Sunday, May 10, 2015

Missing Kevin Durant


 I don't know anything about basketball so the name is a bit misleading, so let me tell you the story behind the title. 

Last week during 4th block class change I heard a sound outside my classroom window.  It was a bird calling.

One of my students walked in, tilted her head and said "You have a chicken outside your window." 

I lived on a farm long enough to know it wasn't a chicken but I was far too busy loading my bell ringer to look.  A boy following behind her bopped into my room and said: "There's a Killdeer nesting outside." 

Everyone in my room had to go to the window and look then.  Sure enough, right outside my window, only feet from the building was a momma killdeer in her nest.  Killdeer make their nests on the ground.  I didn't know that before she came to rest outside my window. 


We watched her for a few minutes.  Of course half the class had to document this momentous discovery on their phones, and then we went back to French.  It's final's time coming up so we can't spend too long on the Killdeer. 




That night, sometime in the middle of the night I woke in horror!

I had seen the mowers over at the Middle School that morning!  That meant that they would be at the High School pretty soon and if they did, they would destroy this little nest.  I could hardly sleep. 

First thing I sent out an email to the whole staff and asked for some stakes and ribbon.  I wanted to keep the mowers away from the bird's nest. 

My students jumped into this "bird rescue" whole heartedly.  I have a class of almost 30 Students and they were all crowded around the window.  Several faculty members sent me supplies and I sent some boys out to create a barrier for our Killdeer. 

Until the barrier was completely in place, there was no going back to the passé compose.  My students refused to leave the window until our killdeer was safe from the mowers. 

Sure enough, the following morning I heard the sound of the mower outside.  I watched anxiously from our window.  Momma Killdeer was still on her nest (Looking quite perturbed by the whole thing) but because we had made the barrier she was safe. 

At this point someone might say: "What's the big deal?  It's only a bird."  But my question is: of course it's only a bird, but couldn't the same be said about just about anything in the world?  I mean, if we can justifying not doing good when its something insignificant, couldn't we justify this attitude about anything else?  When does "It's just a bird" turn into "It's just a test." or "Its just a grade"?  Could that attitude not grow into "It's just a building", "It's just a flag"or"It's just a job" ?

If we can do something.  Shouldn't we?

A couple of years ago, one of my students grew his hair out long.  All the other boys teased him about it and one day I asked why.  He told me he was giving it to locks of love.  I wanted to know why he was doing it, I thought perhaps he had someone in his family suffered from the disease.  His answer surprised me and I've never forgotten it.

"Because I can Mrs. Crane."  He went on to say: "I may never be a doctor.  I may never discover the cure for cancer.  But I can do this.  This is something I can do right now."

If we know to do good, and we are able.  We should.

Even if it's for "just a bird."

Two of my students creating Mamma Killdeer's barrier before the mowers arrived. 


So Momma Killdeer screeched at my boys for fiddling around her nest, but she did not attack them as they worked.    Elijah decided that since it was a Kill Deer then we should name her Kevin Durant.  KD.  Kill Deer.  Kevin Durant.  Get it?  Anyway, for two days we watched Momma Killdeer AKA Kevin Durant and we couldn't wait to see baby Killdeer running around. 

We even googled Killdeer and learned all about them.  Talk about teaching across the curriculum.  Momma Killdeer act like they're hurt to lead predators away from their nest.  They make their nest on the ground.  They sit on eggs for around 20 days before they hatch.  Within hours of the hatching the baby Killdeer are running around all over and they leave the nest.  The momma Killdeer take the babies away from the nest and never return.  One article even said she would hide the pieces of the egg to keep predators away. 

Gosh, this was exciting! 

The third day Momma Killdeer "Kevin Durant" was gone. 

We were all disappointed, though we are trying to keep it positive.  Perhaps she moved her nest due to all the unwanted attention.  Perhaps the babies hatched and are now somewhere else.  Nobody wants to think that a varmint ate them.  We won't even go there. 

Because, you see, we miss Kevin Durant.  She wasn't "Just a bird" to us.  For two days we were untied in  witnessing the miracle of life, marveling at the tenacity of a mother protecting her young and relishing our ability to help something that couldn't help itself. 

She wasn't 'just a bird' because WE loved her.  WE wanted to protect her and WE went out of our way to do it.  Mamma Killdeer had worth because WE gave her worth.  She was worth something to us. 

And in a very small and humanly understandable way, we glimpsed something very special. 

We saw in our little killdeer what God saw in us. 

Alone, small, lost in our sins and unable to help ourselves, God stepped in and made a way for us to come to Him.   Because He went out of His way to love us, to protect us, and to save us... WE have worth.  He gave us worth.

I miss Kevin Durant, but I am thankful for the lesson I learned from her.  I'm like to pretend but I suppose I'm not as smart as I think... so sometimes God has to talk to me by using something as insignificant as a bird. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Barabbas


Brother Brad has been preaching on “The People at the Cross”  and while he has, I’ve been joting down my ideas about those people.  So this is a little free verse poetry for all you cool cats out there. (snaps fingers.)

