Cries From Heaven ( a short story )

I was on vacation on Sanibel Island. This was the third consecutive year my two best friends and I had driven from Orlando to this island we had grown to love. The plan was to get away from our normal lives for a week. The three of us worked as veterinary techs at three different animal clinics. All of us were born in the same year and at the same hospital, Orlando Regional. Despite living in the same city and doing the same work, we had never run into each other. We had attended different high schools. We met one Saturday shopping at the Mall at Millenia. We were each searching for the perfect swimsuit and have been best friends ever since. The fact that we worked for different animal hospitals made it possible for us to take the same week off each year and vacation together. This year we rented a condo for a week at the Oceans Reach Resort. We made this choice because we discovered in our search for the perfect place to spend our vacation, the Oceans Reach was the closest condo complex to the beach we could find.  Vacationing together had many advantages for three single young girls. Cost savings, of course. We would also watch out for each other for protection (safety in numbers). We would watch over each other when it came to guys. Three girls on vacation on a tropical island is to guys like blood in the water is to a shark. So we protected each other from making relational mistakes. We set rules for ourselves. No guys in the condo. No single dates. All for one and one for all. That meant even if only one of us had a date, the other two would also go on the date. We would always stay together, no matter what. We very quickly discovered that there were always enough guys to go around, so no one ever had to go along on a date alone.

Each year we would make sure to eat at all our favorite restaurants. One called The Bubble Room is at the top of the list. They always had great food, a fun atmosphere, and huge slices of cake we would purchase to take back to the condo for dessert later in the evening. This year it was just as good. And as usual, when we arrived, it wasn’t very long before the sharks started circling. Of course, meeting guys and enjoying their company was a big part of our vacation adventure each year. The sharks circling was something we looked forward to. If it didn’t happen, we would be disappointed. It was fun to be three young women in this tropical paradise. We would play the usual games to size up the sharks and decide if they were worthy of us.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jon.

We were sitting at our table eating our food when I noticed him. He was breathtaking… sun- bleached long blond hair, a deep bronze tan and a chiseled body. He was wearing a white button down shirt, untucked and spotless. He had on a pair of classy looking jeans with just the right tightness to reveal the strong muscles of his perfectly shaped legs. On his feet were flip flops that had seen a good number of miles. There were two guys with him and they were walking directly towards us. As they came closer, my friends and I  prepared ourselves. But the unexpected happened. They passed right by us without a sign of knowing we were even there. We were surprised and slightly insulted.

The boys stopped at the corner pool table and started to play a game.  My friends and I got over the obvious rejection and turned our attention back to our grouper sandwiches and cold slaw.

A short time later, we got that shark bait feeling again. There were two other guys approaching our table and this time it was apparent that we were the target. We noticed these two earlier because of a disruption they had caused with two other girls. They were loud and slightly drunk then, and unfortunately for us, had been drinking ever since. It was obvious that now they were very drunk. When they arrived at our table, they immediately began making rude, loud comments along with suggestions that we go with them to “really have some fun”.  As they started to pull on us to get us to go with them, I heard a strong clear voice come from behind me. “It looks to me like these nice girls don’t want to go with you.” I turned and looked past the man that had my arm to see whose voice it was, and saw it belonged to Jon. I guess when our assault began, Jon and his friends put down their cue sticks and followed the noise. Now the two guys that were trying to force us to leave had three guys behind them. I heard Jon’s voice again. “ I suggest you take your hands off them,” he said. One of the men replied, “I suggest you mind your own business”.  Almost immediately, I felt the hold on my arm loosen and I heard what sounded like choking. A second later, I was free. I turned to find the guy that was pulling on me in the firm embrace of Jon. Jon had a choke hold on the guy’s neck and was pulling him to the exit. The guy’s face was turning colors as they went. They were closely followed by the other one being carried by Jon’s two companions. One had the creep by the feet, and the other was carrying him under his armpits. There was a stream of blood flowing from the second man’s nose.

After a few minutes, Jon and his two buddies returned to the restaurant and this time walked straight to our table. We quickly realized they had saved us. They assured us we would not be bothered by those two again. We invited them to join us. They sat down and after the introductions, we began to get to know each other. Almost immediately, the conversations split up into twos. Jon started to direct his conversation to me. He asked the normal get to know you questions and I answered them. Then it was my turn to ask him questions.

He told me that the three of them had met 3 days ago on a beach on Captiva, an island just to the north of Sanibel. The two islands are connected by a small bridge. Actually, they did not meet on the beach but about 200 ft off the beach, in the Gulf of Mexico. They had arrived at the beach at around the same time, but separately. They each had a surf board and had pushed off into the water. They noticed each other 150 ft out and had stopped together about 200 ft from the shore. All three had the same puzzled look on their face. The water was completely calm. Not even a ripple. No one had told them that the Gulf was usually not the best place to surf. They realized that must be why they were the only ones along the whole beach that were on surf boards. They sat there, side by side like chess pieces. Floating almost motionless, waiting for the wave that would never come. Finally, they looked at each other, sweat dripping off their chins. Without saying a word, all three rolled off their boards into the cool water and then remounted the boards and paddled in to shore.

When they got to the beach, they sat down under some trees and talked for a while. They discovered they were staying at the same resort. All three were single and unattached. They decided to change clothes and meet at the resorts tennis courts, play a few games and then meet for dinner that night. That’s why they were at the Bubble Room. That’s why they were available to save us.

After we finished our meals and bought our slices of cake, the six of us stood out in the parking lot for a while talking. One of Jon’s friends asked if we would all like to go to his condo to eat cake and watch a movie? We girls excused ourselves for a minute to talk. When we were far enough away from the boys not to be overheard and asked each other what we thought. We quickly decided because we would be together and they seemed nice, we would accept their invitation. It was 8:00, so we said we would stay until midnight. We got in our car and they got in theirs and we followed them to the South Seas Resort, just up the road from the restaurant. The resort was beautiful and the condo faced the Gulf.   We decided we were all too full from dinner to eat cake, so we agreed to watch the movie first and have cake later. After looking over the dvd choices, we chose the old classic, The Wizard of Oz. As we found our places to get comfortable to watch the movie, we paired up like it had been since the restaurant. It was Jon and me on the love seat and the other two couples on the couch. As the movie started, Jon sat close to me. Just about the time the Scarecrow and Dorothy meet, I felt Jon take my hand. He took it slowly and gently, probably so I wouldn’t be startled and pull away. I didn’t. We sat there, slouched and holding hands for the rest of the movie.

