Category Archives: Feature Presentations

Accepting Identity

Accepting Identity_2

Hi there!

In my previous blog post I wrote about how humans like to conform to certain laid down labels and stereotypes for a subconscious sense of belonging. I wrote about my own journey into figuring out which one I fit into, and I must say, putting it all down there was quite … releasing. I didn’t put in everything I had wanted to, but it was okay.

This one is about moving on from there.

You see, in trying to pick an appropriate label, we can sometimes be like the girl who walks around a room, looking at pictures of flowers on the table and trying to figure out which one is the most beautiful. She would learn something, of course, and may find out which of the flowers is the prettiest.

But then, someone opens the day and calls to her. “Hey, girl!”

She replies with a reserved but cute smile. “Hey.”

“What you doing?”

“Looking at pictures of flowers.” She holds up one picture. “I think this one’s quite pretty.”

The person smiles. “Come on outside. You’ve been looking at pictures all this time. I want to show you real flowers. Flowers you can touch, you can smell, you can see in … well, in 3D! You think you’ve seen ‘pretty’? Wait ‘til you see the real thing.”

 

__________

We have lived our whole lives in the room full of pictures.

We’ve lived our lives searching for identity in the options laid out by those that have gone ahead of us. We tack on labels popularized by the media in movies and music and novels and the news, picking those that seem to describe us best. We consider ourselves based on our nationality, our background, our race.

But God comes from outside the room and says, “I’ve got something better for y’all. A New and Better Identity.”

Come out. Let me let you in on this Identity a little bit.

Coming to Christ is like stepping out of the room. We receive a new life with this new identity; a new history, a new future, a new background.

With His blood, Jesus “…purchased men unto God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9) When you buy something from a store it belongs to you, not to that store anymore. It’s no longer called “that shirt on the Top Shelf, Aisle 5, Megabuy Stores”. No, now it’s your shirt. It’s called “my shirt.”

You are God’s own.

He makes you His child with the full identity and rights of a son, an heir of God. Imagine being the heir to Bill Gates estate! Pretty tight, huh? Now imagine being the heir of the Creator of all things. Now THAT’S bigger. MUCH bigger than we can or could ever imagine.

He remains with you forever, and He produces from within you a nature of love, of joy, of peace and serenity, of patience and perseverance. He makes you kind, good, faithful, to not find the need to insist on your own way, and to be self-controlled.

Sounds like the perfect human being. Actually, it’s so much more than that: He’s making you like Himself. That’s much more awesome than being the perfect human being.

The earth and all that is in it is your inheritance, to take care of and to prosper in.

As a child of God, He gives you the ability to heal the sick, to cast out devils, to live supernaturally, and to be an all-round blessing.

That’s what He promises. That’s the new identity He gives.

 

__________

But the girl in our story has grown used to the room. It’s not her fault, though, ‘cause she’s been in there all her life. But now she’s been invited to come out.

“But I’ve never been outside before,” she says.

“I have,” he says.

“What does it look like?”

“It’s … beautiful. There are flowers, lots and lots of flowers. And not just flowers, my dear. Grass, trees, animals! The blue sky, the amazing clouds taking different forms, the water flowing, the breeze in your face … and you can feel it all.”

“I’ve never seen these things you’re talking about,” she says. “I don’t even know if they really exist.”

“They all do! My dear, they are! And it’s all just outside, waiting for you.”

“But…” she crosses her legs as she takes a step backwards. “I’ve been doing pretty well in here. I don’t need to go out there. I’m fine where I am.”

 

__________

We like to hold on to the reality we are familiar with, to the life we are used to, to the things we have seen and experienced. Even the bad memories and painful experiences that we’ve gone through. We want to hold on to it all because, good or bad, they have all contributed in building us into the people we are. In a sense, we see them as a part of us. And as much as we want to let go, we really don’t want to. We are comfortable with them.

We want to stay in the room, while God has a whole world that He’s prepared for us – OUT THERE.

The world we know pales in comparison to the awesome life he offers. We think we are comfortable where we are … but we haven’t even a clue what ‘comfort’ really is.

True comfort can only be found in the one that made us, God.

You know the hardest part? Accepting.

Accepting the new identity that God offers would require giving in. It would require admitting that we were ignorant and wrong in staying in the room of pictures, and that He’s been right all along. It punctures our pride, the shield we’ve given ourselves to building all this time. It shames what bliss we thought we had to think that there is greater bliss beyond, bigger and better, just a door away.

And that’s how we miss out on God’s greatest gifts.

But when we do accept, we realize that we’ve been wrong all along.

When we do accept this Identity that He gives us, we come to know that we’re already accepted. That we’re affirmed and accepted by the Ultimate Dad, who defines fatherhood for all.

There is no more fear of rejection. There is no need to prove anything ever again.

We’ll come out of the room into an awesome new world that makes the room of pictures look like nothing but a mud shack.

It’s a new identity.

And it’s for us all.

For you.

 

__________

“What if I get hurt?” she asks. “Every new picture I’ve seen in here promises something better, but … it never lasts. I’m tired of getting my hopes up.”

“It’s OK. I know. What’s waiting for you outside this room is much bigger and better than you can imagine.”

“I’ve never been outside before.”

“All the more reason to come. It’ll be OK.”

“What if it’s not? What if it’s not everything I’ve hoped it’d be?”

“You can trust me.”

“Why?”

And, with a smile he responds, “Because I made it all.” He stretched a hand out to her. “I made it all for you. You can trust me.”

 

(TO BE CONTINUED)

 

———-

Special thanks to my friend and brother, Joshua Babarinde (author of DONUT) for his suggestions and review on this article. You can read his inspiring writing on his site, HeirWalk.

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A Quest for Identity

A Quest for Identity

Susan walks into the supermarket looking for some tomatoes. A few paces past the doorway gives her a good view of the grocery. In there, the vegetables and fruits are grouped in different boxes, each labeled so she can pick the one we want. She hurriedly picks one from the box of tomatoes.

“I’d like to buy this tomato,” she says.

The attendant stares blankly at her for a moment. “That … is an onion.”

She blinks, apparently realizing her error. Sure enough, she was holding an onion! The whole box was full of onions. “Oh, dear me! For a moment there I thought the box said ‘tomatoes’.”

The attendant notices that she was right. There had been a labeling error. But he tried to shrug it off. “Well … one man’s tomato is another man’s to-mah-to–”

“An onion’s not a to-mah-to–”

The attendant folded his arms. “Look who’s talking. You thought it was a tomato.”

“You can’t accuse me. The customer is always right.”

“But–” he sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“See? That would’ve saved you a lotta time, wouldn’t it?”

———-

Labels are a good thing. They keep you from accidentally putting salt in your tea, instead of sugar. We like to sort our fellow humans that way. We stack people into certain culturally accepted groups and relate to them based on the generalized stereotype of the label we’ve given them. Of course I’ve since learnt that people are a lot more than their apparent labels seem to imply. But that did not keep me from yearning for a label.

While we give labels to other humans, we subconsciously find security in appending labels unto ourselves. Once we find that we fit into a particular stereotype we feel secure knowing that we belong somewhere. We conform to the prevailing conceptions and norms of those labels until we somehow forget that we actively tried to become that way in the first place. When we can’t find where we fit in, what our appropriate label is, we feel queasy and set about finding out what our true label is. We all do it.

Stories and movies these days tend to depict that fact, with humans grouped into classes, expected to conform to the prevailing expectations of those classes. That’s what endeared me to stories like The Divergent Series and The Giver.

I know better than to define people by labels and as such I knew that there was no sufficient label for me. But that did not keep me from thinking that lacking one meant I was missing something.

I had made it an ambition not to conform to any predefined notions since I was young. I wanted to zig when everyone else was zagging. For example, while my entire family was in the medical line I chose to study a course that was so not medical because … reasons. In church it was years before I raised my hands in worship or did or said anything everyone else was saying, because I wanted to understand why we had to do those things and what they really meant. But I could not openly defy the status quo due to fear and bashfulness, so I rebelled in private. I listen to rock music in secret, screaming my heart out with the tunes in my head. I embraced my eccentricities because they helped me feel special, different from the clones I saw around. Call me a skeptic. I wanted to be a radical. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t become the ‘Rebel’ I wanted to be. For one thing, I did not have the right clothing; the dark gothic piercings and tattoos. Really, I didn’t even want all that stuff. I might as well have gone about holding a giant sign that read: PLEASE, OH PLEASE, NOTICE ME OH CRAZY WORLD! Also, I love God above all else and any life outside of Him just seemed pointless. So I found my Rebellion in this: while my mates gave their time to youthful pleasures and stuff, I gave myself to God, studying His Word and getting to know Him better. I still love Rock music, though, because the screams, loudness and fast-paced tempo give expression to some of the rage and emotion I love to express. But all the Rock music I listen to is Gospel rock, so while I express raw emotion when jamming out in my room, it’s all to God and in God because it’s the cry of my heart that’s in those songs.

I tried to be a geek.

I thought I saw the qualities of a geek in me and I really wanted to be related to that way. So I beefed up my interest in movies and comic books. I got into the world of Marvel and DC Comics, their movies and TV series, their characters and their backstories. Right now I can say I’m an authority on them all, but that’s a discussion for another day (P.S.: I sooooo can’t wait for Legends of Tomorrow, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, Daredevil Season 2, X-Men: Apocalypse …ALL IN ONE YEAR!!! AAAAHHH!!!) I still haven’t watched all the Star Wars movies, but I’ve caught up on the lore and everything. It was fun. Still is. I think what attracted me to their stories was the consistent theme of uniqueness, of flawed people with supernatural or abnormal qualities that set them apart from the rest of humanity and their desire to fit in or use their uniqueness to help others. I saw myself in that, somehow. It resonated deeply within me. But I could not live a life that was all out for these things alone.

But, you know what? Geekiness never did it for me. Sure, I’m also into computers, but I never got to learn programming. I love and am good at computers and such, and sure I probably spend more time with my laptop than with other humans (and I know that is SO wrong) but I guess what turned me off from going through with it all was the dissatisfaction with the expectations of geekdom. Once everyone sees you’re a geek there are certain expectations and limitations they place on you. I liked geekdom, but I knew I was not a geek.

I tried to be a writer. I’d been writing stories since I was a child and I’ve never stopped wanting to. Creating new worlds and new characters gave me an opportunity to retreat into my imagination, to create a world where everything turned out right, where everything turned out the way I wanted it to. If I had no control over the world outside, I could have control over the little ones I created. I loved it, and everyone called me a writer. But then when you put yourself into the jar of ‘writers’ it places certain expectations on you. When you read the works of others and behold the darkness, loneliness, gloom and bleakness their words are coming from, you wonder if you could ever live up to that, or if you’re in the right room. I understand where they are coming from, and I’m there a lot of times. If that’s what being a writer means, I’m outta here!