 

Barabbas

Pilate would release a prisoner,

As was custom. 

A way to appease the Jews

On the eve of their Holy Day. 

It would be some minor offender usually.

But there were none present

It was only us.

Two thieves

And a rebel leader.

We wagered amongst themselves

Which one it might be.

I knew

It wouldn’t be me.

So while the other two argued over who was the most deserving of life

I remained silent.

They called out to a God

They had all but forgotten

Until their capture.

I hadn’t forgotten Him.

I had turned away.

The son of a Rabbi.

The descendant

(However distant)

Of a king.

I knew the scriptures.

I knew what greatness lies in my blood

And so I was willing to become a martyr

To my own life

And even my soul

For freedom.

I made the decision the day I walked away from my father

And my name

The day I picked up a sword

That I would rather rot

In the midst of Hell

Than to live under the command

Of these barbarians.

That kept us in chains

That kept us from worshipping freely. 

So, in a way,

Even though I had walked away from Him

I was doing it for him. 

He had promised

How long ago?

To send a deliverer

Someone who would remove

The yokes from around our necks.

The blood of kings

Ran through my veins

And I took it upon myself

To be that man. 

Surely that was His purpose

For me. 

But then I found myself here

And I would soon die for my beliefs

The grandson of kings

On a cross.

What irony is that?

I would not be like these others

And beg for a second chance.

There would be no deliverer for me.

I knew it.

But the two others begged and boasted and blamed

Until I was sick of it.

So when the rumor came in

That the preacher had been arrested

I laughed until I cried.

That wanderer from Gallalee,

That teacher that taught only love

And forgiveness

Why had they arrested him?

Surely he had ticked off the wrong people.

And he would be the one to go free.

My cellmates were silent after that.

They knew as well as I did.

The “Minor offender” had just stepped on the stage

And we were dead men.

But then they came and took me out.

Why me?  I had no idea.

They stood me beside the preacher.

Then I understood.

He had been roughed up pretty badly.

“You look terrible.”  I joked with him.

If you couldn’t have a sense of humor

In a time like this, then what could you have.

He smiled through busted lips

“I can say the same for you.”

His eyes were full of compassion

And I told him I held no offense

I took my place beside him

I knew my part in this drama

And did my best to look savage and wild.

The people were sheep

They were controlled by their emotions.

The religious leaders wanted this man’s head

And I was there

To ensure

The correct choice.

“Who will you choose?” 

Pilate shouted and held out his hand. 

“Barabbas or this Jesus?”

Of course,

Given the opportunity

To release a “real criminal” or this preacher

It was little surprise who they would choose.

“Give us Barabbas!” They shouted

And I looked at him in shock.

What? How could this be?

“Give us Barabbas! Let his blood be on our heads!”

They took us away then,

Pushing us roughly

Because the ruse hadn’t turned out

Like Pilate expected.

But as they pushed us along

He spoke to me

One last time.

He told me

That my deliver had come

And he held no offense.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Christian Zombie Short Story... Whaaattt?

I was pleased to enter the following short story in the OHC Writer's Guild Short Story Contest back in the fall.  On a dare I decided to write in an unfamiliar genre.  

Zombie.

Specifically, in my case- Christian Zombie since I'm a Christian.  I don't write anything that doesn't have some sort of Christian theme embedded inside so I was sort of at a loss for a while.  

But then God gave me some things to think about... and this is the story that came from those musings.  I hope you enjoy, I hope at least.. It makes you think.

  The Barren Land

I refuse to leave his body.  I stand guard over him because I fear what they will do to his remains if I do not.  I have barricaded myself inside with him.  I hear the scraping footsteps and the moaning outside and I pull my weapon and wait. They dare not enter, even alone they fear me, as well they should.  When the others come to retrieve him, I will go out and there will be no mercy.

We left behind a country where this disease was unknown to come to this barren land, this wretched and cursed place.  He was the best our fair land could offer; the term "Doctor" would not do him justice.  He was a leader, an artist, an innovator, the creator of things beyond our imaginings.  We chose to call him "Healer" and he was revered and beloved by our people.   It was an honor beyond words then, when I was assigned to his security detail.  I was his personal bodyguard and I had vowed to defend him with my own life.

The journey here was difficult and fraught with peril.  It was a long and arduous voyage, so far from any vestige of civilization but he never complained through our travels.  On more than one occasion I begged him to turn back but he would hear none of it.  He would have allowed me to return had I wanted, but I could not leave him.  I was bound not only by my oath to protect him but by my great love for him.

So I stay.

Because he stayed.

And I will not leave him now.

I will wait until the others come and the war begins.

In truth, I don't even know if it could be called a "war".  They will be wiped out, entirely, with very little effort on our part.  Our weapons far exceed their own and as soon as the order is given we will rain down fire on this place until it is utterly obliterated.

I will feel no remorse.  These monsters deserve it.

Because he came to help them. He came to cure them.

And they killed him in return.