When the credits started to roll at the end of the movie, all three guys got up and said they were going to serve the cake. This was turning out to be a great evening. The three of them went into the kitchen and about a minute later, Jon came back out with an ice bucket in his hand. He asked me if I would go with him downstairs to the ice machine. I said “sure”. As we walked down the stairs, he reached for my hand and I laced my fingers with his. When we reached the first floor ice machine, we both gasped at the same time. Over the horizon of the gulf was the most beautiful moon I had ever seen rising above the horizon. Jon asked me if I would like to step out onto the beach to get a better look? I said yes.

We walked down a short path through some palms and palmetto bushes and came out onto a completely deserted beach. The moon and the ocean were breathtaking. Soft gentle waves rippled lazily onto the sand. We walked down to the water’s edge, my fingers still laced in his. I looked back towards the buildings and could see the lights of the resort shining through the palms. Jon asked if I wanted to sit for a few minutes. I again said yes. We sat there for three or four minutes enjoying the moonrise and the breeze from the gulf. I felt his hand release mine. Then I could feel his hand softly rest on the small of my back and slowly rise until his fingers were tangled in my hair. I turned to look into his eyes. But instead of the soft blue I had seen all evening, I saw something dark. Suddenly, his hand grabbed my hair and he pulled my head back violently. Instead of his pleasant voice, I heard an evil voice say, “Now let’s have some fun.” I tried to scream but he clamped his other hand over my mouth and nose. I was having trouble breathing. I tried to break free but he was too strong. In one motion, he pushed me all the way back and rolled on top of me. His legs were holding my arms down as he sat on my stomach. He continued to hold one hand over my mouth and nose and with the other, held my head down. I couldn’t breathe. I kept fighting and trying to scream until everything went black.

I awoke to the smell of garbage. My whole body ached, especially my head and the left side of my face. As my eyes started to focus, I realized it was dark. It was night. I was in some kind of small room with no roof and a big blue box in front of me… It was a dumpster! I was laying on the dirty concrete floor of a dumpster enclosure. I tried to remember how I got here but I had no idea. The last thing I remembered was being held down by Jon. What had he done to me? Why was I here? Where are my friends? With great pain I slowly got up. I could see from the light of a streetlamp that my shirt was badly torn and my shorts and swim suit bottoms were gone. I carefully squeezed passed the smelly dumpster and looked around. It appeared that I was behind a restaurant. There were some full length white cook’s aprons hung up on some nails on the back of the building. I took two down to cover myself, one in the front and one for the back. I looked  at my watch. It said 4:17. I slowly walked around to the front of the restaurant. I saw the sign, R.C. Otters.  At 4 am, the restaurant and streets were deserted. I started walking. The street was lined with vacation rentals. I walked along, looking back and forth until I saw a house with a light on inside. I could see through the window an older lady sitting in a chair, reading. I approached the door and knocked. I heard footsteps come to the door and a ladies voice ask, ” Who is it?” I answered, “My name is Crystal Wells. I’ve been hurt and I need help.” She said, ” Just a minute.” I heard footsteps walk away from the door and then some muffled voices. The door opened and standing there was the lady I had seen through the window and a sleepy looking older man. One look at me and the woman said, “Oh my poor dear!” She took me by the hand and led me to the kitchen and sat me down. While they introduced themselves to me, she got a clean dish towel, wet it, and started to clean my face and cuts. I heard the man, her husband it turned out, talking to someone on the phone. When he had hung up, he came over and told me the police were on their way.

When they arrived, a woman police officer sat with me asking me questions. I told her all I could remember. She then told me that hours ago my friends had reported me missing and they had been searching for me ever since. A short time later, my friends arrived, and after a tearful reunion, the police took all of our statements. The paramedics were there to examine me and care for my injuries. They asked if I had been raped. I said no. I’m not sure why I said that, because I really had no idea if I had been or not, blacking out like I did. The thought of going through some kind of exam after all that had happened to me seemed too embarrassing to endure.

The next two days were spent with the police trying to find out what had happened. We managed to find our way back to the condo where we had watched the movie. We found two of the guys there, but no Jon. They said they had never heard of a Jon. They held to the story that the two of them had picked up my two friends at the Bubble Room that night and ended up at the condo to watch the Wizard of Oz until the two girls left at midnight. They had never seen me before and didn’t know anything about a Jon person. So after all the questions and investigation, we didn’t have any idea what happened….and Jon was a ghost.

When the three of us got home, we spoke a few times but something had changed. I had changed. My two friends just became reminders of that horrible night. I found myself getting angry and isolated. I went back to my job and my life, but there was no joy in anything anymore.

After a month back home, I started getting sick in the morning. Every day I felt sick. Then I realized I had missed my period. I purchased a home test from the drug store. Standing in my bathroom, staring at the result on the plastic stick, I realized the life I had dreamed of living had just ended. I was pregnant. For a week after finding out, I called in sick at work and never left my apartment. I didn’t want to be a mother. A single mother. The mother of a child whose father beat and abused and raped me. I was angry. I hated the man that did this to me. I was angry at my friends that had failed me. I was angry at God for letting this happen to me. I was mad at myself for putting myself in the situation that allowed it to happen. I wasn’t going to be forced into a life situation I didn’t want or ask for or deserve.

The next Monday I started my research on how I was going to free myself from this. I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood. I heard they helped women free themselves from this problem. I talked with two women, filled out some paperwork and made the appointment for the procedure.