I tried to be a comic. To make people laugh every chance I got. It was depressing.

I tried to be an academic.

I tried to be a revolutionary.

I tried this…

I tried that…

I even tried being a romantic, whatever that means. Didn’t last.

I kept trying to fit into a mold, and trying not to fit into others. In the end I never fit into any. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t measure up to some standards and expectations I had placed on myself based on the stereotypes I tried to conform to.

But they never did it for me.

The Labels Just Don't Fit

And it made me feel, somehow, less than others. Not belonging anywhere. I would be walking down the road, trying to convince myself that I’m not the idiot I was certain I was. I felt I deserved crap and so I did not expect the best things to come to me. I’d get into friendships, places and associations and expect things not to work out. Expecting the worst kept me from getting into many things. And when they did work out, if they did work out, I kept expecting things to turn out badly. With no sense of belonging or acceptance, I felt like a vagabond, though I was in no way related to James Bond.

But looking back, you know what I see? I see God walking with me through it all, showing me Himself and in so doing, teaching me more about myself. What I thought was my ‘Rebellion’ in leaving youthful raves and embracing Him was His way of setting me apart for Himself and for His use. My love for cartoons, comics and movies embodied an even deeper love for stories that depict the human situation and our quest for something bigger and something better. He teaches me and shows me how He is turning our stories around so that we can see our need for Him and how He changes us and makes us live as His people in a fallen world, in this world but not of this world. My love for comics and stories also birthed a passion for producing godly and wholesome entertainment.

He used my love for computers to help me get better at computers and to help people with their tech issues. Oh, I get great joy when help someone solve in 5 minutes something that they’ve been trying to solve for hours or days on end. No, I don’t love the misery they’ve gone through, but I love the joy and relief they get when they find it’s solved.

And through my quest for a good jar to jump into in this grocery store, for a good label to tack unto myself so I can belong somewhere and so that people can relate to me in a particular way … He’s been there.

He’s been here.

I see that the labels really just don’t do it. They’re just words on cards that can be taken off. It’s the substance, me, and you, that really matters. You are much more than the labels anyone can give to you.

Nerd, Geek, Slut, Jock, Neanderthal, Liberal, Republican, Conservative, Hippie, Bohemian, PDP, APC, Ajepaki, Ajepako, Ajebota, Ajebo’a, Yuppie, One-Percenter, Klutz, Butterfingers, Four-eyes, Ne’er-do-well, Idiot, Casanova, Area.

Labels.

Labels based on observations, and nothing more.

If you think you are nothing but what the labels say you are, you limit yourself to only a small percentage of all that God made you to be.

Even worse, the labels may just be a lie. A big, fat, blatant, lie from the armpits of the pits of hell.

I see myself as one loved by God. And because I have received His love, I can love Him and love others too. I see things in a bigger, better and brighter perspective. I have a bigger heart and can take anything from anyone. I can take crap, but I can also take a compliment. I can expect much more and I can expect better because God has made me His son. He has given me a life that transcends all mistakes and limitations that once held me down and held me bound. Every day I learn more about who he has made me to be.

So while I’m done with labels and am content with who I am in Christ, I still struggle with insecurities once in a while. Sometimes, simply saying hi, making phone calls and taking phone calls feels like a chore when I’d rather just be left alone. I used to think it was fear of rejection, but it’s just downright rude. I still prefer to stay in the background when I don’t know what to say to people. I still make eccentric wisecracks and artsy quips to conceal all of that, making everyone smile and laugh to avoid exposing myself or feeling vulnerable.

I still zig when prevailing sense says to zag.

I still love Rock Music.

I still read comics, and make some too.

I still write (as in, DUH!)

But beyond all that, I live a life that’s bigger than all that. The life God made me to live, that I may be a blessing to all. And that is how I get better, how I grow into the person He already sees me as.

 

I am ME.

And God loves ME.

I can’t think of a better label than that.

FATHER OF CHIBOK

Father of Chibok

…must … make it…

Can’t stop … can’t turn back…

I must…

… must …

… SIMBI …

With every step, Adamu ibn Gafar’s heart pummeled harder into his chest. His breath had turned to intermittent gasps. His strength was giving way. But he could not stop. Would not stop. His rifle weighed heavy on his neck by the strap.

A dry wind caressed his bearded face as he crested a knoll, leaving a gritty taste in his mouth. The valley before him, dotted with trees and sparse undergrowth, was laid out bare like an unfurled scroll of green and brown. The Sambisa forest. It would have been the perfect landscape were it not for the dark secrets hidden in there.

How many nights had it been now? Seven? Eight? Yes, eight nights since he’d left the village.

Three since he last ate.

Two since he last drank water. Dirty water, at that.

His head was already feeling dizzier with each new hour. He could feel every bone in his body. He knew he should have turned back a long time ago, but he had to keep his attention on something more important. His sole purpose for being here. His only purpose for living now.

Simbi … Simbi … must make it… It had become his mantra.

He did not even know where he was going. Everyone knew that the terrorists sometimes set up camp in this forest, but they were also constantly on the move. Only God knew exactly where they were. Gafar knew that he would most definitely die out here. His next step could plunge him to his grave…

Something about that thought must have been taken seriously, because the next thing he knew was that the horizon was rising unnaturally. The sandy ground was rising to his eye level … and growing darker. His scraggly beard bit into his skin as it touched down on sand.

Am I … falling?

BAM! His world faded to black.

 

———-

A crackle played at the back of his mind as he slowly regained consciousness. It could’ve been gunfire in the distance. A salty tang filled the air, assaulting his stomach. Oh, that churning curling feeling. How hungry he felt. Slowly, one of his eyes peeled. There was a fire, alright, but it wasn’t gunfire. More like a camp fire. It was in sharp contrast to the dark night around.

Wait a minute. Camp fire meant camp…

…and camp meant…

People!

He hurried to his haunches, scurrying away, but stopped at the sight before him. Only one man was seated in the sand facing the fire, his back to Gafar. He had seen no other human being in days. He noted that his rifle still sat beside him. Desperate not to make a sound, he slowly grabbed it from the grass at his knees.

Could it be? Had he finally reached their camp? Is he one of them?

Struggling to his feet, he sauntered slowly toward the stranger, reminded of the pain in his bones with every step he managed. The man was humming to himself, poking the fire with a stick. He was roasting some fish in the fire, hence the salty tang. Food! But Gafar would not kill a man for food … unless he was a no-good kidnapping insurgent—

But, still… FOOD!

“You’ve been out for hours.”

Gafar stopped. Who said that? He had been certain they were alone. Gafar had not seen another human in over a week. Had this man just spoken? Gafar knew he had been found out. He raised the rifle to the man’s head. He should have said something, but nothing came to mind.

The man turned slightly. “I thought you’d like some food.”

Gafar gulped, his throat dry more from hunger than from fear. “You have five seconds to tell me what you’re doing here.”

The man paused. “Clearly, I’m roasting fish—“

“Are you one of them?” Gafar snapped. “The Haram?”

The man turned and seemed to notice the rifle for the first time, his gaze falling to its barrel. But he didn’t flinch. “Why would I tell you that?”

“Answer me!”

The screeching of crickets in the distance gave an ambience to the scene. “What if I told you I was and you weren’t one of them? Or if I said I wasn’t, but you were one of them? Either way, one of us is dead already.” Gafar froze. The man smiled. “Consider me a friend, mallam.

“I have no friends on this path.”

“Then consider this an invitation. In a land such as this, we could all do with a companion.” The stranger patted the ground beside him. “Come. Eat.” A bowl of already roasted fish sat beside the man. “I also got some bread.” He extended his bag towards Gafar.

Gafar was torn. He should be pulling the trigger, but his hunger was too strong. He snatched the bag out of his hand and reached in for a loaf. Sure enough, he felt the soft loaves of bread in his hands. The aroma was too hard to resist. And he took a bite.

His gastric juices and salivary glands went to work. Goodness, he had not realized how hungry he really was until now. Whoever this stranger was, he had brought some good food. This was like a miracle … if you believed in such.

“You’re welcome,” the stranger muttered, returning to his roasting. “There’s a creek over there. The water’s cleaner than most.”

Gafar sat, taking more of the bread and fish. Out of habit he muttered his thanks. The man looked nothing like anyone else he had seen before in these parts. He knelt at the creek and gulped down a good helping of water. Sure enough it was clean water.

“God must be looking out for you,” the man said. “Few survive days in this forest on their own.”

Gafar did not respond. He preferred not to give much thought to God. He needed not to. For one thing, those perverted terrorists claimed to be fighting in His name. Why would God allow those men to take his daughter away? Either someone or something was wrong in that equation, or there really was no God. It just didn’t make sense. Without answers he chose to remain neutral on the subject.

“There’s a nomadic clan about a day away where we can trade that gun of yours for supplies,” he said. “But they’re always on the move.” Gafar arched a brow at the man, who shrugged. “I’ve lived in the Sambisa for a good while now. I know my way around here.”

Gafar studied the man as he returned to the fire. He wore a woolen jacket over his brown caftan. The white goatee framing his chin gave him a patriarchal look. Had he really lived here for long? He was in no mood for a conversation, but clearly this man was. “I thank you for the sustenance, sir. But one must wonder what would make a man like you to stay in this godforsaken forest.”

The man stared pointedly at him.“I could ask you the same question.”

“My path is no business of yours.”

“I see all kinds of men making their way through this forest every now and then,” he said. “Most with ill-intentions. You don’t strike me as their type.” He cocked his head, ostensibly studying Gafar. “But I can tell you that the enemies you seek will not be taken down with just one rifle.”

Gafar turned to him. So this man had deduced his vendetta. “You’ve … seen them?”

“Everyone knows when they camp, the Haram. Most families left the forest as soon as they started … ‘camping’ here.”

“Yet you remain.”

The man shrugged. “I’ve got greater concerns than my own safety,” he said. “As do you, I presume.”

“I’m grateful for the food, sir, but like I said, my path is of no concern to you.”

“One rifle cannot take down an entire camp of—“

“Sir, I would rather not talk about this.”

“Some would call that denial. “

“Sir, I really don’t like—“

“But you want to talk about it—“

Gafar shot to his feet. “Look! Your attempts to drive me out of my mind can’t go beyond how out of control I already am. I … ha … I … I don’t even know why I’m even trying to talk to you. I should have killed you and made off with your food when I had the chance.”

The man was smiling and it was annoying. “But you won’t, my friend.”

“Don’t be too sure.”