His life in exchange for the whole of them? Every last one that draws breath; it was not, it is not a fair trade. He was the brightest and best our land had to offer and he insisted he come himself.  If he could stop the sickness before it spread to other lands... perhaps if we could stop it here, he insisted, there would be hope.  We had to stop it here, before it came to our shores.

He was convinced that there was hope for these things, these savage beasts that now occupy this land.   They once possessed knowledge and goodness.  Now, I shudder to even call them "Human".  Since the sickness turned them, they are closer to death than life.  They are rotting, stinking corpses in a state of constant decay.  They have no intellect compared to us.  They are unthinking, unreasoning, violent brutes.

The living dead. I shudder even now to think of such a thing.

He came to help them! To save the young ones! The unfairness of it hits me again and I grip my weapon until my fingers ache and my body shakes with rage.

The young ones.  That was why he came here, moved as he was by the images of these little ones suffering in such a wretched place.  It would have been better, if the sickness had made the adults barren as well as inhuman, but such is the complexity of the disease they carry.  They are driven by their yearnings, like all living things, to procreate and so the sickness is passed on in the blood.  Though, through our research we have found that the sickness lies dormant for a time, years perhaps, before it strikes and gnaws it's way through their minds and bodies.

The Healer thought that the young ones could be saved.  There was a time after his arrival when his optimism swayed me.  If a cure could be found before the age that the disease took them completely into its grasp... perhaps there would be some hope.

He had still tried his best, however to cure the adults.  I am still not convinced that through his efforts there will prove to be a total cure.  He had a degree of success with a few though they are not what could be considered "totally cured".  Their bodies are still wasted and brutish but not as volatile as those who have not been treated.  In their own way, they were devoted to him until the mob came, thirsty for his blood.

Then they ran like frightened rabbits.

Those he had worked to cure... Even now they are hiding somewhere.  If the order is given I will have no qualms about killing them myself.  They betrayed him.  They don't deserve to live.

None of them.  

He spent his days traveling from one village to another to help them.  Even though I warned against it so many times, touching them, speaking comfort to them as they suffered.  When we arrived they would flock to him, mumbling and moaning and reaching out for him.  I could never recognize their sounds as any sort of language.  Nevertheless he, in his infinite patience, had found a way to communicate with them.  Even though he used the simplest terms he could manage, many still could not understand many of his words.

They did, however understand one thing.

He could help them.  

Even in their diseased condition they could see that he wasn't like them.

He wasn't dying.

Those who hadn't been completely taken by the disease clamored to him, pressing against him, eager to touch him.  They crowded against him, as if by merely being in his presence could save them.  Countless times he was almost  trampled by the careless throngs.  Often I feared for his life and found it necessary to create a diversion for him and in the chaos that ensued he was able to escape.  He would laugh about it then, indefatigably saying that was a close call.  But he would press forward, no matter how close the call, no matter how bad the sickness in the town where we journeyed next.

He never fell ill, though.

No matter the hardships we endured.  Lack of hygiene, and simple comforts of home, lack of food and rest, exposure to disease...he never succumbed to it himself.

As time wore on he became convinced that the cure would be found not by him, but in him.  Perhaps, within his own blood.  He tried to warn me that finding a cure might demand his own life as forfeit.

I promised I would never let that happen.

He never got the chance to find out though.  The crowds called out to him for help that day, and he had compassion on them.  They pressed in on all sides until I was separated for him.  It was then that they turned vicious.  He was swept along by the crowd to a place unknown to me.

They tore into him like the animals they are.  They left him, the Healer, the only one who could help them to suffer and die alone.

It was hours later that I found him.

Or what was left of him.

He was barely recognizable to me.

Some of those that he helped brought him to this small cave and they stayed there with him until the darkness came and their fear drove them away.  I barricaded myself inside with his body and I have been waiting since then.  I do not know for how long, time means nothing in a place of such grief.  I am sure that it is almost morning and I know that the news would have gotten to our country.  Our communications are not hampered by the distance and I know the others will arrive soon.

The sound of commotion outside alerts me and I stand in expectation.  The males scream in fear then there is silence.  Then the blinding light of full morning permeates the darkness of this tomb.  It overtakes me, overwhelming me at first and I am unable to see for several seconds.  I hold my hand in front of my face and when my eyes adjust I look into the face of my commander.

I am ashamed.  I have failed.  I drop my head in defeat.

A smile is not the response I expect.  It is almost as bright as the morning sun and he laughs at me.

"You did not fail, faithful friend.  The mission was, in fact, a success."

A success?  How could it have been a success?  I shake my head.  How can he say that when the body of our beloved lies cold and dead just behind us?  I have a thousand questions but he hasn't given me permission to speak.  He takes his place by my side and we stand at attention.

Two females approach us, trembling with fear.  I recognize them as some that he made well.

Traitors! I want to scream though I know they cannot understand me.  You left him to die! Why have you come back now?

I grind my teeth and reach for my weapon but my commander stops me with a wave of his hand.

"Why do you seek the living among the dead?" He asks and his voice shakes the very stones around us and their eyes grow wide in amazement and fear.   I am equally astounded that he can communicate with them.