The day arrived and I was ready to get this out of the way and get on with the life I had planned. When I stepped out of my car at the clinic, I noticed some people on the sidewalk in front of the building. They were carrying signs. It looked like they were protesting about something. I didn’t pay any attention to them and walked to the entrance of the clinic. I entered the building and after a few minutes in the waiting area, I was ushered back to a room. They asked me to remove my clothes and put on the gown that they provided for me. A nurse came into the room and asked me to lay on the table that was in the middle of the room and put my feet in the stirrups. I was laying there trying to relax as much as I could when the doctor came in. He told me I had nothing to worry about and this would be over before I knew it. As he started, I was feeling discomfort.

Halfway through the procedure, I started to hear a baby cry. I asked the people in the room, “Why is that baby crying?” They listened and then the nurse standing next to the doctor said, ” There are no babies crying here.” She told me it was probably just my imagination and to ignore it. After a while, the doctor was finished. He stood, removed his gloves and left the room. As I got dressed and got ready to leave, I could still hear the cry. As I walked through the building to go home, I kept looking around to see if I could tell where the crying was coming from. When I went outside to get in my car, I again noticed the people on the sidewalk carrying the protest signs. I decided to walk towards them to see if one of them had a crying baby. No one did. What I did discover was that the signs they were holding had words on them like abortion and choice. And to my horror, the signs also had photos of what appeared to be tiny dismembered arms and legs. A frozen chill went up my spine and I felt like I was going to throw-up. These photos couldn’t be real. What they had just done inside that building was remove a glob of tissue. Not a baby. When I saw a woman coming from the group walking towards me, I quickly turned and headed to the parking lot as fast as I could. When I closed the door to my car, I could no longer hear the crying baby. But I had a very strange feeling. It felt like when my dad died 5 years before.  Leaving the memorial service, I felt an emptiness I had never felt before. It was like the world was suddenly empty. Now…the world feels even emptier.

I drove home and that night, I was awakened from a sound sleep. Somewhere, there was a baby crying. I tried putting my pillow over my head to stop me from hearing the cry, but nothing worked. What was strange was that it sounded like the same baby I heard at the planned parenthood building. Wouldn’t all baby cries sound the same to me? But this cry sounded different than other cries I had heard.

As the days went by, every few days I would hear that baby, but not always crying. Sometimes laughing, sometimes gurgling like babies do. After a while, even though sometimes the baby would wake me in the middle of the night, I slowly got used to hearing it. As time went by, the baby’s voice changed. It was like she was getting older. I say she because it was obvious when she got old enough, I was hearing the voice of a little girl. I got so used to her being there, I decided to give her a name. I chose Coral. When she started to say words, they were of a language I had never heard and did not understand. Regardless, sometimes it felt like we were having a conversation, even though I had no idea what she was saying.

Seven years went by. Life had found a new normal. I had finished college and started a new career. The days passed, one by one, and my life became what I would call ordinary…except for the fact that the world continued to feel empty, and I had an ongoing conversation with a young girl I couldn’t see.

One day, I was looking for a book to read at Barnes & Noble. I found a book called The Message and decided to buy it. When I got home, I discovered it was a bible. I hadn’t read the bible since Sunday School when I was 7. Out of curiosity, I opened it up and read a couple of pages. This bible was different than the one I remembered from childhood. There were no thee’s or thou’s. The words seemed familiar and even a little comforting. So I continued to read. I found I understood this bible. It almost felt as though the words were written to me. I continued to read. Every morning I would read a little more.

Ever since that horrible night on Captiva Island, I would regularly dream about the events of that night. Many times that night would invade my waking thoughts as well. Whenever my mind would take me back there, I found I could easily renew my hatred for Jon. I would also renew my anger for those I felt let me down. This renewal was something that became very familiar to me. It seemed as though I needed to keep those feelings close to me, especially my hatred of Jon.

Then one day, my mind went back to that night like it had so many times before. This time though, something was different. Something had changed. I thought back to the beach and Jon, but the hatred was gone. I remembered the story I had read that morning in the bible about  Jesus hanging up on that wooden cross, nailed there with spikes. As he looked down at the people that had done this to him, He said to his father, “ Forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.” Forgive…the word echoed in my head. Is that what is different? Have I forgiven Jon? The moment I had the thought, I knew it was true. But didn’t I need to hold onto the hatred? I couldn’t think of a reason I needed too. A deep feeling of release and freedom vibrated through me. I dreamt about the Captiva events the next night, but instead of waking up full of hatred and resentment, I felt joy. Life was much happier after that. But the world still felt empty.

For some reason the date I went to planned parenthood and had the procedure has stuck in my mind. October 16th. Today it was 12 years ago. This morning, I was in my living room reading my bible, when suddenly  everything went dark. After a few moments of fear and concern, it was light again. Except now, I wasn’t in my living room anymore. I was at the edge of a forest facing a green field with a sparkling, blue pond in the center of the field. It was a clear fresh morning. I noticed a young girl playing at the edge of the water. I saw a man sitting on a rock a short distance away. He appeared to be watching over her. He motioned for me to come over to where he was and patted his hand on the rock inviting me to sit next to him. I walked over and sat down. He said hello. I said hi. Then he looked over at the girl on the beach. She was making a sand castle. He said, “Isn’t she beautiful?” I looked over to where the little girl was playing and as I was about to answer him, she turned, looked at me and smiled. I fell to my knees. Tears filled my eyes. I began to sob. I knew the moment she looked at me, she was my daughter. The baby I had aborted 12 years ago.

 

She ran up to me and threw her arms around my neck. She whispered “mommy” softly in my ear with the same voice I had heard the last 12 years. I cupped her face in my hands and kissed her cheeks until they were red. I looked into her beautiful blue eyes and said,” I love you.” She looked back at me and said, “I love you, mommy.” I hugged hear so tight. Suddenly, she got up and ran towards the forest. I noticed at the edge of the trees stood a group of children about her age. When she reached them, she turned, smiled and waved. Then they all disappeared into the forest.

I turned to the man, my eyes still filled with tears. I was unable to speak. He reached out his hands to hold mine and said, ” We will take good care of her until you return.” He then let go of my hands. As he did, I noticed that his hands were scarred. I was about to ask him when I could come back when everything went dark again. After a few moments I was back in my living room.

