' had answered his prayer.

Chapter Six

Slug felt the first drops of rain and wondered what it was. He liked the feeling of being wet, but not the feeling of slipping off the leaf when he tried to move. He decided the best thing was to sit on a bigger branch. The branch was covered in bark and wide and he found it easy to crawl on. He decided to explore.

'It will be Okay to go just a little way towards the center', he thought to himself. He crawled and crawled without realizing that he had actually gone a long way. The branch was very wide here and easy to crawl on. In the distance he saw a huge branch that went straight up to the sky. This must be the 'road to truth', he thought to himself. He felt excited.

As he moved further towards the center he saw other caterpillars. They were playing in the rain, standing on their back legs, laughing and shouting. They seemed to be having a good time. They called him to join them, so he crawled over. One pretty caterpillar bent down and grabbed his front legs and made him stand up. She started turning him around in a circle. It was fun.

Just then, another caterpillar came along and offered Slug something to drink. He stood on his back legs and took the drink. It was strange and tasted strong. He didn't really like the taste at first, but, everyone else was drinking it and he didn't want to look stupid to his new friends so he drank it down. Suddenly he felt really dizzy. He sat back and then almost fell over.

"Do you like it?" the pretty one asked him.

"It makes me feel strange," Slug replied.

"That's because you're getting drunk," she said, offering him another drink.

She was laughing. Slug took another big drink and then he felt REALLY strange. He felt brave and a little crazy. He tried to stand up again and nearly fell over and then he started laughing. He couldn't stop laughing.

"What's your name", she asked him.

"Sluuug,", he replied, finding it difficult to speak properly.

"What a strange name," she said laughing loudly. "I think you're drunk, Sluuug."

"Slug, my name is Slug, not sluuug," he said laughing at himself.

"I am called Aquarius," she said, "and these are my friends. We like to party and get drunk."

Slug sat down again and felt like his head was going around and around. He felt like if he could stop his head moving, then he would be able to do anything he liked. The rain stopped.

"I want to fly," he said in a silly voice, not sure why he said it.

"So fly then," Aquarius said. "You can do anything you want".

Slug lifted his front legs and moved them around as if they were wings. He felt like he was flying but really he wasn't going anywhere. After a while he felt like he needed to sleep, so he just lay down on the branch and closed his eyes. In his mind he thought he was flying. He was moving through the air and over the trees. He must have been having a strange kind of dream. Suddenly, he was hurtling very fast towards the ground. He was scared. He was falling very fast and he tried to flap his legs but they didn't help him to fly. He looked over his shoulder and realized that he had no wings at all. The ground was coming fast towards him and just before he crashed, he woke up.

He opened his eyes and saw that he was still sitting on the branch. Aquarius was asleep and so were the other caterpillars. His head hurt, it really, really hurt. He rubbed it and still it hurt. When he tried to move his head hurt even more, but, he was hungry so he looked for a small leaf branch and crawled very slowly towards it. He moved onto the small branch and out to the end where the green leaves were and just before he started to munch he heard the most terrible noise.

"scraaaaaaahh".

Slug felt extremely afraid. The voice inside him told him to hide. He crawled quickly under a leaf and peered out. He was shaking with fear as he looked up and saw the biggest black crow circling above the branches searching for caterpillars to eat. And then he saw another of them.

"scraaaaaaahh, scraaaaahh", they cried out as they came lower and lower. Some of the party caterpillars woke up at the sound and they started to scream and try to crawl away. The ones who had not had much to drink tried to lift the others, and the crows came lower and lower. They were sooo big, even their sharp shiny beaks were bigger than the caterpillars who were trying to run away. Slug was frozen with fear; he couldn't move; he had never seen anything so frightening before.

And then one of the crows landed on the branch. A dizzy caterpillar was staggering away when the crow's sharp beak swept down faster than anything Slug had ever seen. It grabbed the caterpillar and lifted it up. Slug heard the scream and covered his ears. The crow shook its head and opened its mouth. The caterpillar disappeared down its throat. Its dark black eyes looked around for another, but most of them had managed to escape. The crow hopped along the branch clinging to the bark with long sharp claws. The branch shook as it hopped and Slug held on with all his might.