He steps aside and holds out his hand.

There is no body.  The grave clothes lie empty behind me.  I look up in amazement as my commander unfurls his wings. The radiance around him grows ever brighter in the darkness.

 "He is not here;" his voice booms all around us.  "He has risen! Come, see the place where they laid him!"



The Lenten Season is winding down.  Take a moment and think about the sacrifice of our Healer. Rejoice in his Resurrection and the joy that is found in the fact that though Him, this sickness of sin has been defeated.  Happy Easter, Y'all... Blessings!  



Sunday, June 29, 2014

What is your dream?

Today Bro. Brad preached on a familiar passage.  I'd heard it a hundred times.  Today I heard it again and in the context of what we studied this morning in Sunday School- I saw this story again with new eyes.

The passage was Mark 10:17. It is the story of the Rich Young Ruler.  I'll paste it in and tell you how I've always imagined it.  Then I'll tell you how God showed me something completely different. 

I borrowed this from www.biblegateway.com

The Rich and the Kingdom of God

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Misconception #1
Now, in my imagination Jesus and this rich young guy was at some social function.  Hanging out at somebody's backyard party.  I always think about it as a "cocktail party scenario" (I'm going to offend my Baptist friends, but hang with me.) perhaps he had invited the new preacher to come over to his place, sort of show out a bit.  After all, Jesus was the talk of the town.    I always imagine a lot of people milling around and this guy asks his question.  I've always made him out to be a bit of a self righteous kind of person.  I've always imagined him getting the attention of all his guests and then asking Jesus:  "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

But then God showed me that my imagination had it all wrong.  Jesus was leaving town and this guy ran out to meet him.  He ran to Jesus!  He fell down on his knees in the middle of the road. 

He ran. 

I hate to run.  I'd only run if it were a matter of life and death.  I've done it before, on occasion, but never in robes.  Do you know how hard it is to run in robes?  Yeah, neither do I, but I've ran in a dress once and it wasn't fun. 

Also, it's undignified.  Robes are not made for running as I've discussed above, but here he comes; running to catch Jesus.  He's out in the middle of the dusty road where everyone can see him and if he's not degraded himself enough he falls down at his feet to ask Jesus: "“what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[d]
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Then Jesus looks down and tells him: the only One that's good- is God.  So in effect if this guy was looking to have a good enough life, Jesus just told him he's out of luck.  
Then Jesus goes through the commandments with him. 
The kid tells him he's done all these things his whole life.  But something is lacking, obviously or he wouldn't be here in the dirt at Jesus' feet. 

Misconception #2

In my "cocktail party scenario" from above the rich young man tells him snootily.  "I've already done all of that stuff."  Then he looks down his nose at Jesus.  A challenge: "Do you think you're better than me, preacher? Look at all I've done."  Or perhaps he wants to show out a bit:  "Look at how good I am." 

But he's not.  He's down on his knees in the middle of the street begging Jesus.  He's done all these things but it's not enough.  He's not secure. 


21 (A) Jesus looked at him and loved him.
Misconception #3
In my "cocktail party" idea Jesus glared at him righteously and brought him down a peg or two with his next statement. 

But Jesus didn't do that at all.  He looked at him, and loved him. 
This guy wasn't showing out or being haughty as I'd let myself believe.  He was sincere.   If he was being a hypocrite Jesus would have called him out on it.  Jesus wasn't afraid to call things as he saw them.   But it says He loved him. 


21 (B) "One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
 
Misconception #4
If your rich, you don't go to Heaven.  I didn't grow up rich, and having been raised without a lot of money has colored my perception about this passage.  Up until a certain age I thought rich people don't go to Heaven.  Then I figured: we don't have much money, we must be okay.  We get to go- you don't.  Nana nana boo-boo rich kids.  You may have a pool but I'm going to Heaven!
 
Misconception #5
I also thought it was a warning about becoming rich.  You shouldn't get too rich.  You'll forget God.  If you do get rich you better be careful.  Money ruins folks.  Money is the root of all evil.  

But that's not true at all. 
The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.  (Which is where my Sunday School lesson comes in.) 

Let's go back to verse 21 and look at it again. 
21 (B) "One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Today God spoke to me and said instead of "Go, sell everything you have..." insert "Go.  Stop what you've been doing.  Stop chasing that dream.  All those plans you've been making... just throw them to the wayside and follow me." 

OooOoohhh!  That's a bit harder to take.  Because God knows I've dreamed of a lot of things.  A swimming pool, a pony, a treehouse.  Then later I wanted a good job, a wonderful husband, children, a nice home.

I loved singing, art and theatre throughout my life but the one thing that I love most is writing.  I've always loved telling stories and I've always loved writing down ideas in notebooks.  It's my passion.  Sometimes I'd rather write than do anything. 

But it's not practical and I never stepped out on it until now.  I stuffed my desire for writing in a box under my bed for twenty years or so.  I never told anyone that I liked to write because I never studied that. I made decent grades in English class but I never was the best. Who am I to want to write?  Besides, writers and artists don't make any money till they're dead.  Who's got time for that? 