The next few days were full of emotions. Sadness for what I had missed and was missing. Happiness knowing my daughter was well and I would see her again.

…..And the world didn’t feel empty anymore.

 

 

Not For A Lack Of Stones

When we were first married, my husband and I spent most of our time together. As the years went by, he seemed to be away from home more and more. He was away from our village much of the time. I was lonely.

I had become friends with a man that sold eggs at the market. I found myself going to the market often. Each time I would pass by his egg stand, we would talk. He was always very pleasant and funny. He seemed to understand me. I found I was becoming attracted to him. Our talks made me less lonely.

One night when my husband was away, there was a knock at my door. It was my friend from the market. He asked if he could come in so we could talk for a while. I said yes. I poured some wine and we sat at the table and we started to talk. We had spoken enough in the past that we knew each other’s stories and troubles. As I talked again about my loneliness, he placed his hand on mine. It was the first time we had ever touched. He picked up my hand and softly kissed it. I kissed his in return. One thing led to another and soon we were in my bed.

Suddenly, the door to my house flew open with a terrible crash. I felt many strong hands grabbing my legs and pulling me out my door. I was pulled out into the street, my hand grasping my blanket. All I could hear were angry voices and all I could feel was the pain and helplessness and humiliation of being dragged naked through the streets. Finally, we came to a stop. I struggled to raise my head and look around to discover what was happening to me.

We were in a small courtyard. All around me were the angry faces of the leaders of my village. I rose to my knees and wrapped my blanket around me to try to cover up a small part of my shame. The village leaders kept pointing and shouting at me. Slowly, they stopped shouting and it became very quiet. I then noticed another group of men, separate from the men that had dragged me here. One of our leaders began to speak to them. He said,” This woman, (pointing his finger at me), was caught in the act of adultery. The Scriptures say she must be stoned to death. What do you say?”

One of the men he was speaking to bent down and began writing on the ground. After a while he stood up and said, “The one among you that has never sinned, you throw the first stone.” Then he bent back down and continued writing.

I lowered my head, shaking uncontrollably. I hugged my legs as tight as I could, waiting for the first stone to strike me. I wondered how many stones would have to hit me before I died. I thought about how painful it will be and how long the pain would last. I also thought about the shame of how I would be remembered.

It felt like an eternity had passed by, but nothing happened. I kept my eyes closed. The only sound I finally heard sounded like stones hitting the ground and footsteps fading away.

When I gathered enough courage to look up, I found I was there all alone, except for the man that had been writing on the ground. He asked me, “Do you see any of the men who were condemning you?” I answered, “No”. Then he said,” I don’t condemn you either. You are free. Go and don’t sin anymore”.

 

Re: John 8:2-11 (Bible)

 

 

 

A New Table

My name is Demikus. I am a citizen of Rome. I was born in Rome. I have lived here all my life. And I am a carpenter. I make furniture. I’m pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. My wife’s name was Salara. She died 4 years ago giving birth to our only child, our son and my joy, Justic. He was born with a body and mind that, though beautiful, do not function for him. He rarely moves, and when he does, his movements are slow and contorted. His eyes, though deep blue like a clear summer sky, have never seen me or shown any sign of recognition of anything. When his eyes are open, he just stares blankly past me. Except for a few and infrequent low groans or moans, I have never heard his voice. I love him with more than all my heart. He is a constant joy for me and a never-ending reminder of the love of my life, who gave her life so my son could live. Ever since the moment he came into the world, we have never been apart. He is always with me. When he was small, I would carry my tool box in one hand and Justic in his basket in the other. Now that he’s 4, when I go out to work, I carry him on my back, in a pack I made for him. My neighbors and my customers now think of us as one person. Where I go, he goes. I think he is happy. I guess I choose to believe he is happy.

A man came to Rome about a year ago. He arrived under guard and moved, or a better way to say it, was put into a house across the city and has remained there ever since. He is not allowed to leave and the house is continually guarded. I have heard he is allowed to have people in and his friends are allowed to meet his needs, but he never leaves the house.
There are many rumors about who he is,(or was). Some say he was a powerful Roman official that got on the wrong side of Caesar. Others say he got on the wrong side of some Jewish leaders. Who knows? Anyway, it’s none of my business. That’s what I thought anyway, until last week.