“You may be mad, but you’re not ax-crazy.”

“Yes! Yes! You got me there, old man! I am mad! I’m absolutely crazy! What was I thinking, coming in here with a borrowed gun? And you know something else, old man? I’m dead already. I’m a dead man! This is a dead man talking to you, right here! What have I got to lose?”

“A mad man and a dead man. That’s a very lethal combination…”

Gafar clenched his fists. “Tell that to those perverts.”

“…for you,” the man finished, his eyes glistening in the fire’s hue. “It’s lethal for you. And you know why? I can tell because I know who you are.”

“You don’t know the first thing about me.” The man just stared at him, with what looked like sympathy in his eyes. As far as Gafar was concerned, he was mocking his resolve.

“I know … that you’re a dangerous weapon to anyone that crosses your path now. And that’s because of who you are.” Gafar waited for the punch line. But when it did come it took the wind out of his sails. “You’re a father.”

Gafar froze, at a loss for words.

“They must have taken something most precious to you to bring you in here,” the man continued, his eyes on Gafar. “However insane this is. And I can think of nothing as precious as … as a child. A daughter.” He paused. “Your daughter.”

Gafar just stared at him. Exposed and vulnerable in that moment. Now, when he needed a smart comeback, nothing came. He just stood there and stared. “Well … well, it’s better than just sitting down and doing nothing.” He tried to avoid his gaze. “Like everyone else is doing.”

“How old was she?” the man’s voice was gentle.

Gafar stared into the fire. The thought that had been playing in the depths of his heart boiled to the surface. Simbi’s lost, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

For the first time in days, he let the teardrop trickle down his face. His resistance fell away. The heave in his chest was back. He could feel his pulse thumping in his forehead. He slowly sank to his seat.

The man just stared at him.

“Nineteen,” he whispered. “She was … only … nineteen.”

The crackle of the fire and the distant caw of hawks filled the silence that followed. His heart was breaking again. And, again, he was helpless.

“We hoped this would be the last WAEC that would get her into university. I didn’t think it was necessary. I only wanted her to get married and start a life as soon as possible. Her mother wanted our daughter to have a dream. A future. She made me promise —right there, as her life slipped away— to get our daughter through school. She would become a great woman. A princess that royalty would die for. But you know what? I never really realized how beautiful my daughter was already. A treasure…” he gulped. Now she was gone. Kidnapped. And who knew what else had become of her.

“What I would give for one more moment to hold her … to tell my daughter that I love her. I never told her that. I never … thought I needed to. I thought she always knew. But I would give anything! Even to the last of my cattle and my land, I would give it all. I just want my daughter to be safe…”

He was breaking down in front of a stranger, he realized. He had spent a week away from humans and he had already lost all his pride. “It’s been so long now. I saw that video, you know. They showed the girls, all in black. But I didn’t see my Simbi. They say they’ve been sold as slaves. Others say they’re dead. But I can’t believe that. I couldn’t live with myself if that happened.”

The man had just been listening, now there was nothing but sobbing and the crackle of the fire between them.

“You want to negotiate with them?” the man asked at last. “You mentioned giving your cattle.”

“What choice do I have?”

For a moment they simply stared into the fire. “You really do love your daughter,” the man said. Gafar wiped his eyes. “I know how you feel … friend.”

Don’t say that. You can’t possibly know how I feel.

He placed a hand on Gafar’s shoulder “You will see your daughter again. It’s the hope we fathers have to hold on to.” Gafar turned to him. “The enemy may take our daughters, but we’ll do everything to bring them back. Even to lay down our very lives. Because it’s everything we have to give.

“After all … that’s why I’m here as well,” the man said, turning back to the fire.

Gafar sniffed and turned to him. “They took your daughter too?”

The man stared into the fire for a moment. When he did reply his voice was nothing but a whisper. “Daughters.”

That stopped him. Gafar was shaken. Really?

This gave a whole new perspective to this man. His daughters had been taken as well, and he was here to rescue them. There were things he wanted to ask, but he couldn’t. It was just … surreal. And sad. Very sad. So he does know how I feel. “I’m … I’m sorry.”

How, if there is any justice in the universe, these things could go unpunished troubled Gafar. How could these people continue their evil crusade – and no one else wonders why?! God, are you even there?

“You asked me why I’m here, in this …as you called it, ‘godforsaken’ forest,” the man said, a slight quiver playing at the edge of his lips. “Now you know. I have to be close to my children, somehow. I’ve been here for ages, searching, ready to bring my daughters home.” He smiled, in spite of himself. “I couldn’t live with myself any other way, knowing they’re in the hands of such evil men. I couldn’t afford to.” He shook his head, staring into the distance, lost in thought. “This ‘fatherhood’ thing, it’s … it’s an occupational hazard.”

Gafar sighed deeply, looking up at the stars. “You know, sometimes I think that if I ever brought her back safe, I would take her out of this place. Out of this country. I’d sell everything I have to take us to somewhere safe. I would throw the biggest party ever for her and her friends. I would … I would let the whole world know that she’s the most beautiful girl of all. The most precious jewel to me. I would never yell at her again … ever…”

The man nodded silently. “The Father’s heart.”

For a moment they did not talk. Gafar absentmindedly took some more helpings of the bread with fish. These short silent moments that punctuated their conversation seemed, to Gafar, to bond them somehow. A sort of camaraderie between fathers desperate to bring their loved ones home. Through long and dark nights in the cold, the bites of parasites and the certainty of death, the thought of their daughters home and safe again could be the only thing keeping them going.

The man turned and stared into his eyes again. “You can be sure that I’ll let your daughter know how much you love her so.”

Gafar smiled, as the chilling realization that he would die overtook him. But he nodded. “I’d do the same if I saw yours.”

“Listen to me—“

“—But frankly I just might outlive you, old man—“

“No, wait, you’re not listening to me. I will let your daughter know you love her because I am with her.” Gafar squinted at him. “Right now.”

Gafar tried to make sense of the man’s sudden cryptic shift in gears. “What’re you saying?”

“You know full well what it is I am saying.”

“Who … who are you?”

That enigmatic smile was playing at his lips again. “Don’t you remember me? Adam?”

Gafar was taken aback. He didn’t recall telling this man his name, let alone his first name. “Are you … no … it can’t be…”

He nodded. “I am.”

And he smiled one more time.

 

———-

Incessant chirping played at the back of his mind as he slowly regained consciousness. It could’ve been the sound of angels greeting each other. Perhaps he was dead already. For real, this time. He felt full on the inside. Oh, the blessing of good food. Especially bread and fish … talk about a meal! Slowly, one of his eyes peeled open. There was chirping, alright, but there were no angels. More like birds—

Wait a minute!

As he hurried to his haunches, he was engulfed by the daylight around him. He was still in the forest, birds chirping in the trees. It was another day searching for his daughter. One thing that piqued his attention was that there was no evidence of a camp fire around him. No ashes. He turned and confirmed his last expectation – no creek either. Had it been a dream?

But if it had all been a dream, why did he feel as if he had eaten?

He inhaled deeply, staring up into the bright sky. It was a new day, with new dangers ahead. But never before had he felt so much resolve.

Miracles do happen, he mused.

Picking his rifle again, refreshed and filled on the inside he hurried on into a forest that, perhaps, wasn’t so godforsaken after all. To death. To life.

To his daughter.

For Simbi.

———-

“I’m absolutely convinced that nothing

nothing living or dead,

angelic or demonic,

today or tomorrow,

high or low,

thinkable or unthinkable—

ABSOLUTELY

NOTHING

can get between us and God’s love

because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

Romans 8:38 and 39 (The Message)

 

———-

FATHER OF CHIBOK

Father of Chibok; Father of all.

I know You hear us when we call.

Thank You because You’re always near.

And, as You’re here, You’re also there.

You’re with our sisters and daughters in captivity.

Keep them, protect them … set them free.

I know You can

‘Cause You’re more than a man.

You loved them even before this all began.

Heal their hearts; heal their minds

Keep them from the fear that binds.

Our hearts go out to them too.

If anyone can bring them home, it’s You.

And Father,

This part is so hard that it barely even rhymes.

Help us … somehow … to pray for and love the men

Possessed by the spirit of terror.

For they terrorize and wish our nation ill

But unbeknownst to them, they are the captives, still.

Heal their hearts, heal their minds.

Free them from the bondage that binds.

Let them know that even in the darkest of forest

There’s a Father that loves them, and in seeking them, You don’t rest.

If anyone loves them, it’s definitely You.

Help us to love them like You do.

O Father of All; Father of Chibok

Thank You ‘cause You answer when we knock.

In the end, we know that Evil’s time is done.

In the End, evil is overcome.

Let Your Kingdom come and make this all right.

The world will be so much better with Your Light.

If anyone can do this, it’s going to be You.

What can we do?

Can You use us too?

Help us to lighten up this world

With your light as we do as we are called.

Reflecting your love to every fellow

That they may know that You love them so.

If You can use anyone, dear Jesus…

…thank You because it can be us.

THE JOHN 11 STORY: Hope

<< INTRO

<< Episode One: Love

<< Episode Two: Faith

John 11_hope

And so we got to the tomb. A rock was fixed in place over the entrance of the cave to seal it. And there I saw him. No one else could see him except me. I saw the enemy himself.

Leaning on the gravestone, his hands folded, my foe stared at me through hideous eyes cold from millennia of nothing but darkness. He just stared at me, an ugly sneer playing at his lips.

“It appears we meet again, Son of God,” he said, sarcastically dragging that last part.

So this was the monster that had held man bound for years. The one whose lethal sting festered in the blood of men, bringing them slowly to the grave through sin. This was the one that had kept humanity in chains, in oppression because of sin.

“What do you think you can do here?” he hissed. “Too late to heal this one, so you want to take him out of my hands? Like you did in Galilee? What’s your deal? I have a right to keep them, and you know it. However, you’re too late. It’s been four days. This one’s spirit is long gone.”

Yes, this is the monster that I will defeat on a cross. The last enemy. A painful reminder of what is in store for me.

But I was not there for him. Not yet. I was there for Lazarus. My gaze was set on what lay beyond Death. I would not let him have the final say here. I would not engage him before his time.

I turned to my disciples. “Brothers, take that stone out of the way.”

Martha started at that. “Master, are you—? I mean … he’s … he’s been dead for days! Four days—“

“Martha…”

“His spirit’s gone and I get it that you want some closure – I probably even get that more than you do – but … the stink! He’d be rotten by now.You don’t—“

“Martha, dear Martha … didn’t you hear me say you would see God’s glory if you believe?”

She stared at me, wondering if she should dare believe in what I was implying.