But I always, always dreamed about it.  I thought it was an impossibility until one day I was driving home.  I heard a guy on the radio telling about this book he wrote and I thought to myself: Lord, how great would that be?  I wish I could do something like that!  Then the Lord said back to me: One day you will, child.  

I've never told anyone that before.  

I tried to make excuses:  No, Lord.  Not me.  I can't write.  I haven't even taken a writing class in college. 

God was offended (As well He should  have been.) and said: Am I a man that I should lie?  Do you think I have nothing better to do than to give my children false hope?  If I say something is going to happen.  It is going to happen. 

Wow.  So that's my dream.  I'm stepping out on faith a little more now and at least I'm trying to use this gift God gave me. 

But anyway... Back to Verse 21.  What if God asked me today: "Leslie, stop writing.  Stop making up stories.   Throw all those notebooks away. Stop hoping for that bestseller.  Stop wasting time on all that.  Come on.  Follow me." 

Well that would be considerably harder for me to take.  Because I'd rather give up things.. money... time...whatever.  I'd rather give God any of those... I could sell my possessions to the poor...but try to take my notebook or my zip drive away... see what kind of a fight you have on your hands. 

So what's your dream?  To land that dream job?  To make that team?  To become a famous actor or musician? To have wealth?    What is it?  Is it a grand dream or is it a small one?  Is it to retire in a couple years?  Is it to live a simple life with your family? Is it to not be sick anymore? To find that person? To have a child? Not be lonely anymore? 

Whatever it is.  You know it.  So, what if, like the rich young ruler Jesus demanded that you give it up? 

"Don't play that sport.  Don't pursue that promotion.  Keep working past your retirement.  Stay in that place that you don't like very much, I need you there.  Give up your music.  Sell that house.  Forget your dream and follow me.  Make me your dream and come on." 

In 2011 Phil Vischer (The creator of Veggie Tales- or as my kids call him "Bob the Tomato's daddy") said at the Liberty University convocation that "anything you are not willing to let go of is an idol."  Wow.  

So, do I love God more than my dream?  Am I willing to put away my dream to follow Him?

It's the same question he asked the rich young ruler, and after today I understand a little better why he went away sad.  Because it's hard to give up your dream...whether it be selling all your possessions or putting away all your notebooks or giving up on that thing you've prayed about for so long.   

Our dreams are part of us.  Having a dream in itself is not a bad thing but like everything else in the believer's life they have to come under the Lordship of Jesus.

And that's hard. It's hard to hand over something you really, really want to the One who can make it happen or not.  I've struggled with it before, and I suppose I'll struggle with it again before it's all over.  I pray each day to make Him my dream, and make His dream for me- my dream as well.  I go back to Jeremiah 29:11-13 (11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.)  I  hold that verse to my heart when things in this life don't go like I planned and I hear Jesus whisper.  "I got this.  Make ME your dream and come, follow me.  Let me show you the plans I have for you!" 


 

Friday, June 27, 2014

New Chapter of Come to Me Like Rain Book 2


A sample chapter that I've been working on from Come to Me Like Rain Book 2
Nicole has just learned that Alexander has been injured in the war and will be returning to Nine Run. 

          When I learned he would be coming home, my first response was that of fear.  I was afraid, terribly and unreasonably afraid.   I had no ill-conceived notions of Alexander Bradshaw’s heroism on the field of battle. I had no fantasies as to his goodness and valor.  I alone knew the depths of his hatred for my husband and I alone had been the one to bear the brunt of his unbridled fury. I knew what he was capable of doing. 

Now that I had a son to protect and a husband who meant the world to me… would Alexander’s return be a new beginning or would it mean the end to everything that I’d come to love?

            Bryan assured me that all we needed to do was ‘trust God and everything would be fine.  I had to believe that Bryan could (And would) protect his family.  He was, until one of his elder brothers returned ‘the man of the house’ and most certainly as my husband ‘the head of our family’ and he assured me that all I needed to do was concern myself with being a wife and mother. 

            That kind of blind trust is hard to achieve; even with a husband as honorable as mine.

            As much as I loved Bryan; I hated Alexander with equal intensity.  I could not wait placidly by for the return of a man whom I had built up in my mind to be the very devil. 

             I heard--well-- overheard Doc speaking quietly to Bryan on the front porch after we received the letter from Stephen Thornhill.  I was intentionally eavesdropping from through the kitchen window as I pretended to clean up after our supper.    

             “Men are never the same after they go off to war.” I heard Doc say before he took a draw from one of the stinky cigars that he smoked.

Lord, I hope not.  I thought to myself and I strained to hear as I wiped down the table.

 I heard Bryan cough. Doc’s cigars made his eyes water and his nose stuffy.  He moved to another position upwind. 

“War only seems that it only brings out the worst in some men.” Doc finished the cigar and I saw the flash of the embers as he threw it off the porch.  “You should be careful.”