A man I had never seen before came to my house the Monday before last. He said he had a job for me. His friend needed a table. The table he had was not large enough for him to work on. I asked the man what kind of work his friend did. He said he was a writer. He told me the size of table he needed, I told him the price I would charge, and he agreed. He told me the location of the house were I would be delivering the table, paid the deposit, and asked when I would have it finished. I told him a week and he nodded his head in approval and left.
So, for the next week, Justic and I worked on the table. Measuring, cutting, fitting, sanding. I would do the physical work, and my son would be by my side, encouraging me. When the table was finished, I tied the pieces on my pull cart, loaded my tools and set Justic in his pack and carefully placed him on my back. I took hold of the pull poles on the front of my cart and my son and I started our trip to the customers house.
As we approached the location the man had indicated, I asked a group of people sitting at a cafe if they could tell me where the house was that matched my description. A short time later, we came to the house. I was surprised to see two soldiers guarding the front door. As we approached the door, one of the guards asked me to state my business. Right when I was about to answer, the man that had ordered the table came out the front door and explained my business to the guards. They moved away from the door so Justic and I could carry the new table inside. After being shown where the table was to be assembled, we brought it in and put it in its place.
When we were finished, the man paid us. As we were about to leave, the man said the person that I had built the table for would like to speak to me, if I had the time. I agreed and he directed me to some stairs he told me led to a terrace where I would find him. We climbed the stairs and came to a bright and open terrace. There was a man sitting on a chair in the middle of the space with his back to us. As we approached, he rose from the chair with substantial effort and turned towards us. He was very old and had snow white hair. His face was cracked and wrinkled and marked with much more than age. But in the center of this ravaged face were two eyes I have a hard time describing even now. They seemed to pierce straight into my heart. They showed so much wisdom, strength, compassion, pain and heartbreak, I could hardly look into them. He offered his hand. I grasped it. It was even more twisted and scared than his face, but steady and strong. He said,”I have been so wanting to meet the two of you.” Most people only address me, and ignore Justic. I told him, this is my son, Justic, and I’m Demikus. He said, “My name is Paul”. There was another chair in the corner of the terrace. He pulled it out and placed it next to the one he had been sitting in and asked, “Would you mind if we sat and talked for a while?” I told him that I wouldn’t mind and prepared to bring my son around to my lap so I could sit down. But before I got him settled, Paul asked, ” Would you mind if I hold him while we talk?” Taken by surprise, because no one had ever asked that of me before, I hesitated for a moment, but then handed my precious son to a man I had just met. He gently cradled Justic in his arms, and as we talked, he would slowly rock him back and forth. We talked for about an hour. I told him about my growing up in Rome and learning to be a carpenter. He told me his best friend is a carpenter. I told him how hard it was losing my wife and what a joy Justic was in my life. He told me storys about all the places he had been and being shipwrecked at sea more than once. It started getting late, so I told him we had better start for home. With that he gave my son a kiss on his forehead. He gave him him a last gentle hug. As he hugged Justic, I noticed that Paul was saying something to quiet for me to hear and then handed my sleeping boy back to me. We said goodbye and as I approached the top step to go down, I turned and the old man smiled.
Justic slept all the way home. When we arrived, it was late. I placed him carefully in his bed and he stayed asleep.
The next morning as the sun rose in my window and it’s rays rested on my face, a shadow moved across the light for a moment. I sprang to my feet to see who was in my room. I saw a small figure standing, looking out the window. As my eyes focused, I discovered it was my son! I ran over to him and embraced him. I turned him around so I could look at his face. He was smiling and for the first time I saw him in his eyes. As I cried, he hugged me like he was trying to comfort me. The whole time he was smiling. Was this real or a dream. I took a couple steps back and he followed me. A bird landed on the windowsill and chirped. Justic turned towards the window, pointed his finger at the bird, and also for the first time laughed. This was no dream. My precious son was well. I spent the next few hours watching him and playing with him. We went to all our neighbors and I introduced them to my son. All they had ever seen was the way he used to be and everyone was amazed and asked how this could be. I told them I had no idea. But I thought to myself, I do have an idea. That afternoon, Justic and I started out to see Paul again. I had to find out what had happened. Somehow, he had given me my son. And as we traveled, rather than riding on my back in silence, I felt my son’s hand in mine and heard his laughter as we walked together.

I Have Joy

I started writing this blog because I have Parkinson’s disease. I thought it may be interesting to bring you along with me on this journey.

Life is a journey. Some parts of the journey are interesting and some are not. Even though more and more people are having to walk this Parkinson’ life than ever before, most people have no idea what it’s like to live this life. I thought that keeping you up to date on any insights I hoped to be able to share would be of some value. I was hoping to learn life lessons that would help me and maybe help other people live happy lives with some kind of challenging condition that won’t go away. I was surprised by how I felt when the doctor told me that I had Parkinson’s disease. It was a weird combination of relief, happiness, and freedom. You would expect to feel something like fear or sadness when you are told you have a progressive, degenerative brain disease that there is no cure for. I felt neither of those things.

For some time before the diagnosis, I had not felt good. I had constant pain and a host of unwelcome and uninvited problems with my body and mind. I was suffering. What made it worse was trying to find out why this was happening to me and find a way to make it stop. Being God’s child, my fear was that I had done something that caused this to happen to me. Did I let something in the door of my life that gave it the right to do this to me? Or was it something I did to take me out from under God’s protection leaving me vulnerable? My life had not been a perfect life. I do make wrong and stupid decisions from time to time. And I believe like most people, I struggled with repeated sin and haven’t always chosen what I knew was right.

When you are saved at 6 years old, I don’t think you can say you were a sinner saved by grace. I believe in the age of accountability and when I reached it, I had not yet become a sinner. (I know every person is born into sin because of what our first parents did in Eden. I’m referring to having to be responsible for personal sin). Every person is responsible for the things they do that are wrong, saved and unsaved. The difference is the unsaved have no way out and are totally subject to the consequences of their actions and at the mercy of the adversary. We that are saved are also responsible for the consequences of our actions, but we have the opportunity to be forgiven, because we have a Father that forgives. Both the saved and unsaved are subject to this fallen world along with being in danger from the trains we willingly lay down in front of. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, the drought also hits them both.

There I was in the parking lot of my doctor, having suffered the last few years and trying the whole time to find out why and correct anything I had done or not done to cause it, not being able to put a name or a face on my tormentors. But now, someone had just given them a name, Parkinson’s disease. For some reason, that made me feel better. I still had pain and all the symptoms, but now there was also hope. Hope that there were tools to battle this previously unrecognized foe. Hope that there were people that had the wisdom and knowledge to fight this foe with me. I am still coming to terms as to the “why I have Parkinson’s”, but the why doesn’t really matter to me anymore. I just believe that God knows what He is doing. It’s my job to trust Him, do what I know is right, following his command to love Him and love others.

The path this journey is taking is getting steeper and more difficult to walk. I have lost my ability to work. Many of the things in life that I used to enjoy I no longer care about or I have lost the ability to do. My body is becoming less cooperative and rebellious.      But I’m happy! I have joy. The joy of having the best and most interesting person I have ever known as my wife. The joy of having three children that, if it were possible to choose your children, I wouldn’t have even come close to the fantastic ones I got. The joy of bringing into our family the perfect people our children chose to marry. The joy of grandchildren. The joy of having a God that is working endlessly in the most microscopic recesses of my life. The joy of friendship and family, where the line between them becomes blurred. The joy of the anticipation of heaven.                                                              I have joy!

 

 

 

 

 

In A Heartbeat

For reasons unknown to me, God thought a thought. The thought was to make a universe… so large that it has no boundaries. At a location of His choosing, He placed a sphere that would travel in space moving in a cosmic dance in step with the rest of the universe. He made the surface of this sphere according to a plan. He intended to place a being of His creation on the surface of the sphere. The being was designed to live and thrive in this place.