Yes, I dared her to believe, to expect the ‘impossible’. Let hope be rekindled in your dear heart. She stared at the tomb, her mouth agape.

“Go on,” I told my disciples. “Get the stone out of the way.”

They were already pushing the large rock. Behind me the crowd gasped in shock, some in horror. It was downright disrespectful disturbing the dead, they must have thought. To some I must have appeared like a hopeless rebel adamant to see my dead friend’s body one last time. The cold interior was opened. And, sure enough, the putrid odour drifted toward us. The others withdrew behind me. But I kept on staring into the darkness beyond, where my friend’s dead body lay.

“So that’s it?” Death scoffed. “You’re just going to ignore me now?”

Never again will death oppress those that believe in me, and those that will believe. The day will come when I will take all that Death has got for their sake, and dump it all on myself. I will die too, yes. But I will rise again. Death will lose its sting. The grave will lose its victory. That’s my Father’s plan.

“You do know that you are just a man,” Death growled. “All men eventually come to me. Men die. You may have taken three or so from my claws … but who will raise you when you fall into my hands, hmm?”

One man would die for all men to be saved. That would be me. It is all playing out as my Father had said. Death’s biggest mistake would be to take me, the one who is Life.

“I will maim you, and crush you, and destroy you before their very eyes, Son of God.”

See? The winner has already been decided. It is already written.

I lifted my eyes. “Thank You, Father! Thank You because You have heard me! Of course, I know You hear me always. I just said that for the people standing here, so they can believe that You have sent me.”

Some thought I had finally snapped. Death was furious, seething because I gave him no heed.

“I will deal you the worst death ever,” he said.

“LAZARUS!” I called out. “COME OUT!”

You dare take him from my hands—?!“ But then, he vanished. No doubt, with vengeance in his heart.

Death was gone.

The crowd peered into the darkness from a safe distance. In the silence that followed, the passing breeze and the chirping of birds filled our ears. Heavy breathing echoed behind me.

And then there was a scream. Someone had observed movement in the tomb. But then she was not the only one.

“Look! There! Do you see it?”

“See what? Oh, wait … oh my! Oh my—“

“Where? What’s going on?”

“It’s a GHOST!”

“Good God!”

But he was not a ghost. My friend bounded out of the tomb to their screams and cries for mercy. I’ll admit, it’s not every day you see a dead man come to life. He was still bound and wrapped up in strips of cloth so he could barely move. “Quick,” I said. “Someone, unwrap him. Get him out of those … clothes.” They hesitated at first, but then some of my disciples went ahead, the others too scared to come. The sisters held back, crying.

When the sheet from his face was removed we all saw him. Lazarus. Thank You, Father.

The sisters ran to embrace him, crying out loud. The screams of terror turned to cries of joy. The man held his sisters, joy streaming from them. The news was spreading, the grapevine already reaching the village: Lazarus is alive! So many people that doubted before believed now. They had now seen what my Father is capable of.

It was totally amazing as faith rose that day. I saw people trust in God again. Many who had given up on God’s saving power were now filled with faith. They could now see that God could do anything, that He was here for them, and that He had sent me here. They had faith in me. These people were getting set up for the days of the kingdom, after the final battle comes to pass, and is won. They will believe. They do believe.

It does not matter that they may not continue believing. My story is not done.

I will die. I will rise. All who believe in me will be filled with eternal life, and they will never fall into Death’s hands. Death will become my vehicle to victory, and theirs too.

It will be painful for me. Torturous and unearthly for me. So that you can be free.

And the result will be awesome. Everyone who believes in me will be filled with the Life that conquers Death. Yes, everyone— even you!

Ha!

It surely is worth it.

 

‘Whoever has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure’

1 John 3:3 (NIV)

 

———-

[POST-CREDITS SCENE]

In the recesses of the study in this palatial mansion, a group of men meet to discuss. They are leaders and priests, the top in the land. And the high priest sits with his fist on his mouth, deep in thought. A messenger has just arrived with the news.

“Are you certain?” one of them asks.

“Yes, sir,” the messenger says. “I saw him with my very eyes. The man lives.”

“BAH! There must be an explanation,” another says dismissively. “No man can bring the dead back to life.”

“He’d been in that tomb for four days, sir!”

“Do you expect us to believe that this demon-possessed Galilean – a chronic blasphemer– can raise the dead?”

“Well … I, uh—“

“It’s a trick, nothing more. A very costly one. There must be a logical explanation.”

“But his sisters mourned four days. We all saw them—“

SILENCE!”

“Even worse,” another puts in. “With such miracles – or rumors of miracles – this Jesus will have many more people believing in him. They’ll make him some sort of Deliverer. A … a messiah.”

“Some think he’s the Messiah.”

“That could be dangerous.”

“There would be an uprising. They will try to defeat the Occupation.”

“The Romans … they won’t take this lightly. There will be bloodshed. They’ll tighten their control—“

“And we’d be removed from our positions!”

“That … that would not do. For the sake of the people, of course.”

“We must stop this Jesus!”

A very deliberately audible groan from Caiaphas makes them all fall silent. His hand is on his forehead. “You’re all so stupid! Isn’t it obvious what we must do?” He stands, staring them down. “One man dies, and this uprising is no more. One man’s death, and our nation is spared destruction.” The priests warm up to what he’s implying. “He dies … and everyone is saved.”

Truer words have never been spoken, unbeknownst to him.

In the shadows, Death smiles.

It is all playing out as my Father said it would.

Now, more than ever…

…it has begun.

 

THE END?

 

This story is inspired by the eleventh chapter of the account of John Bar Zebedee on the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.

THE JOHN 11 STORY: FAITH

<<INTRO

<<Episode 1: LOVE

John 11_faith

We did not set out for Bethany until two days later. Lazarus was, no doubt, dead by then. Mary and Martha were in deep mourning by that time.

When my disciples were gathered I told them. “We need to get ready. We’ll be setting off for Judea today.”

To say they were astonished would be like saying the Jordan is wet.

“But, Master … Judea?! They’re out to kill you over there. It’s not safe to go now.”

“We’re just coming from there.”

“Can’t it wait?”

I turned to them. Yes, there were logical grounds for fear in Judea. But fear is never a good option. “Wouldn’t you rather walk in the day, when there’s light?” I told them. “Or would you prefer to walk in the night, when there’s no light? That’s an invitation to stumble.” Besides, I needed to be in Bethany. I wanted to get to my friend.

But they could neither see it, nor understand it. Not yet.

“Our friend, Lazarus, is asleep. I’m going over there to wake him up.” Oh, what a glorious sight it would be. Sickness thought it had its day, but Lazarus would not stay dead.

Andrew perked his ears at that. “Oh, so you’re saying he’s better now?”

“Uh…”

“I mean, if he’s asleep, then he must no longer be sick. He’s alright. That doesn’t require a visit now.” The others nodded in agreement.

“Wisdom is profitable to direct,” Thomas counseled. Interesting. “These times are dangerous in Judea.”

I eventually had to use the ‘D’-word for them to understand what I was saying. I wanted their faith to be strong enough to see these things the way I saw them. But for now, it’s just one step at a time. “Lazarus is dead.” The room fell silent. “And I’m glad that I was not there earlier, for your sakes. You’re about to be given new grounds for your faith.”

The silence lingered for a moment.

“He’s dead?”

I stood. “So it’s settled then. Let’s get ready to tell the others. We’ll leave after lunch.”

I could feel their stares as I walked out of the room.

“He is serious … isn’t he?”

“Does anyone understand the Master these days?”

“You did see him leave the room. He means to leave now!”

“Sometimes I worry about him.”

“He’s been talking about dying and stuff. Now this?!”

“This is trouble, I tell you. Is he suicidal?”

“Don’t say that! You know who he is…”

“OK, alright. But still…”

“We’ve sworn our lives to him.” A loud sigh. “We might as well go and die with him.” That was Thomas’ voice.

I shook my head. Not even my closest friends could trust me on this. They just couldn’t see the Bigger Picture. They however trusted me enough to come along with me.

Looks like it’s just You and me, Father.

—–

For as long as sin has existed, man has been subjected to death and the pain it brings. I’ve seen and felt that pain many times. I should know … my father on earth, Joseph Bar Yacov, died years ago. The pain of separation can be gut-wrenching, from this side of heaven. Death has been holding humanity in its grasp, bringing fear, oppression and despair in its wake.

But there is another side to these things. I am the One that brings life to the dead. There was Jairus’ daughter back in Capernaum; and there was also that young man in Nain. I brought them back to life.

But one day, I will be the death of Death itself … by my own death. It sounds crazy to the human mind now … but the Father knows what He is doing. We know the evil principalities will orchestrate my death, not knowing that they are bringing Life to Death’s very doorstep. It will be painful … torturous … the pain of the punishment for millennia-worth of the sins of men … Sometimes I wonder how I can go through it all. But I trust my Father to give me the strength when I need it.

In many ways, this whole experience reminded of me of my own coming sacrifice. Like Lazarus, I too will die. But I will rise. My friend has been given a front row seat on one of the greatest stories of all.

By the time we approached Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days already. We were still about a mile away from the village when I noticed the woman in black coming down the path towards us. Even from that distance I could tell who it was. Martha. The news of our coming had reached her already. I hurried ahead of the others, extending my hands for the embrace. She just stared at me as I approached, her face quivering. She had cried so much, her eyes were red. She willed herself not to cry anymore. With Lazarus gone, she and her sister would be at the mercy of their relatives. At least, that’s what she probably expected. Oh, Martha…

“It’s OK,” I whispered as I embraced her.

“Four days, Master,” she whispered into my shoulder. “Four days. If … if you had been here … my brother would not have died.” I stared into her face. What could I say? I knew waiting would hurt them, but I could not have done otherwise. If only she knew the great miracle waiting ahead. Would she understand? She inhaled deeply. “But I know that God will still give you whatever you ask.”

She still believed in me? Underneath all that pain and hurt, could she see what was really going on? Or did she think God was unfair in granting my requests but not healing her brother? “Your brother will rise again,” I told her.

She avoided my gaze. “I know. I know that he’ll be raised up too at the Resurrection at the end of time, when all the dead will rise—“

“Martha! Don’t be afraid to get your hopes up. You don’t have to wait for the end! I am —right now— Resurrection and Life. Even if they’re dead, if anyone believes in me they’ll live! And everyone who believes in me while they are still alive will never ultimately die. Do you believe this?”