'Do not move, Slug', said a Voice inside him. Slug obeyed.

Slug looked up and saw other crows hopping on branches above him and thought he heard the sound of screams. 'Why did I come here?' he asked himself. 'I am so stupid'.

Slug stuck to that branch so hard and for a long time. Eventually, the crows left and he tried to crawl out. Other caterpillars were already out on the branch. When they saw him they called him over and offered him a drink. It was the same stuff he had drunk earlier. The other caterpillars were drinking and drinking and Slug couldn't understand why they did this after what had happened.

"Have a drink, Slug, come on, it's time to party again," a caterpillar said to him.

"But your friend just died, I saw him eaten by the crow," Slug replied.

The caterpillar just laughed.

"He was too slow to get away…he had too much to drink. But the rest of us are Okay…so don't worry about it, Slug, have another drink."

"Don't you care that he died," Slug asked, feeling shocked.

"Everybody dies, Slug. Party hard and die young, that's our motto," he laughed and took a big gulp. "Maybe you would like something a bit stronger, Slug," the caterpillar offered, something to take away the bad thoughts. We have some other stuff that makes you fly, but, you need to hide before you use it, 'cos you won't wake up for hours," he laughed loudly.

Slug didn't know what to say to him. He couldn't believe that these caterpillars were acting so silly. But they were chewing this strange looking plant and drinking, and falling down and laughing, and some were kissing each other. He saw Aquarius lying near the edge of a branch with another caterpillar. She was chewing something and her eyes looked strange and she was standing, and falling over and laughing all the time.

Slug started crawling away. He looked to the right and saw that it was lighter in that direction where the branches went away from the center. Back towards the center it was darker and he didn't want to go that way. He crawled away and noticed that the branch got smaller and smaller and more difficult to crawl on. He thought about what Samaswati had said about the road to truth. He shook his head. It was not a road to truth, it was a wide and easy way, but filled with danger and death. The way to truth was to move towards the light, and the more he thought about it, the more he knew he was right.

After he had gone quite a distance, he crawled off the branch and onto a green stem with lots of leaves. He was afraid that his parents would come. He felt ashamed and stupid, he knew he had been very bad, and he knew that the Creator had saved his life. He crawled under a leaf and after eating a little, he watched as the sun went down. The orange light glowed through the branches, sparkling on the drops of water that hung on the ends of the leaves. It was very beautiful. He lay his head down to go to sleep and the last thought he whispered was, "thank you Creator for telling me to hide. I am sorry for being so stupid and for disobeying your Voice and coming here."

That same evening, someone else was praying before she went to bed. A little girl knelt beside her bed.

"Lord, please help me find my necklace. It is very precious to me because my mother gave it to me to remind me of you. Thank you Lord. In Jesus name I pray, Amen."

Chapter Seven

Grunt woke in the cherry tree alone. He pecked some fruit for breakfast and decided to go and find the gang. As he was about to leave, a thought came into his mind. 'Why don't you ask the Creator to help you Grunt?' He stopped. This wasn't a normal thought, but, like a Voice inside him. He decided that it was a good idea. He looked around to see if anyone was watching or listening to him and when he saw no-one, he spoke.

"I do not know you, Creator and I have done some very stupid and bad things. Grace said that you know all things, so you already know what I have done."

As he prayed, he began to remember all of the bad things he had done and he felt very, very sorry. It felt like a big rock was on top of his heart.

"Grace said that if I ask you to forgive me, you will. I want to feel forgiven and to change my life. I want to live your way, the right way. Please forgive me for all the bad things I have done, and help me to live your way. I want to show you that I really want to change. I want to take the necklace back to the little girl. I am afraid of what Silk and the others will do to me, so I ask you to help me and give me courage."

As he prayed, he felt like the big rock on his heart had been rolled away. He felt very peaceful inside and he felt new and clean. It was a wonderful feeling, and he knew that he had been forgiven. He felt so good that he wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. He looked up through the branches to the sky and said "thank you Lord for forgiving me, I feel your love in my heart."