When this universe was prepared and the sphere was in its place and ready, God formed a likeness of Himself on the surface of the sphere out of the same material He used to create the universe. He blew one of His breaths into what He had formed. Something happened that had never happened before. There was a new sound in the universe. It was new note in this symphony He was creating. It was a beat. It was the first heartbeat. It echoed throughout the universe. This first beat was followed by a second. Then by a third. And so it began.

Soon after, this heartbeat was joined by another. And then another, until today the universe is filled with the sound of billions of heartbeats.

The sound of a new heartbeat is the sound of promise…the promise of a new life. If the heartbeat is allowed to continue to beat, the reason the first beat was heard can come into being. If the heartbeat is stopped, all the potential and purpose will be lost. God’s purpose for the first beat will be lost.

Every new heartbeat holds the potential for greatness. Each new heartbeat holds the potential for evil. How each heart is cared for by the one who holds the heartbeat within their chests and those around them determines which it will be. If a heartbeat is protected and loved, the possibilities for good are unlimited. A heartbeat that is not protected is always in danger both for the one whose chest holds the heartbeat and those around.

Just as every new heartbeat beats with the rhythm of promise and echoes through the universe, every heartbeat that stops means the end…the end of a life lived in harmony with other heartbeats or the end of a life lived out of rhythm. A heartbeat in harmony creates beauty and life. A heartbeat lived out of rhythm creates chaos, destruction and even the silencing of heartbeats.

Long ago, God gave something of Himself to a young woman. Not long after, another new heartbeat was heard. This one sounded different. This one had the potential for good and the promise of freedom for all heartbeats that chose to beat in harmony with it. This so threatened hearts that beat out of rhythm that they conspired together to stop this heartbeat. They succeeded in their intent to stop this heart from beating. They went so far as to thrust the point of a spear into this heart to make sure it would never beat again. They placed this silenced heart into a stone cave and sealed the entrance with a large round stone.

Three days later a sound could be heard coming from inside the cave. It was a heartbeat. They rolled the stone back and found the cave was empty. The sound of this heartbeat signaled freedom from death for everyone that believed the heartbeat was true.

When a life ends, a heartbeat stops. The universe becomes a little quieter. Those hearts that choose to beat in harmony with the heartbeat that escaped the cave go on forever. Those that choose to beat out of rhythm and harmony will be lost.

Guard your heart so it will beat in time with the symphony of God.

We Serve at the Pleasure of the King

It is spring. “The season when kings go off to war.” Our king has sent us to capture a city and destroy a people. In this season, our king is not with us. He has chosen to remain in his palace and send us, his army, to fight without him. We serve at the pleasure of the king.
I serve under a commander I greatly respect. He has led us to victory to many times to count. When I was young and joined the kings army, my father had recently died and the commander became much more than a commander to me. I look up to him as a father and he considers me his son.
Three days ago my commander said He had a message from the King. To my surprise, he told me the message was for me. He said that the King had summoned me and I was ordered to go to the kings palace immediately. I gathered a few things and started to run. It was a days journey by foot to the palace. I arrived late in the evening. I approached the entrance to the palace and told the guard who I was and that the King had summoned me. He instructed two of his fellow guards to escort me to the king. They led me to a large room. They announced me. From behind a curtain appeared the king. All of us bowed and the King dismissed my escort. The king walked across the room and sat on a finely made sofa and motioned for me to sit beside him. He was a very impressive looking man, made more impressive by what I had witnessed him do in battle and the many stories I had heard regarding the many brave and heroic feats he had preformed over the years. I sat and looked at his face, but respectfully, I did not look directly into his eyes.

He asked me questions regarding how the war was going and how the men were doing. Then he said, ” I have a task for you, but it’s late and I’m tired. Go home tonight, get cleaned up and I will send for you in the morning”. Then he rose from the sofa, turned and left the room. Right after he left, the two guards that had escorted me earlier came in and escorted me out of the palace. When I got outside, I was about to start walking towards home when a thought came into my mind. I can’t go home. My commander and the army were out on the battle field. How could I go home and sleep comfortably knowing they were out there. I turned around and walked back to the entrance of the palace and asked one of the guards that was warming himself by a fire if it would be all right if I found a corner out of the way and rolled my mat out to spend the night. After giving me a puzzled look he gave me his permission. So I spent the night among the kings servants.
When morning came. I got up, rolled up my sleeping mat and looked around thinking about what I should do next. I saw one of my escorts from yesterday across the courtyard and walked over to him. When he saw me approaching he turned to me and asked, ” Where have you been? We went to your house this morning to bring you to the King. Your wife told us she hadn’t seen you and thought you were still with the army.” I told him I had slept here last night. After another puzzled look, he again escorted me to the King.
When we arrived at the room, he left me at the door and walked to the other side of the room where the King was standing. They spoke to each other for a short time and then the guard left the room. The king pointed to the same sofa we had sat on yesterday and we both sat down.