It must have been hard for her, I know, demanding such faith. But it’s the truth. After all this, she would be able to believe in God for anything. That’s what I want. She nodded. “Yes, Master. All along, I’ve believed that you were … are the Messiah, the Son of God come into the world.” She knew and believed all that, but now it probably just felt like nothing but words. Was she reassuring herself? Did she really believe? She inhaled deeply. “Ah … I must go, get the house ready … please excuse me—“

“We’ll go with you—“

But she was already hurrying back into the village, desperate to keep the tears from falling in our presence. It was definitely not going to be easier. There was so much fear and doubt out here. It hurt that my friends had to go through so much pain. Was it necessary?

Father, thank You because in the end … it is all worth it.

“He really is dead, isn’t he?” Peter said behind me.

I turned and nodded. My disciples, the ones that would be my witnesses when all this is over. “For your sakes, I’m happy I waited.”

“You said so before. But…”

“Trust me,” I said. “This is so that you all –everyone— can see what my Father is capable of. Through me.”

We waited for the others to catch up. We had barely left that very spot when Mary came hurrying toward us. Friends and family, all in mourning, accompanied her. Many halted when they saw my friends and I. But my attention was on Mary alone. She did not hide her tears. She had believed in me for so long, and I had not come when her brother was ill. How should I expect her to feel?

She fell to her knees at my feet, crying. “Master! If only you had been here, my brother would still be alive!” No, she was definitely not happy.

“Mary –“

“It’s too late! Now my brother is dead. He died, Jesus. Lazarus is … gone.”

This was more difficult. She was crying. The pain… It was as though we were swallowed by this barrage of wails, as the mourners raised their voices with her. Dear Father…

Father, they’ll know this was worth it in the end. Let their faith be strengthened.

The fear and gloom and despair out there left a bad taste in my gut. Death had left its footprint, and it was a painful sight. Death, you will be the last enemy I will defeat.

I felt a lump in my throat when I asked, “Where was he laid?”

“Master, come and see,” one of the mourners said.

And they led us to the graveyard outside the village limits. It was a bare wasteland that reeked of loneliness and gloom – the opposite of what I have come to give humanity. These were my enemy’s stomping grounds, and my friend had been brought there as its trophy. Just like all humanity.

Lazarus in a grave.

Before I knew it, I was crying. I let the tears fall. I let the sobs turn to wails. Pent up feelings gushed out to the surface in that instant … and I wept. My disciples were troubled to see me cry, but I couldn’t help it. This was man’s lot because of sin’s curse. Death. So far, so opposite from what We intend for them.

But I will end this.

I will surely end this.

It is worth it, Father.

“Aw, he must really miss his friend,” someone said. “See how he loved him.”

They did not know that it was because I loved him that I had delayed my coming.

“Love, schmove! If he really loved him, why couldn’t this ‘Healer’ make his friend well before he died, eh? But call him to make a blind man see and he’ll show up. But for his friend? Meh!”

Not on a day like this. Not adversity now; not today. It will be worth it, my friend. It will all be worth it. You may deny me now, but this is for you too. Your faith will be energized.

No one saw what I was seeing, or expected what I was expecting. But in the midst of the doubt and adversity, the fear and gloom – I held on to my Father’s words.

Lazarus, I’m bringing you to life today.

When we got to the grave I lifted my eyes. “Thank You, Father! Thank You because You have heard me!”

 

To be concluded… in Hope

 

NOTE: I understand that this interpretation of the story may cause some questions. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. I’ll also share mine. Thanks! 😀

The John 11 Story: Love

<<INTROJohn 11_love 2

We were all refreshing ourselves – that’s me and the Twelve, and many of my other followers— by the banks of the Jordan. I love these guys. Many of them have left their families to follow me. Some have brought their whole families along to join us. These people received the words of life into their hearts like bread, and I hoped that they would digest it. Just like we were digesting the meal we were eating at that moment. And it was a very refreshing one, I remember, especially after hours of teaching.

Andrew brought a young man to me. “Master, this is Ethan,” he said. “He brings news from Mary and Martha in Bethany.”

I recognized Ethan from the brief times we spent in Bethany. “Peace be to you, Ethan.”

“And to you, Master.”

“All the way from Bethany? You must be exhausted from the journey—”

He shook his head, barely blinking. “Your people have been very kind to me, sir. But I could not eat now, even if I wanted to.”

I nodded. “And why would you not want to?” I noticed the shadow over his features. Andrew knew it too. He had mentioned only Mary and Martha. “And how is my good friend, Lazarus?”

Ethan looked up at me. “That’s why I’m here, Master. Lazarus, your friend, is terminally ill. He needs you. Master.”

And that was the moment. The moment that altered the rest of the week.

Lazarus…

With a word I could have healed him in that moment. Human logic and emotion required me to. I would have loved to. Lazarus. He has been a faithful man, taking care of his parents’ estate since their deaths. No ordinary suitor could take his sisters, not while he was around. And his generosity is overwhelming. His doors are always open to my disciples and I every time we pass through Bethany. Always willing to understand my teachings, Lazarus is a man I am glad to call my friend.

Healing him would bring joy to his sisters. They’ve been troubled long enough because of this sickness.

But…

But I am never alone in these matters. My Father and I go through them together. He knew what was going on. He knew when the foul spirit of sickness took my friend’s body, and His ears were not silent to his cries and those of his sisters. But He had a much better, much Bigger plan.

That was how I knew that Lazarus, my friend, would die.

But the story would not end there. Like I said, We had a Bigger plan:

We would raise Lazarus to life from the dead! 😀

It would be amazing. This would build faith on a grand scale. Especially for Lazarus. He would have a front row seat on Resurrection before most people would. How great his faith would be at the end of all this, for all to see!

This will turn the eyes of many up to my Father, a big boost to their faith. They will see how awesome He is, and what He can do; that He can do anything! They will believe in me, the one He has sent. And my disciples, people like Andrew and even Ethan too, will be stronger witnesses of me and the Life I have come to give.

In the end, this would be best for Lazarus.

But to Ethan, Lazarus was still sick. He still stood there, staring at me, waiting for a response.

“This sickness would not end in death,” I said to him. “But it will be an opportunity for everyone to see how awesome God is, and what He can do. And His Son will be glorified as well.”

“So … you’ll come and heal him then?”

I smiled. ‘Healing’ would not cut it. Just not in the way they were expecting. Ethan bowed and left with a finality, sure that Lazarus would be fine, wondering why I did not follow him.

Mary and Martha would not be pleased at first. Death has always brought pain and despair, especially to the families of those it takes. It would no doubt bring more here. We take no pleasure in that. I am here to bring an end to Death’s tyrannical rule over mankind. But until then, the pain would still linger.

I know there is a glorious end to these things, but the journey to that end would be painful for me and for my friends. For Mary and Martha.

But my Father loves them much more than any human could. The pain and disappointment this death could cause were temporary and inconsequential compared to the Greater Glory waiting beyond this. When God is glorified, what they’ll have is much better than if it were another healing. I loved him too much to settle for that. Something much greater awaited him. There’s a Bigger Picture here.

I love my friend, Lazarus.

And that’s why I waited and let him die…

…For a time.

 

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. [They were His dear friends, and He held them in loving esteem.]

Therefore [even] when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He still stayed two days longer in the same place where He was.

JOHN 11:5, 6 (The Amplified Bible)

To be continued…in FAITH

 >> and HOPE

 

THE JOHN 11 STORY

A.D. 33 (give-or-take-a-few-months)

I remember that week in detail. It would not be the most pivotal week of my mission on earth, but it was memorable all the same.

Everything I do these days is to prepare the people –my people— for the Kingdom that I’m bringing. Many of the things I teach them are still unclear to them. But when I am ‘lifted up’ they will understand. The Holy Spirit will make it all clear to them in high definition. But for now, for them to get it then, I must make the hard choices. I must make the sacrifices. It will bring glory to my Father.

In that day, they will truly see.

John 11_banner_right now

Episode One: LOVE

Episode Two: Faith

Episode Three: Hope

Grave Robber

GANGSTUH WEDDING

NOTE: Hi there! I’ve always wondered how a wedding with a different theme (Rock or Rap, for example) would turn out. So with the idea, I got to work on this, and this amazing story resulted. Hope you like it!

Gangstuh Wedding_final

PASTOR:

Ladies ‘n gentlemen, brothers and sisters

We’re gathered here today to celebrate a new vista

In the life of our homey and his soon-to-be wife

In holy matrimony, they gon’ be together for life

The GROOM stands up front, his face spread out in a smile

As He watches his BRIDE walking up the aisle.

It’s all he can do to keep his joy on the down low

He can’t help it no more; so away he goes:

 

GROOM:

From the day I first saw you, girl, my heart went pom-pom.

I just gotta tell you, baby, that you’re the bomb!

They got the models ‘n divas

They got the stars on TV,

But none of them come close

To your amazing beauty.

You are a precious jewel,

You’re the one I love.

You’re a gorgeous gift sent down from up above

It just blows my mind that you said “Yes” to me

Now I can hold you close to me for all eternity.

BRIDE:            

I used to think that love was something I knew

But that all changed from the very day that you came through

You show me what it means to live

You make me feel so free

That’s why I give myself to you for all…

For all eternity.

“Aw,” the congregation coos

In amazement at the PDA between these two.

The Pastor smiles, taking the time to don his specs

As he studies the programme for what comes up next.

 

PASTOR:

Now we get to the part, according to custom

Where anyone against this marriage gets the chance to bust ‘em

So if you got a good reason, it’s time to holler

Speak now on this matter, or just forget it forever.

 

Heads turn, and all over, there are nervous chuckles

Of course no one’s that silly to take on the debacle

Of ruining this wedding. So, with a sigh of relief

The Pastor shrugs, since there clearly is no beef.

PASTOR:

 Well then—

 

Suddenly the door slams open with a BANG!

In the doorway stands a big man with his gang.

Everyone knows this guy; he’s the kingpin

Of the ghetto’s underworld; he’s got the run on things.

Drug market, pimp hustles, they run on his list.

Gang boss, like a Mafioso … you get the gist.

So with a sinister grin, and a confident strut

He walks up the aisle slowly, and begins to taunt.

 

MAN:

Anymore lovey-dovey, you guys’ll make me puke!

Getting married to this junkie? Man, this wedding’s a fluke!

Get a reality check, Mister! Have you got no clue

‘Bout the whore –yeah, I said it— gettin’ married to you?

 

GROOM:

 What gives you the audacity to call my woman a whore?

In my presence? What’s your deal, man? Who do you think you are?

 

MAN(tips hat):

Donnie de V to the I to the L-L-E

That’s my name. Don’t wear it out. I’m that kind of G.

I’ve had a lot of time to get to know this piece o’ garbage

GROOM:

If you knew what’s good for you, you’d be watchin’ your language.

DE VILLE:

She’s a hack, a sick junkie. Was a part of my ring

Till she lost it, got busted, ended up in cling-cling.