Grunt took off and lifted into the air. He felt great and although he was still a bit afraid of what he was planning to do, he knew that he was not alone. He swept over the fields and found the gang sitting in the tall branches of a nearby tree. They were talking about what they had done yesterday, going on a hunt for caterpillars. Grunt landed beside Faze.

"Grunt, where have you been. You missed the big hunt yesterday."

"I was keeping out of the rain, and besides, I wasn't hungry," he replied. "Where is Silk?"

"He is in his nest resting," Faze said. "I think he ate too much yesterday."

Grunt felt sick inside just thinking about how many caterpillars Silk must have killed and eaten.

"We should go and visit him, and see if he is feeling better," Grunt suggested.

"Sure, good idea," Faze replied and took off towards the tree where Silk had his nest.

Silk's nest was quite a long way and it was tucked into a hole between some branches in the top of an old tree. Silk had placed the nest under a big branch so that it was difficult to see, probably because he wanted to hide all the things he had stolen. Faze and Grunt landed on the branch beside the nest.

"Silk," Faze called out. "You have visitors."

Silk hopped to the top of his nest and saw the two crows waiting.

"How are you feeling, Silk?" Faze asked him.

"I feel fine," he said staring at Grunt with an evil look. "Why are you here, Grunt?" he asked.

"Faze said you may be unwell, so we came to visit you."

"You were invited here once before, Grunt, to see my collection, but you didn't come, and where were you yesterday?" he asked in an angry tone of voice.

"He was hiding from the rain, Silk," Faze said laughing. "He missed a great hunt."

Silk turned and went back to his nest and then, when he returned he had a necklace in his beak. He carefully hung it on a little branch and turned to Grunt.

"Do you know what this necklace means, Grunt," he asked with a mean voice. "Do you see the cross hanging on it?"

Grunt looked at the beautiful shining necklace. It was made of tiny gold chain links and hanging on the chain was a tiny gold cross.

"I see it, Silk, but I don't know what it means," Grunt replied, feeling nervous under the evil gaze of this nasty crow.

"You don't fly around much do you then. The humans put this symbol on some of their buildings and they go to these buildings to worship the Creator. This symbol is a cross and long ago, they say that the Creator's Son was put on a large wooden one with long iron nails."

"Why would they put him on a cross?" Grunt asked.

"Because they wanted to kill him, you fool. And He was killed between two friends of mine, two thieves."

"Why would the humans want to kill the Creator's Son?" Grunt asked.

"Because He came here to give us orders about how we should live. He tried to change things back again to what they were in the past. But, He failed, because everything is the same."

Grunt felt inside that this was Silk's idea of the story and not the whole truth. He couldn't stop looking at that necklace, and now he realized even more that it should be returned to the little girl. He hopped along the branch and told Silk and Faze that he had something he needed to do. Then, without saying goodbye, he leaped off the branch and headed towards the large field.

"I don't trust that one," Silk said as he watched Grunt fly away. "He isn't truly one of us, and if he returns I may have to kill him."

"Kill him!" Faze said in shock.

Silk turned towards Faze with an evil glint in his dark eyes.

"No one leaves this gang alive, Faze…you know our rules. If we let that fool go, the other crows will have no respect for us. Perhaps I will not kill him, but, he will wish he had never met me."

Silk grabbed the necklace and disappeared into his nest.

Back in the big tree, Slug was crawling down the branch to where it was thin and safe. He was thinking a lot about what had happened the day before and he felt like a very silly caterpillar. When he came to a place near the end of the branch he moved onto a small green stem and started to eat. He still felt very hungry. Some time later, his parents arrived. They asked him how he was and after a while he decided that he should tell them what he did. He told them how sorry he was for being such a fool and thought they would be angry with him.

"We all make mistakes, Slug," his father said gently. "You are older now, Slug, and the time is near when the Creator will call you to make a cocoon. We have tried to teach you to obey His Voice, but this is a choice you must make yourself now."

"There comes a time," his mother said, "when caterpillars have reached an age of independence Slug. That means, that the choice you make is not about obeying your father and I, but obeying the Creator. Your father and I chose to obey him, and we pray that you will also."