He asked me, where did you spend the night last night. I told him I slept in the entrance of the palace. He asked me why I would sleep there rather than go to my house to sleep. I told him the reason and he gave a quiet chuckle. Then he said to me, ” Don’t be concerned about that. No one would consider you spending a night at home with your family a betrayal to your comrades in the field. Tomorrow you will leave for the camp. I will have something for you to deliver to the commander. In the mean time, I am gathering with a few men on my staff tonight. I would like you to be there. Come back at sunset. Again, he left the room and my escorts came to show me out.
I spent the day at the market and with a longtime friend. He was surprised when he saw me, knowing I was away with the army. We speculated as to why the King had summoned me but came up with nothing.
Just before sunset, I returned to the palace and joined the gathering of men, trying to make conversation but finding it difficult. I felt out of place. For some reason, I started to feel like the goose that had been invited to dinner.
From the time I arrived, the servants started serving many different types of wine. All evening there were toasts to everything imaginable. The king seemed very insistent that I keep my glass empty so the servants could continuously fill it. It wasn’t very long before I discovered I was getting very drunk. When the evening came to an end, I think I remember my escorts having to carry me out of the palace.
I awoke in the middle of the night and found myself lying on the stoop in front of my house. I remembered what the King had said earlier in the day about not feeling I was betraying my friends, but I couldn’t get past the thought in my heart that I was. So I turned from the front door of my house and slowly made my way back to the entrance of the palace. There I found my sleeping mat where I had left it, rolled it out and went to sleep.
The next thing I remember is someone shaking me and talking very loud. My head was pounding and I had a hard time opening my eyes. When I did get them to open, the face of one of my escorts slowly came into focus. He was telling me to get up. I slowly got up and gathered my things. The guard watched me as I put myself together. In his hand was a sealed couriers bag. He handed it to me and instructed me to deliver the bag directly to my commander. He told me that this order came from the King and time was of the essence.
Without hesitation I started to run. I knew I could make it back to our camp before dark. The day went by without incident.
When I arrived at our camp I went straight to the commander’s tent. I announced my presence and he invited me in. He was standing over a table reviewing a map with three of his officers. He welcomed me back and offered me his hand in greeting. I acknowledged the other men and handed the bag to the commander. He took it from me and then returned his attention to the map. I quietly turned and left.
That night as I tried to sleep, my mind kept replaying the last few days trying to figure out what had happened and why the King had summoned me.
The next morning, the army prepared for the days battle. When we were ready, the commander stepped forward and announced that I would be given the honor of leading the charge. As we formed our ranks, I took the forward position. This must have been the message that I had delivered from the King. But why was I awarded this honor. I looked to see if I could find my commander. When I found him, he was looking straight at me. I was taken back by the look on his face. This man I love as a father had the shadow of fear on his face and what appeared to be tears in his eyes.
We heard the blast of the enemy’s battle call. We took our positions and started to advance towards the opposing army. I could see the force that was coming towards us was formidable. When the call to charge was given, I pressed forward and felt confident because of the honor given to me by the King and the commander.
Just before we were about to engage the enemy, I gazed to each side of me and then behind me to draw strength from my fellow warriors. But instead of drawing strength, I felt hopelessness and despair. For at that moment I discovered that I was completely alone. My commander and my fellow warriors had turned back and abandoned me to face the enemy alone. Almost immediately I felt the pain of two arrows piercing into my chest. I stumbled and fell to my knees.
I can feel the warmth of the sun on my face and I see it’s brilliant light shining off the sword that is whistling through the air on its straight and true path to cut off my head.
I believe these are the last words I will utter in this world,
” I serve at the pleasure of the King!”

2 Samuel 11 : 1 – 17

Simply Human

Despite the differences in appearance, hair color…. eye color…. skin color…. male or female, we are all born the same. We are simply human.

Not a part of a group or tribe or color or anything else. Nothing that would distinguish us from any other human that has ever lived or will ever live. Anything that labels us was put there, by ourselves or someone else. The truest connection we all have is that we are all born lost. The only thing that really matters is will we remain lost.

We will all die.

After we are dead, we will all stand before God. Everyone. The place where we will stand will be flat and level. There will be no status or position or labels. We will all be the same.

We will all be asked one question. It will not be one of these;

What did you eat or what did you refrain from eating?

What did you touch or what did you avoid touching?

What did you do or what didn’t you do?

What group were you a part of?

The question that will be asked will be, “Did you believe Jesus?”

If the answer is yes, the reason it’s yes will not be because of anything done or not done during our life. Except for one thing. Did we believe Him and what He did?

There is a question that could be asked, but won’t be asked. “What evidence can be offered to prove your belief in Jesus?” If the question was asked, the answer would be “None.” But the question won’t be asked.

Evidence will not be presented. If evidence were to be allowed to be presented, it would not include eating this or not eating that, doing this good thing or doing that bad thing. It could include a life of loving God with everything. A life of loving others more than loving ourselves.

I believe that one of the gifts God gave everyone through Jesus was freedom and simplicity. In all my years of knowing Jesus, the truth is, for myself and many others I have met along the way, trying to figure out what God wants to say to me, “Me”, has been a challenge that kept me in a place of frustration and confusion for a long time.

Then I realized something. God’s desire and expectation for everyone is to know Him and His Son. He would not have made it hard to do this. He would not expect this of us and desire this of us and then hide. He gave us a book that we could hold in our hands and understand. He wanted to tell us where we have been, where we are now and where we are going.

I’m still somewhat puzzled about where we have been and why He did some of the things he did and the way he did them. I’m pretty clear on where we are now and I do know where I’m going.

For the where we came from, I just need to trust Him to help me understand the things that I need to understand.

For the where we are now, I’m thankful to Him for the Holy Spirit that speaks to my spirit the deep mysteries and the simple truths of living a life for God and for other people. And as for knowing where I’m going, I’m thankful to Jesus for providing the way and the assurance of it.

I do understand that God would have wanted us to have made different choices, starting with our first parents saying no to the serpents offer. But they said yes. And even though they said yes, God still loved us. He loved us enough to provide a way for all of us to be able to come to a point in our lives where we have the opportunity to choose Him over something else. The same offer our first parents were given. And we are free to make the choice.

God’s plan has always been the same, to win us back. To save us from making the wrong choice. The bible is the story of Him doing that. It is a story with many different parts that take place over thousands of years. Much of the story applies to me directly and much of it applies to me indirectly.

This is what the bible story is;

Once upon a time, God created everything. He created a man and a woman. The man and woman had the ability to make a choice. To choose between God or something else. They chose something else. That choice separated the man and woman from God. The man and woman were now lost. All their children would be born lost. But God wanted them back. So, He made a way back. It would take a long time and the journey would be costly. So costly, that it would mean the death of His Son. But God loved us so much, He was willing to pay the price. God’s willingness to do this gave every man the right to make the choice between God and something else. Everyone has the opportunity to make the choice. Hopefully a better choice than our first parents made.

During the journey from our first parents until this moment, God has been working at restoring us to Him. He separated groups of people from each other by language and color. He made rules for men to follow for protection and direction until they were no longer needed. He sent his Son to restore us to Himself. He sent us a counselor to show us how to love and live.