And when she got out, I took her up. Made her clean.

Made her beautiful, I tell you. Made her up like a queen.

All the guys in the hood thought she was a looker.

So we cashed in on it. She became a hooker.

But she pulled a fast one

Held me up with a gun

Took my money, slipped town. She’s been on the run.

I reported to the cops, put out an APB

She’s been wanted by the po-po in every major city.

Got no idea where you found her, but you don’t know her like me.

Ask her if I’ve said the truth, and she just has to agree.

So you see, Mr. Goody, this girl ain’t your type.

She’s a fraud. She doesn’t deserve all this mushy hype.

Go get a proper college chic; from Harvard or Andover

‘Cause with this ghetto-trash, you’re history. Your reputation’s over!

Everyone stares at the BRIDE, and they see it’s true.

From her veiled head to the tips of her Gucci shoes

She’s trembling all over, eyes streaming with tears

Donnie de Ville has pulled the cork on all of her fears.

Did she really think that she would get away with this?

But the GROOM takes the floor. He’s not done with his.

GROOM:

 I know ‘bout all this stuff. It’s not news to me.

But there’s something more I want y’all to come and see.

And before the congregation, he removes his wristbands

To show –(GASP!) We can see ‘em! He’s got holes in his hands!

GROOM:

This was the price that I had to pay.

To get my girl a clean slate. To take her crimes away.

Your thugs did a number on me. Left me for dead.

But that wasn’t the end. Through God, I resurrected.

Every price that she ever owed has been paid for

You’ve got no argument now, Mister. Not anymore.

If you wanna get to her, you’d have to go through me.

‘Cause you got nothin’ on her. Now she’s truly free.

For a moment, it appears De Ville is shocked.

But he shakes his head, clearly refusing to be knocked.

DE VILLE:

She may be out of my hands, but you’ve still got more.

‘Cause your girl knows that she’s still runnin’ from the law.

There’s nothing you can do to end this case.

So the deal with the nails was just a total waste.

GROOM:

 But I’ve already done it all.

For every fine she’s gotta pay, I went and took the fall.

DE VILLE:

But … but, that’s not fair!

 

GROOM:

It’s not your call.

DE VILLE:

She deserves to rot in jail!

GROOM:

Her crime slate is null.

DE VILLE (flustered):

Well, I … I … you can’t do that

She’s mine! She’s a goner! She’s just a…

…a … a… You just can’t do that!

(Audience boos in the background)

GROOM:

You know that didn’t even flow.

You’ve overstayed your welcome here.

Looks like it’s time to go.

Now if you know what’s good for you

You’d be hittin’ the door.

Or I’d just call Security

To sweep you off the floor.

De Ville stares long and hard in hatred at the BRIDE

Who keeps her head down in shame; she won’t dare meet his eyes.

And with a final glance at the GROOM

He snaps his fingers at his gang, and bounces out the room

The congregation cheers in joy, now that De Ville is gone

Looks like the worst part of this wedding is finally done.

But the BRIDE is still shaking, whimpering, and crying

‘Cause they all know about her past now. She wishes she was dying.

 

GROOM:

Don’t cry, my dear. Don’t let ‘im get to you.

BRIDE:

I can’t do this—

GROOM:

Why?

BRIDE:

All that he said was true.

I can’t get married to you.

I’m just not good for you.

My past is filled with crime and scandal and more bad stuff, too.

If you got married to me, my past would ruin you.

And I don’t even know what De Ville’s gonna do to you.

 

GROOM:

I love you, my queen.

I died to make you free.

I live to give you a new life

I’ve paid your every fee.

Your past is over now

As if it never happened.

Don’t let it hold you back from me

My love can never be dampened.

Don’t worry ‘bout the Accuser

De Ville knows he’s a loser.

His day of judgment’s on the way

He’s got Hell’s primo visa.

He wants to keep you from believin’

That my love is real.

But all he’s good at is decievin’

Till he’s had his fill.

But Babe, I truly choose to love you,

No matter what I see.

Your past can’t keep me away from you

It’s just history.

You’re the one for me.

You’re the one I see.

Come, marry me and be with me for all eternity.

The BRIDE’s eyes are filled with tears, but now she can smile

And she just stares into his eyes for … well, a great big while.

There’s not a single dry eye in the building this day.

The Pastor clears his throat. It’s time to get this out of the way.

 

PASTOR:

Do you mind if we continue?

 

GROOM (to BRIDE):

I love you.

BRIDE (to GROOM):

Me too.

PASTOR:

Uh … ‘scuse me. Can we … um … move on.

GROOM:

Please do.

BRIDE (same time):

Please do.

They blush.

PASTOR:

Do you, my brother, choose to marry this woman?

And do you, my sister, choose to marry this man?

To have and to hold, to love and to cherish

Forever and ever … you know the rest of the gist.

GROOM:                                 I do.

BRIDE:                                     I do.

PASTOR:                                 Wotcha say?

GROOM AND BRIDE:              I DO!

PASTOR:                                 You do?

GROOM AND BRIDE:              We do?

PASTOR:                                 What they say?

CONGREGATION:                   THEY DO!

PASTOR:                                 They do?

GROOM:

Sir, please … this has been a long day.

PASTOR:

Oh, I’m sorry. I got a little carried away … excuse me.

(Clears his throat)

By the power that is vested in me

I declare you Man and Wife in holy matrimony.

So you may now, kiss your bride, yada yada yada.

You know the rest. That’s the end. See you at the after-dinner.

 

‘But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners. Christ died for us.

ROMANS 5:8 (NKJV)

A Christmas Chicken … as told by Dude

A Christmas Chicken_astoldbyDude

 

As told by Dude…

It was the night before Christmas, when I spotted the weirdest sight. I was totally minding my own business, you know; just enjoying the moonlight during my occasional evening stroll. Suddenly the silent night was broken by this weird cackle. As I walked on, the cackles like … grew louder. It was just … weird, you know.

I was curious, so I followed the sound. I came upon an abandoned alley and what I saw there just totally blew my mind. Not literally, of course, ‘cause if it did I would not be writing this… Anyway, before me were these chickens – possibly hundreds. Everywhere! I paused when I realized that I hadn’t been noticed, thankfully. What struck me then was their intelligence, ‘cause they were all like facing this stage (but it was really an upside-down bucket). They kept on cackling as if they were waiting for something. And as I listened, it was almost as if I could hear what they were saying. It totally felt like something out of a Disney/Pixar flick.

I gave them names based on how they looked. So, here goes.

Poulson walked over to the makeshift stage. He was a big brown broiler, tall and stocky, who carried himself with authority. Clanging his foot on the stage he yelled over the noise, “Attention, everyone! Attention!” He couldn’t get them to settle down. “KOW-KA-DOODLE-DOO!

The noise reduced, punctuated by some yells. “Hey, keep it down Mister! You’re gonna wake up the humans.”

“Thank you,” Poulson said. “Thank you, one and all. Now, I would first like to thank you all for coming to this special Poultry Convention. It truly is grand to see all of you. Truly birds of a feather … well, multiple feathers. The point being, we are all chickens, and we regard our kin with honour and dignity.”

From the front, Madam Henson squawked, “Get on with it!”

Poulson nodded. “Of course, we all know that tomorrow is Christmas Day –“

“Christmas Day?” Someone screeched.

“Christmas Day?!” As one the crowd became restless, with screams and cries.  Apparently, they dreaded that holiday.

Poulson was frustrated. “Oh, come on! Don’t tell me you didn’t know this was coming!”

“I thought Christmas was last year?!” someone yelled.

“Well, that’s the funny thing about Christmas: it’s kind of an ‘annual’ sort of thing? Why do you think they fed us so much all year?”

“We thought they loved us so much,” Miss Featherly said, gasping like she would faint.

“What do we do?”

Poulson tried to quiet the crowd. “Fellas, fellas! Hold your gizzards! We need to prepare!”

McCluckster leaped forward. “I know what we gotta do, lads!” He bellowed in his Scottish accent. “I says we attack those humans first, before they can attack us, ya!”

“Yeah!” the cry rang out. “Finish them off!”

“Who gave them the right to eat us chickens, anyway?”

“What, they think they’re better than us?!”

Poulson was losing his crowd. “Fellas! We can’t do that! It’s too risky!

“What are ya? Chicken?” McCluckster retorted.

Poulson arched a brow. “As a matter of fact, I am … chicken. But hear me out, this was why I brought us here, to listen to—“

“What?” yelled Otis, a young cockerel that sounded like a black American, as he leaped to the front. “Our last sermon before we are busted into the fryin’ pan? Look, I’ve got my whole life ahead of me. I can’t afford to die.”

“And you most likely won’t!” Poulson said. “You lack the meat the humans want. You’re still young.”

“Oh,” Otis said introspectively. “Lucky for me, then. I get to live! Sorry ol’ chaps … uh … ahem … ‘scuse me.” The others just stared at him.

McCluckster shook his head and stamped his feet, his feathers on end. “Well I’ve go’ a family. My young’uns are still just hatchlings, and I can’t afford to lose their mother … or meself either.”

Poulson waved his feathers. “Elder Hancock wanted to share a few words with us.”

“Oldman Hancock?”

From the way the crowd responded, I knew that whoever Hancock was he must’ve been highly respected. It was then that I noticed him. He was this white cock with saggy eyes and a faded red crest. He was not as big as McCluckster, no, but he looked like he could have been a superhero in his younger days. The chickens moved out of the way as he stepped up to the bucket and faced the crowd.

His voice was deep and gave evidence to his age. “One of our own, Marty Clucker Cling, told of his dream. He dreamt that, one day white chickens and black chickens would cross the road together, and no humans would ask why.”

The chickens all nodded in agreement. “True that.”

Hancock continued, “But nothing brings chickens together like the dread of the looming human holiday – Christmas. For years, I’ve watched many of our own fall at the hand of the human blade at Christmas. I also used to dread Christmas, until I met my friend, Hamster. Hamster was a pig—“

“Hamster?” someone called out.

Hancock paused, clearly not expecting the interruption. “Yes, Hamster.”

“Thought you said he was a pig!”

“Yes. Like I said, Hamster was a pig—”

“Make up your mind, old bird! Was he a pig or a hamster?”

By now the others were raising their voices to silence the critic. I was almost sure I saw Oldman Hancock roll his eyes.

“Anyway,” he continued. “Hamster was a pig, and we both lived on a farm up in Abeokuta. One day, he came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea. ‘Hey,’ he said, ‘that orphanage down the road needs food for their Christmas party. Why don’t we contribute some eggs and ham?’

“I loved his idea, and I told him that. He added, ‘For you, it’s just a contribution. But for me, it’s going to be sacrifice.’