            For a moment my heart forgot to beat.  My hands became rubber as this new thought struck.

  Alex could be worse?

Holy Moses! Was that possible? He was bad enough already, how could he possibly be worse?

He could finish what he started that night.”  A voice whispered in my head and I dropped the plate I was holding.  It shattered at my feet and made enough noise to bring every adult in the house running.

Bryan and Doc came tumbling through the door and I suppose the look on my face told it all. 

“What happened?”  Doc wheezed past a new cigar.  Bryan’s eyes were red from the smoke of the first one. 

“I’m clumsy.”  I shot back as I hurriedly tried to clean my mess. 

Bryan dropped to his knees beside me and helped me drop large chunks of porcelain into my outstretched apron. 

“You heard that,” He said under his breath.  “Always eavesdropping.  I’m gonna put a cowbell on you.” 

I ignored him and mumbled something about tripping. He glared at me through his red rimmed eyes and told me we’d talk tonight.

Great. 

Mother toted a wide-eyed David on her hip.  He leaned out and studied me thoughtfully, that wisp of hair that always stood up on his crown fluttered as he craned his neck to watch me work. 

“Its fine dear,” she assured me.    I wondered if this had been any of her ‘good chinaware’ that I had just shattered into a thousand pieces.  She seemed hardly affected by it at all if it was; her mood had improved a hundred fold since learning that her firstborn would soon return.  “Just don’t cut yourself,” she said as she went back into the parlor.

“Or get a sliver,” Bryan warned.  “I’ll have to test my doctorin’ skills.” He looked up at me impishly.  “It will hurt.” 

I wasn’t sure if he was stating the facts about the proficiency of his doctoring skills or if that was some sort of veiled threat. 

It was after that when I excused myself to rock the baby.  Even then I couldn’t take my mind off Doc’s words.  I sat and held David close, listening to the soft sound of his breathing until Bryan came to take him to his bed.

By that time I had been considering it for a full hour.

Bryan returned and shut the door behind him.  He glared at me when he turned around.

“What does the word ‘private’ mean, Nicole?”

I shrugged because I knew he was angry and I didn’t have the resolve for a snappy comeback.

“Well, let me tell you what it doesn’t mean,” he stalked toward me, “it doesn’t mean that you eavesdrop from the window! We went out there to talk for a reason.  Backyard talk isn’t intended for a lady’s ears!”

“Then you should have gone out to the back fence,” I replied under my breath. 

Bryan’s dark brows rose together then down again.  “You’d have followed us out there and listened from behind the azalea bush!”

Probably.  I ducked my head and my face burned with shame.

He was right.  Now I wished I hadn’t heard it.

“Why do you have to talk privately anyway?”  I wanted to know.  I had been the one that had been hurt the most by Alex before he left.  It seemed correct that I should have some say in his returning.

“Why do we have to talk privately?”  Bryan  repeated and turned away from me, unbuttoning his shirt.  “Perhaps one of us might feel the need to curse.” 

I laughed and he paused and took the opportunity to glare at me again.  I had never heard Bryan use an ill word since I had known him.  The prospect of him cursing was positively shocking but also a bit comical.

He strode over to where I was sitting in the rocking chair and put his hands on the handles, pinning me in place. 

“You don’t think I could curse skilfully?”  He tried to act offended but the corners of his mouth turned up playfully.  “Well, well.  I don’t know whether to be insulted or flattered by your skepticism. You forget, Mrs. Bradshaw that I spent several months on a cattle ranch out west where I learned words that would curl your toes.  Would you like me to teach you a few?”

“Yes!”

“And spit as well, now that you can throw a punch like a Bradshaw I suppose you should learn to curse like one!”  It was true, William had made it a point to show me how to punch correctly before he left.  I think perhaps he was worried that it would be needed skill if Alexander ever returned. 

I threw a mock punch at Bryans jaw.  He rolled his eyes like it dazed him and I laughed then he kissed me.  His lips lingered on mine for several seconds and I trace the line of his jaw with my fingers. 

Lord, I loved that man.  I loved the way he kissed me and the way his lips tasted on mine.  He gathered me up in his arms and deposited me on the bed where he kissed me until I had to push him away and gasp for air. I could think of nothing but him when he held me that way. 

But when he let me go the troubles came rushing back in on me.

“What if…” I started to say but he never let me finish.  He covered my lips with his finger and shook his head. 

“If…” He lay back in the bed beside me and I felt it give with his weight.  “We don’t know how badly he’s hurt.  It’s been almost two years since we’ve seen him, Nicole and we’ve been praying all this time.  Maybe he’s changed for the better.  If not…”  He sighed looked up at the ceiling.  “Let me worry about it.  I promised to take care of you both and I will.  Trust me, but give God a chance.” 

His mother shared Bryan’s optimism- or perhaps his faith.  “I’m going to have my son back.” She told us that night when we prayed together.  “I don’t know what it will take or how long, but God is going to bring him back to us.”  She spoke with determination in her dark eyes each time we gathered for prayer. 