And he has prepared a perfect place for us to be with Him and each other forever.

What gives us the right to enter this place is not who we are or what we have or haven’t done or how much we had or didn’t have. The right is a gift freely given simply by loving God and His Son and living a life that shows it, and by loving others more than ourselves and living a life that shows it.

Everyone that tries to add extra requirements for entry into this perfect place are wasting their time. Everyone that tries to earn the right to enter by what they do or refrain from doing will remain lost forever without God.

That’s simply the Bibles story.

So, when God asks us the only question we will be asked to answer, what will our answer be?

Remember, it will be a yes or no question.

STRICKEN WITH PARKINSON’S

The story is told that around 2000 years ago, four men had a friend that had a movement disorder. In the story, it was said the man was stricken with palsy.The four friends had heard of a man that could heal people was in town. An Old English version of the story describes what happens this way;

(And again, he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.

But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?

And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God.)

 

These four friends decided to take their friend to this healing man so he would no longer have to live like this. They each grasped a corner of their friend’s bed, the bed he had been trapped in for so many years. They carried him to the house where this healing man was. But when they got there, so many people surrounded the house and were blocking the door that they couldn’t get close.

So, they decided the only way they could get their friend inside was to get on the roof and find a way in from there.

Meanwhile, Jesus was inside, talking and healing, when He noticed something falling from the ceiling. He looked up and discovered that someone was making a large hole in the roof. Soon He saw some men were lowering something down to him by ropes tied to the four corners. He stepped back to allow the object to rest on the floor. He saw there was a man on a bed. The man was obviously sick. Jesus looked up again and saw four men with hope shining from their faces looking down at Him through the hole they had just created.

Jesus then looked at the man on the bed. His entire body from his head to his feet was grossly contorted and continuously shaking. He placed His hand on the man’s shoulder. His hand followed the rhythm of the tremors. With compassion and love in His voice, Jesus told him, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now earlier, when Jesus had arrived at the house and all the people had surrounded the doorway, along came a group of the church leaders. The crowd parted to allow the leaders to enter the house. The moment Jesus told the man his sins were forgiven, the leaders looked at each other and thought to themselves, “He can’t say that! Only God can forgive sins.” Jesus knew what they were thinking. He turned to the leaders and asked them, “Which one is easier, to tell this poor man his sins are forgiven, or to tell him to get up and walk? I will show you that I have the power to do both.” With that, Jesus turned back to the man lying on the bed, His hand still moving in time with the tremors. He looked at him and said, ” Get up and pick up your bed and go home.” Immediately, Jesus hand and the man’s body became perfectly still. Jesus stepped back. Every eye was on the man on the bed. Slowly, he started to move, but these were not involuntary movements they had witnessed for so long. These were slow, deliberate movements. It was like watching the birth of a butterfly. As he got up, he transformed from a curled up, contorted, shaking figure into a normal man, standing straight and tall. He stood there for a moment or two, looking around at all the amazed faces, (except for the stone faces of the church leaders, who were obviously not sharing in everyone else’s joy). He looked up through the hole in the roof at his four friends. How could he ever thank them? Lastly, He looked over at Jesus. He couldn’t seem to find any words. Jesus just smiled and tilted His head to the side as if to say, “Go home.”

The man bent down, picked up his bed and left the house, a free man.

 

 

(The definition of palsy is: pal·sy

pôlzē/

noundated

  1. paralysis, especially that which is accompanied by involuntary tremors.

“a kind of palsy had seized him”

verb

  1. affect with paralysis and involuntary tremors.

“she feels as if the muscles on her face are palsied”)

 

In 1817, a London doctor named James Parkinson wrote a paper describing people that had difficulty with movement along with uncontrolled tremors. He named the condition, “The Shaky Palsy”. Soon after he published his article, it began to be called Parkinson’s disease.)

Re: Luke: 5: 17-26 (Bible)

Open letter to God

Dear Father,

As You know, I have Parkinson’s disease. I don’t know when it hit me or where it came from. I don’t think I asked for it. Maybe I did and don’t realize that I did. I know I didn’t ask for it specifically. I could have done something that caused me to get it, either in the natural ,( getting exposed to something that caused me to get it or a genetic predisposition for it.) Maybe spiritual, (maybe it was caused by an act of disobedience that opened the door for me to get it.)

As You are well aware, I have sinned from time to time since You saved me at the age of 6. I do know from that moment, I have been Your son. Everything that has been done to me and that I have done has happened as Your son. Nothing has gotten past You.

If my memory is correct, I do think whenever I have done something wrong, I have asked for forgiveness from You and anyone else I have wronged. There may be some forgiveness I have missed, but I know from past experience, You are good at bringing any I have missed to my attention.

So, however I got this Parkinson’s thing, I don’t like it. It’s no fun for me or Marcia and anyone else in our lives. I’m sure Your not happy about me having to live the rest of my life with this thing getting worse and worse either. Would You help me get rid of it? If there Is something I did to get it that I am unaware of, please show me. If it’s genetic or I have been exposed to some contamination that gave it to me, please clean me of whatever that may be and repair the damaged places.

I know I live in a world where mankind invited Parkinson’s in, but ever since I discovered my brother Jesus holding out His hand to me to save me, and I accepted His hand, I really haven’t been a citizen of this world anymore. Yes, I still have to live here for a while longer, but I would like to do it without a movement disorder.

I know I have asked for this a number of times in the last few years and some of my friends have asked for me, but I just thought I would ask again.
Whatever happens, You know that I love You and will love You forever. And I know that You love me even more and will love me forever. I hope your not disappointed in me because I still have Parkinson’s. I know faith pleases You. If my faith has been lacking, please let me know.
In closing, I really want to thank you for my life. Despite the Parkinson’s disease and the other bumps in the road to heaven, I really love the life You have given me. It’s greater than I ever imagined. And I know that if I shuffle up to the gates, I won’t be shuffling once I pass them.

Thank You for that gift and that assurance.
Your son,
Mark