“I didn’t get it until Christmas Day. We got some of the hens in our barn to donate their eggs, and they gladly gave them to the orphanage. They also got ham, so everyone was glad. I didn’t realize it until I noticed Hamster was missing. You see, he had given himself so that they could have ham.”

Hancock bowed his head to hide a tear. “That’s what Christmas is all about.”

For a moment the place was silent. Then McCluckster broke the silence. “That just proves it, then! Those humans killed your friend!” The crowd was riled up. “They’re evil, all of them!”

Poulson tried to calm the crowd, but it didn’t work. Hancock raised a wing, and everyone fell silent. “You missed the point. You see, Christmas is about the Maker giving Himself.”

Someone in the front asked. “Are you talking about … the Maker maker? As in the Maker?”

Hancock exhaled and nodded. “Yes, the Maker. The One that made us all. He saw that the humans were held captive by evil itself, and they had become its evil minions. It made them become evil, and doomed. He wanted to pay for all their wrongs and give them a new life. The only way for Him to do that was for Him to become human, so that He could pay for their wrongs by dying. Just like Hamster did for those orphans. He sacrificed himself. Though our Maker rose again.”

McCluckster cocked his head. “I still don’t get it.”

This time Hancock did roll his eyes. “Humans celebrate the day He came, as a little baby, on Christmas.”

Poulson raised a wing. “So it’s not all about killing chickens, is it?”

“Well, we all have different paths. Humans, chickens. The Maker gave the humans the license to eat any animal they’re given as food, with thanksgiving. Including us.”

For a moment, the alley was all silent. I guess you could have heard a pin drop in that moment.

“Oh, that’s just fantastic!” McCluckster broke the silence. ”So the Maker wants a bunch of two-legged meat-eaters to gulp us down their throats, and thank Him?”

“You’re missing the point…”

And the crowd was riled up again. McCluckster were definite about his plot to deal with the humans, and he was not shutting up about it. Poulson was trying to calm the crowd down, and Hancock was simply shaking his head. It was a madhouse out there.

Until one of the chickens turned and yelled. “HUMAN!!!”

As one, the entire convention turned to me, a gasp visible on their faces. Dun-dun-DUUUUNNN! Bummer.

Words fail me to describe the jitters I felt. I grinned sheepishly and waved a little. “Hi?”

McCluckster was the first to scream … in fear. “A human!!! Run for ya lives! It’s everrry chicken ferrr ‘imself! AAAAAHHHH!!!”  He jumped on the spot, shrieking as he ran in circles. He was totally freaking out, you know, and the whole crowd was riled up again. You know, with feathers flying everywhere, and stuff.

The last thing I saw before I ran off was Poulson staring at McCluckster, a smirk on his face. “Chicken,” he said.

 

To this day, I haven’t seen another chicken talking. But, when I’m not there, I’m almost certain they are. It’s totally freakish, you know.

 

Oh, and Merry Christmas in advance to you guys. And, remember, it’s not about the stuff you eat. It’s all about the Son of God, and how He came to earth in the form of a human. I think that was totally cool, you know? Like an undercover mission? God as a man?

Anyway, He snuck behind enemy lines so He could rescue us from sin and death. That’s what we’re celebrating at Christmas.

Thank you for reading, y’all. God bless ya!

One more thing: I must not forget this part. A big shout-out to Emmanuel Presents (weird, right? I mean, who has a last name like ‘Presents’?!) for putting this up on his blog. Thanks, mate.

TASER | The Finale: A New Story

WRITER’S NOTE: Hi there! The series has reached its finale. But, if you haven’t read the previous episodes, don’t feel left out. The links are right here.

Episode 1: The Cop

Episode 2: The Trap

Episode 3: The Ultimatum

Episode 4: The Alternative

Episode 5: The Real World

And now … let’s get into the story, shall we.

The Finale

6:13AM

Saturday mornings are usually used for clean up around the house. To rearrange furniture, dispose of the garbage, and to clean the surrounding greenery. For Jerry Jenson, this was also true. But this morning, it would be a different kind of clean-up.

In his backyard, the flames were now dying down, leaving a black indentation in the ground. He had not felt any dependence on the drugs any longer, but he did not want to leave any behind. The bottles of alcohol lay in pieces a few feet away, their contents emptied into the earth. Never again would he keep this stuff.

Perhaps he was being too extreme. There had to have been more decent ways of getting rid of stuff. He just did not want to have any reason to return to them if a moment of desperation came. He may be a different man now, but he was just being cautious. He had gotten on and off the wagon enough times to convince him that he needed to do this. He knew that the real clean-up he needed was inside, where he could decide whether or not to purchase more of this stuff.

But what worried him the most this morning was what had happened to him. Really, what had happened to him? Why did he wake up in his bed and not at the Centre? Had he dreamt all of this? It had all seemed so real.

Gigi!

He wanted to talk with her, but his phone was gone. Besides, the Man had said that Grace was now alive in Jerry. The fact that all of this did not make much sense any longer troubled him deeply. And if he was alive now, having been dead before, what did that mean? What was he supposed to do now that he was out of a job?

What would happen now?

  Shine the Light in the Darkness, the Man had said. If that meant going and beating up Kraven now, one thing Jerry was sure of was that he did not feel ready to do that. But he couldn’t just sit there. It might be just a virtual reality, but it seemed so real. At least, while he was there.

Was he sure all of this had not been a dream? Aaargh! The uncertainty was annoying. But then he sobered. If it really had been a dream all along, he would rather take sleeping pills so that he could return to that dream and be there forever. Never before had a dream felt much better than reality.

And that was good reason to worry.

———-

 

This was the last place he would have ever wanted to be. He had not been here since he was a kid. But this was the only place that made sense to be.

Church.

First Towne Church was an old building that had seen the better part of the last century. The sisters at the Irene Williams home used to bring the children here every Sunday morning.

So, this is it, Jerry. You’re back here. What a twist.

The doors suddenly burst open, and two men in work clothes carried a wooden pulpit out and down the steps. “Steady,” one of them said. “Steady, steadyyyy… DROP!” They dropped it on the landing, visibly tired.

Jerry stepped out of his car and walked over to them. It didn’t feel right to just stand around. “Hey, can I help?”

They stared at him. The older one smiled. “It’s OK. We’re good.”

The other one was winded. “Hey, can I…?”

“Sure go ahead.” He smiled as his partner hurried off. “He’s really hardworking, that one. He’s been holding it in for quite a while now, but he wouldn’t tell. Uh, where are my manners. Have we met before?”

Jerry extended his hand. “I’m sorry, you can say I’m kinda new here. I’m Jenson.”

The man took it. “Brian. Good to meet you, Jenson.”

“I just … I got some questions,” he said. “I was hoping I could see the pastor.”

Brian shook his head. “I’m sorry, Pastor’s not around. He went out camping with the kids.”

“Oh…” Jerry nodded. Now there’s a twist. “It’s OK. Thanks. I, uh… guess I’ll come some other time.”

“Hey, anytime bro. But, if you don’t mind talking with a deacon, I’ve got the time.”

Jerry paused. “A deacon?”

“I help around with some stuff in here. I also get to sit in front, if that qualifies.” Jerry liked the man. “Here, have a seat.” Brian led him to a park seat on the lawn.

Jerry got right to it. “You know, I’ve never really been a religious person.”

Brian nodded. “Yeah. You’ve been on tippy-toes ever since you got here. I know the look, but it’s OK.”

There was no easy way to say this. “I’ve been trying to convince myself that I’m not crazy. But there’s some crazy stuff that’s happened to me in the last twenty-four hours, and I was hoping someone could make some sense out of this for me.”

Brian pursed his lips and shrugged. “It’s OK. Let’s hear it.”

Jerry stared into his eyes. “You sure?”

“Even if I wasn’t, you’ve spooked my curiosity already.”

Jerry stared into the distance. He wanted to launch into his story, but he was never used to exposing himself to people he did not know. He would have to be careful with his words if he did not want to sound like a loon. “Do you believe in God?”

Brian blinked and smirked. “Really? Sure, yeah. I do.”

“Like Someone that’s writing our stories, yours and mine, and that’s also a part of it.”

“Wow … I’ve never heard it put that way before, but it’s true. That’s God. He writes our stories and plots our journeys. But we also have free will.”

“I thought I never really believed in God. And then … He suddenly comes crashing into my world. It’s like …” he paused wondering if he should go this far. “There was this darkness in me, and He’s taken it all and given me something better.”

Brian nodded. “That’s what Jesus did for us on the Cross. He took our sin and our past, and made an end to it. When we believe and receive it, we come to life.”

Jerry rested his hands on his knees. “Why is it so easy to forget these things? I’ve been sitting up all morning wondering if all of this was a dream. I mean, it seemed so real. But as the hours pass, the memories fade away. I feel more and more like this world is the real one. My problems and regrets and stuff are still there, and I don’t feel so different.”

Brian inhaled. “It’s never been about feelings, you know. God gave us our feelings, and they’re important for expressing ourselves. But He always demands faith.”

Ah, faith. Another million-dollar church word he had associated with blind ignorance.

“Faith, huh?” Jerry asked.

“Yeah. Sometimes He lets us see the real things to help us believe. Sometimes he doesn’t. ‘Blessed are they which see not, yet believe’. But you know what faith is? It connects us to the Real World.”

“The Real World?”

Brian pulled out a book from his pocket. A Bible. “Well, we know that this world, this reality, isn’t all there is. He’s told us about what really is, in here. ‘By faith, we know that the worlds were framed by the Word of God’. I’ve learnt that if I keep on studying His words in here, my mindset will be based on that, just the way He wants it. Like when He tells us ‘we’re seated in heavenly places in Christ’, we must trust and believe that, even when it doesn’t look like it. It’s the only way we can live the way He wants us to, in what we say and do, by His power and grace at work in us. It’s all in there.”

Jerry could not mask his excitement. It was as if this man had seen what he had seen. And all of this had been in the Bible all this time? “Where are you, really?” He remembered the Writer’s question. I’m seated with You in heavenly places, and my hand is in Yours.

“What’s that?” His other guy came out from the back. “Take five. I’ll be over in a moment.” He nodded and went back inside.

“So, is prayer like, when you talk to God?” Jerry asked. “Kinda like, breaking the fourth wall?”

Mm-hmm.”

“Even when you’re not asking anything?”

“It’s communication. Like a relationship. The more you interact, the more you become like the other person. And He speaks to us too. It’s not all the time we hear Him audibly. Most times, we don’t. But it’s kinda like a nudge inside. He speaks in our hearts. So we can become more like Him.”

“So we can be like the Light in the Darkness.”