Bryan tried to bolster my courage.  He found the story in his Bible of the reunion of Jacob and his brother Esau.  He explained how Jacob had stolen his birthright from Esau before their father’s death and Esau had promised to kill his brother if he ever saw them again.  In my mind one brother was dark and the other was light.  Jacob had fled his brother and feared for his life when he returned but all those years brought forgiveness from Esau. 

Maybe that would happen for the Bradshaw’s.  The only problem was… Alexander wasn’t Esau.

 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

All Things Work To the Good

I promised I'd post this when I got to it in my editing.  It's one of my favorite chapters.  It's called All Things Work to the Good and it's from Tied To The Draw.

In this chapter Joe and Alexis have had a break up, but Joe refuses to give up on her. 

Happy reading!


It had been weeks and still he came…  Every night and that particular night was no different.  He was waiting for her outside the bar as she stepped out onto the sidewalk and saw him; she could recognize him anywhere- even in the dark.  She could make out his silhouette, the cowboy hat, his hulking frame, arms crossed over his chest leaning against the shiny pickup truck. 

Any other man she could possibly consider a stalker at this point, but not Joe.  There was a part of her that wanted to run to him every single night and throw herself into his arms and beg him to take her back.  He was making this break up terribly hard on her.  It had been two weeks.  Any other man would have given up by now.  She ducked her head and realized that he had positioned himself so that she would have to walk past him on her way home.

“What are you doing here?”  She snapped as soon as she saw him. 

“The Lord sent me.” He said and when she ignored him he decided to continue.  “I told you I don’t like you walking home alone this late at night.”  He growled as she trudged past him. 

She didn’t answer.  Maybe if she ignored him he’d go away.  Instead, he fell into step beside her.  Joe decided to push the issue while he was at it.  “I’ve also told you I don’t like you working at this bar.  It’s too dangerous.” 

“Joe…”  She whined, exasperated by his patience.  She’d been mean, she’d cursed him, she’d done everything short of having him arrested and he was still here.  Whining was her last resort.  “How many times have I told you… we’re not together…I’m not the girl for you.”

“Looks like you’d know by now that I don’t give up so easily.  I told you I would pursue you.  I wouldn’t give up until you agreed to marry me. You knew that going into the game.”

“This…”  She stopped long enough to turn to him and give him a deadly look in the dim light.  “Is not a game, Joe!  This is real life!  And in real life, you’re a preacher and I’m a bartender and we can’t…” Her voice cracked, and the tears threatened to come.  “There’s no happily ever after for us! I can not marry you Joe!”

Even though she’d like to; she wanted to.  If he’d had a different kind of life she would have already been his wife but what would marrying a woman like her do to him?  She had been around long enough to figure out that people at his church considered her a harlot, and there were quite a few who disapproved enough of their being together that if he pursued her they would ask for his resignation.  Why couldn’t he see that?  She was doing it for him!  

“Please… Joe… go home… forget me.”  She pleaded.

“Look me in the eyes and tell me that.”  He said calmly and put his hands on her shoulders and turned her to face him. 

Her face twisted with anger and frustration.  “GO! HOME! AND! FORGET! ME!”  She screamed in his face.

He sighed, and he didn’t move his hands from her shoulders.  “I can’t.”  He said almost plaintively.  “I love you.” 

She looked away.  She loved him too.

“And you love me too.  Look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t and I’ll leave you alone.” 

She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, she had to be strong.  Maybe she’d break his heart, but it was far better. She opened her mouth to tell the biggest and hardest lie of her whole life but then someone said something behind Joe and the words stuck in her mouth.

A man stood on the street behind them.  Joe turned and held up his hand.  “It’s okay buddy.”  He said and then turned his attention back to Alexis who had a shocked and confused look on her face.   There was a thrill of excitement as Joe considered that perhaps he had gotten through to her at last. 

The man spoke in Spanish again and again Joe waved him off.  “Yeah, yeah whatever Pedro.  Just walking the little lady home.”

He looked back down at Alexis, angry for this intrusion.  She was removing her earrings, her eyes fixed on the man behind him. 

“What are you doing?”  He snapped. 

“Give him your wallet, Joe,”  she said weakly but calmly.

“Why?” 

“Because…”  she said slowly.  “He has a knife and he wants it.” 

Joe spun around and pushed Alexis behind him and mentally he sized the man up.  He realized he wasn’t a man at all; he was just a kid who probably didn’t weigh more than a buck fifty.  His clothes were too big like the kids liked to wear them these days.   He produced a rather large knife but Joe thought to himself that he had one bigger than that in his tackle box in the back of his truck. 

“He’s just a kid.  It’s okay. I can take him.” He whispered and she stared at him in disbelief.  “Buddy, you need to turn around right now ‘afore you get hurt.  Just go on...” 

“He says to give him your wallet and whatever is in your pockets or he’ll cut you.” Alexis’ voice trembled with fear. 

She spoke to him holding her trembling hands in front of her holding her purse with whatever tips she had made from that night.  She waved the money at him.

 “Give him everything in your pockets.”  She told him.