"I want to fly, mother," Slug said, "but I still do not want to die."

"You must trust the Creator's voice, Slug. Yesterday he saved you from the crows. He is showing you that you must trust Him. He loves you, Slug as He loves all of His creatures."

"How can He love those who disobey His voice," Slug asked, remembering the screeching sounds of the crows and the screaming of dying caterpillars.

"Those creatures have chosen to follow another voice, but He still loves them, Slug. Once, as I told you before, there was no evil in the world, and one day it will be like that again. But you must make your own choice. Inside you is a Voice calling you to be born again, to be what he made you to be. You must follow His way, for His is the only true way."

Slug listened carefully. In his heart he knew they were telling him the truth. He had seen what happened to those who followed a sinful way. He was very glad that he had such wonderful parents who understood him and loved him even though he had disobeyed them. That evening, as the sun went down behind the hills, he curled up beneath a big leaf and prayed.

"Help me to trust you, Creator Lord. I am afraid to leave this life behind me because it is the only one I have ever known."

After leaving Silk's nest, Grunt had flown high into the air. He looked at all the trees below so he wouldn't forget how to get back to Silk's nest. His flying made him tired, so he flew back to the cherry tree. He hoped Grace would be there, but, there were only some other small birds who left when he arrived. He had some dinner, and then when he saw the sun going down behind the hills, he decided that tomorrow he would go and find her. Then, as the sky turned dark, he slept.

Chapter Eight

Grunt woke, ate some cherries and took off to find Grace. He flew over a field of bright colors where many butterflies were fluttering from flower to flower to a large field where people were working. He went higher and saw buildings and then a group of trees beyond. They looked like fruit trees and he was right. He flew low over the trees and saw a group of crows in the branches eating apricots. He was a bit shy to just go and land beside them so he dropped onto a branch near the top of the tree. A few moments later, Grace came up and landed beside him.

"So you decided to visit us," she said. "It is nice to see you." She looked at him closely and said, "you look different, Grunt, there is a light in your eyes, the sadness has gone."

Grunt smiled at her. "I spoke to the Creator and did as you said. I asked His forgiveness and He gave me His love. I feel free at last. Thank you, Grace."

"It was not I who did anything, Grunt, only He," she replied.

Grunt told her of his plan and about the necklace. She was concerned for his safety.

"This is something I have to do, Grace. I feel it inside that He will help me, but I have some questions for you about what was hanging on the necklace. There was a small gold cross and Silk, the leader of the other crows told me that the Creator's Son died on a large wooden one. I do not understand any of this, but, I think it must be important."

"Come," she said. "I think there is much to explain and to show you."

"Where are we going," Grunt asked.

"To the zoo," she said laughing.

"What is a zoo?" Grunt said as he flew after her.

"You'll see," she replied flying quickly towards a town.

Grace stopped on a tree where sheep were grazing.

"These are sheep, Grunt."

"Yes," he said, "I have seen them before, many times. I have watched them when they have their chicks", he said.

"They are called lambs, Grunt," Grace said smiling. "Only birds have chicks".

"You know a lot about things, Grace," Grunt replied, looking a little embarrassed with himself. "I was going to say that I like to watch their lambs jumping around and their fluffy tails wagging when they are drinking their mother's milk."

"Lambs are written about in the Creator's book, Grunt, many times. They have no way to protect themselves, and even God's Son was called a Lamb."

"I wanted to ask you about Him, but, how do you know what is written in the Creator's book," Grunt asked her.

"My group often listen to people reading the Creator's book and we tell our children about it. The little girl you saw under the tree often goes there to read, and like her mother, she reads out loud. We sit in the trees and listen. It is a wonderful story. But before I tell you more, we have things to see. Come on, Grunt," she called as she took off again towards the town.

They flew over many buildings and streets. Grunt had almost never gone to a town so he was looking down at the cars and people moving around. Grace took him over a lot of trees in a big park and stopped on top of a fence. Inside were large animals with very long necks.

"What are those things," Grunt asked as he landed





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