“Tell him he ain’t gettin’ it.  Ain’t gettin’ yours either so put it back up.” 

The kid spoke again. 

“He said he’ll kill you!”  Alexis’ voice rose to a scream. 

“Tell him… he AIN’T GETTIN’ WHAT’S IN MY POCKET SO RUN ALONG BEFORE HE GETS HURT!”

 Alexis jabbered and he caught one word- loco- and the kid laughed and started in their direction. “I’m warning you kid…”  He growled and he reached into his front pocket and Alexis let out a sigh of relief.  Finally, he was coming to his senses but instead he pressed something into her hands.

“Take my keys, and when I tell you…run to my truck… Lock yourself in and call the police.” 

“Joe!”  She protested.  “Just give him your wallet!”

The kid yelled again and Alexis tried to hand him her purse she spoke to him in Spanish and Joe had no idea what she was saying.  Joe stepped between the two of them and he pushed her out of the way as the kid lunged at the two of them. 

He could see the streetlight glimmer on the blade of the knife as he pushed Alexis out of the way; he felt it slice through his shirt and across his chest as he jumped away. 

“Alexis…RUN!”  He screamed and she did, as fast as her heels could carry her.

Joe and his assailant circled each other in the dimly lit street.  “All right buddy…”  He warned.   “Let’s see what you got…” 

The boy laughed.  “You’re crazy, old man.” 

Joe’s eyes narrowed.  “So you do speak English.”  He growled. “Good. ‘Cause I got a couple of things to say to you…”

Alexis made it to the truck and realized she didn’t know what key to use.  Oh God, she prayed why does he have so many keys?  Her hands were shaking so badly she could hardly hold them still much less push the key into the lock but finally it slid inside and she turned it.  She jumped inside and pushed the locks down. 

“Call the police.”  A voice told her. 

She groped in the darkness for her purse and that was when she realized that she had dropped her purse with the cell phone inside on the sidewalk behind Joe. 

She screamed out in frustration and then she knew what she needed to do.   She put the key into the ignition and started the truck.  It was a stick and she couldn’t drive a stick but somehow she got it into reverse and the tires screamed as she backed up.  Please, God, help me!  She begged the empty truck cab. Help me and I’ll do whatever you want me to do!   She had no idea how to get it into gear and she pulled on the gearstick like a madwoman and almost by luck it lurched forward and she gunned it in the direction of Joe and his attacker. 

Joe heard his truck hit the curb as it roared to life and barreled down the street in his direction.  He wondered what on earth she could be doing and but then he heard the roar of the engine and the sickening sound of tires as she hit the median. 

“Good Lord! She’s going to run us over!”  He grabbed the kid and screamed at him and the look of sheer terror on Joe’s face must have been enough to convince him that she would do it.  They both ran for their lives as the truck hit the curb and bounced up on the sidewalk.  She missed a tree and the two men by a couple inches and almost drove it right into a bookstore window but she slammed on the brakes in the nick of time. Both men looked over at her in amazement before looking back at each other and resuming their struggle. Though she didn’t run over the mugger, almost hitting him with Joe’s truck distracted him just long enough for Joe to knock the knife out of his hands and twist his arm behind his back. 

“Better be still.”  He warned but the kid was stubborn and he fought him. It was a bad idea to fight a guy who’d grown up roping calves and riding bulls. 

Joe felt a crack as he twisted the kid’s arm and pushed him to the ground and he hoped that Alexis had enough sense about her not to run them over.

Joe pinned the kid to the ground, his knee in the kid’s back. His good arm, the one that wasn’t broken he held behind his back. 

Alexis was beside him, a screaming, crying mess. 

“Get a rope out ‘a my truck.  It’s under the seat!”  He gasped. 

“What are you going to do with it?”  Alexis screamed.

“I’m going to tie him up dummy!”  He shot back at her.  “Do it!”

 Alexis scurried away and groped under his seat, after what seemed like an eternity she brought him the rope. 

“I’m gonna… tie you up…  This arm’s… broken… so if you don’t want the other one… broken… then you need to be still… till the cops get here… Okay?”  He told the kid calmly between ragged breaths. He looked back down at the kid underneath him as he wrapped the rope around him. He had a captive audience, literally.  What else would a preacher do? 
 
“Has anyone ever told you that Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?”


“Something something something” in Spanish.  The kid said and then added:  “You’re both crazy.”

“You have no idea Pedro.  Besides, you started it.” Joe winced as he looked at the gash.  “And you had the good sense to try to rob a preacher instead of someone who would have killed you.  You know where you’d been if I’d pulled out a gun or let my crazy girlfriend run you over?” 

Pedro didn’t answer.  At least he assumed his name was Pedro since he hadn’t told him otherwise. 

“Well you’d have been dead Pedro.  What then genius? Huh?  You know what happens to you when you die?”

“I don’t have to listen to your sermon, Preacher!”  The boy snapped.  “I want my lawyer.”

“Well tough.  You tried to mug a preacher and you’re gonna sit through the sermon, at least till the cops get here and throw you in jail!”