Brian chuckled. “I like your philosophical take on these things. Christ used such imagery too when explaining His points. And you’re right. The Darkness controls the hearts of the very people we are here to rescue and bring to the Light. We must … let it shine.”

Jerry leaned back and relaxed. So then, it had been true. He had really experienced all of this. He really had seen the Light. Christ, the Author Himself, living in our world. Think about reality in this sense made him feel so … tiny. There’s so much more at work here than meets the eye.

But that also meant Gigi was gone. And that his Father was with Him.

And that meant that the Darkness was still real. And Kraven was still out there.

“So, what am I supposed to do now? Do I just up and go after Kraven now?”

Brian was staring back at the road where a policeman was approaching them. “Kraven? Who’s that?”

Jerry turned to see the cop. Uh-oh.

He flashed his badge. “You’re under arrest, mister.”

Jerry squinted. “Clint?”

Clint Barker cocked his head with a coy smile. “That’s what I would say if I was gonna arrest you, but I’m not. Where you been, Mr. AWOL? Morning, sir.” He tipped his hat to Brian, who simply chuckled nervously.

“AWOL?” Jerry asked. “Didn’t you hear? I got the sack.”

“Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. Get in the car. Chief’s waiting.” He tipped his hat at Brian. “Sorry for interrupting, sir. But your friend here’s trying to play hooky.”

“Wait, Chief?” Jerry asked. “As in, he wants to see me?” This could not be good.

Clint looked confused. “What’re you talking about?”

Jerry turned to Brian. “I’m sorry. Gotta go … sort some things out. It’s not what it looks like.”

Brian nodded. “You’re always welcome. Hope you can come by sometime.”

“Yeah, I’d like that.”

As they walked towards the squad car, Clint nudged him. “Were you actually in church? Now that’s new.”

“Good to see you too, Clint.”

”So what’s your deal, man? Haven’t been able to get through to you since last night.”

“Clint, I’d tell you, but, then, you’d think I was crazy.”

———-

A couple of minutes later, they arrived at the precinct.

“You were right,” Clint said. “You’re crazy.”

“Clint?!”

“It’s OK, I’ve always thought you were crazy, Jerry. But I still love you, man. I don’t know about all you’ve told me, but, whatever it was seems to have made you happy. I think I like the new you.”

“It really happened, Clint. I couldn’t have made it up.”

Clint turned to him. ”Jerry, there was no operation last night.”

Jerry blinked. “What do you mean?”

“It was a dream, Jerry. Just ask anybody. There was no threat. No terror on the streets. No Taser. You, of all people, should know that. It was all in your head.”

Jerry squinted. “What about the graffiti? The curfews?”

“Jerry, don’t you think it’d have made the papers if such a thing happened?”

Jerry grabbed the dailies from the dashboard. A cursory scan turned with nothing. No news about the threat or anything. Nothing.

“This is all crazy. Clint, you know I’m telling the truth, right?”

“Well, for one thing, I had a good night’s rest last night. Just ask my wife.” Jerry was not sure if he was just seeing things, or if he noticed the bags under his eyes. It would be no use pointing it out to him. He would not listen. What was going on?

“But you remember Gigi?”

Clint shrugged. “Who’s Gigi? You’ve never mentioned her to me.”

“But … you told me to go with her to dinner last night.”

Clint patted his back. “You must have really had an interesting night, bro. Don’t worry, it’ll pass.” They exited the car and headed for the building.

This was frustrating. He did not know what to expect when they finally met the Chief. Would the man also have forgotten about last night? He could only hope…

God help me. He had never taken prayer seriously. But now, with all he had seen, this took on a new meaning.

HI THERE.

Jerry turned. There was no one around. Clint arched a brow. “What?”

“I thought I heard a voice.”

Clint rolled his eyes. “Hey, Jerry, wake up. This is the real world.”

No it’s not. He was certain he had heard a voice.

HOW’RE YOU DOING, SON?

And that’s when he got it. “Father?” he whispered. “Is that you?”

YES.

“Really?” This was what Brian had been talking about. “How come I don’t hear you all the time? I was beginning to think I was crazy.”

YOU NEVER TALK TO ME.

It dawned on him. “So, you want me to talk with You … as if you were here?”

I AM HERE.

Thinking about communicating with the Author of this script brought a chuckle to him. Clint turned from up ahead. “Are you coming or what?”

“I’m coming,” he quickened his pace.

“You know, I’m beginning to worry about you,” Clint said. “It may have been a realistic dream, Jerry. But don’t let it make you a freak.”

“Don’t worry about me, Clint,” Jerry said. “I’m alright.”

The others at the precinct greeted Jerry, and some wondered why he had not come to work. He just smiled and nodded, wondering what Chief wanted with him. Beyond all this, he wondered when Kraven might come after him, or if he will. He had to confirm what was really going on. Jerry hurried to the dispatcher’s cubicle. “Hey, Hal!”

Hal looked up. “Jenson. Why aren’t you in uniform?”

Jerry smiled. “Long story. Hey, I just wanted to confirm. Didn’t you hear anything about the Taser last night?”

Hal arched a brow. “Yeah, he had a tea party with Bigfoot and Nessie.”

“C’mon, Hal.”

Clint showed up beside him. “Hal, he’s having a moment. Just ignore him.” Hal nodded knowingly, as if he understood.

“Hey, what’d you mean by a ‘moment’, Clint? I’m not crazy.”

But that’s when he noticed a familiar face behind the waiting desk up ahead. He stopped, nudging Clint. “What’s that kid doing here?”

Clint turned. “Who? Him? Caught him earlier this morning, selling dope. Put up quite a chase.”

Jerry squinted. “Isn’t he the one we brought in yesterday? Jamie?” The kid raised his head to stare at him, no recognition in his eyes.

In that moment, everything around Jerry disappeared in a flash and he was in the dark laboratory again. He was staring at Jamie, only this time the kid was lying against the wall, lifeless. He was connected to the system by his head. As realization dawned on Jerry, he blinked and it was all gone. He was back in the precinct, staring at the boy. What just happened?

“Yesterday?” Clint was saying. “Jerry, I’ve never seen this kid before. But he reminds me a lot of you, all criticizing and tough and all, though you can tell he’s a wimp on the inside. Not that I’m saying you’re a wimp or anything, but…”

But Jerry was not listening to him. “Did you see that?”

“See what?” Jerry turned to stare at Clint. Flash! He was back in the lab again, but this time it was Clint by the wall. The feeling of apprehension overtook him again as he watched his friend asleep, connected to the system. Lifeless. No humor on his face any longer. Flash! It was gone. Oh no, not Clint too…

Clint was staring at him, incredulous. He shook his head. “What’s up with you, man?” he asked. “Thought you were on the wagon again.”

Jerry realized that there was more at work here than he thought. These people were connected to the system, and they believed whatever it made them believe. But they were not just anonymous entities or statistics. ‘These people’ were people he knew. Like Clint, his friend. Kraven had erased all their memories of last night. How did he do that? He did not know how to bring this up, because Clint was staring at him, worried. “Clint, we brought this kid in for selling dope yesterday.”

Clint stared at him for a moment, was about to say something, then stopped, shaking his head. “You sure you don’t wanna see a therapist?” Clint finally asked.

  It’s the Darkness. It’s controlling their minds. They really don’t remember anything from yesterday.

“This is crazy,” Jerry said, running a hand through his head.

“Tell me about it,” Clint muttered under his breath.

YOU SAW THAT, DIDN’T YOU, SON?

Jerry did not need to stare around anymore. He knew Who was speaking to his heart. “I did. It … wasn’t very nice.”

THAT’S THE REAL WORLD.

“So the Darkness has got them, like it got me?”

Jerry thought of Jamie. If Kraven could alter their memories, Jerry wondered how many times Jamie had really been arrested. And the kid would not even know it. Or how many times Grace had really come to town. It was sad, realizing there was so much evil out there, controlling Towne. Controlling the people.

They were now approaching Chief’s office. “What’s gonna happen? What do I say to him?”

IT’LL COME.

“Just say you slept in, or something,” Clint replied. “It’ll go on your record, but with luck he’d let it slide.” He knocked. “On the other hand, let me do the talking.”

Jerry simply nodded. Communicating between two worlds was quite interesting, but a little strange too.

Baynes stared up at them from some paperwork on his table. “Jenson. Barker. Take a seat.”

Jerry stared hard at him as he sat. The man did not bat an eye. It did not surprise him that the man had forgotten all about last night as well.

Clint tried to keep Jenson from replying. “Sir, he had a very long night out and—“

Baynes held up a hand. “Jenson, we’ve been expecting you.”

Jerry kept staring in his face. “I must apologise, sir. I had quite a … uh…”

“A night of self-discovery,” Clint hurriedly said. Baynes gave him a look. “He’s had a very terrible week so far. He needed the rest.”

Jerry thought he should be frank. “I thought you’d fired me last night.” Clint did a face-palm. There, he had put it on the table.

Baynes looked genuinely surprised. “Fire you? Now, why would I do that?”

“Because I was going after Kraven Moore.” Baynes squinted at him.

Clint tried to save the moment. “See, he had this weird dream last night…”

Baynes shook his head. “You’re not one of those conspiracy nutcases now, Jenson, are you? Everyone pins some sort of evil plot on this Mr. Moore. But until proven guilty, that guy’s good in our books.”

But Jerry knew more. Baynes worked for Kraven and was protecting his tail. Not only that, but he had also honestly lost any memory of their encounter last night. The only file with all their investigation was gone. Kraven had emptied the recycle bins, so to speak. The thought was enough to make Jerry’s skin crawl.

And Clint did not even remember any of this, or of their prior investigation.

Jerry scratched the back of his head. “I, uh… I’m sorry, sir.” Baynes was also being controlled by the system. Jerry did not see the laboratory this time, but he knew. Yeah, I truly am sorry.

Baynes simply nodded. “Besides, I can’t really fire you. You work for the government, not for me.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Take the day off, officer. You need it.”

Clint shook his head as they left the office. “You know, he’s right. You should get some air today. And get a new phone, too.”

Jerry smiled.  “Yeah, well … thanks, Clint.”

“So where’re you headed?”

Jerry stared back into the hall, where the other precinct staff were working. He was a cop at heart, and had always wanted to be one. If he got his job back, he wanted to do it with the best he’d got. Would he still go after Kraven? Should he?

“I gotta go somewhere first,” he said. “Something I need to do.”

———-

The cool breeze blowing across the landscape over the many tombstones gave a serene mood to the Towne Cemetery. Jerry never saw the need to take visits to the place where dead people lay. He was not even sure what he was doing there that morning; people did it in the movies, and it always was a deep emotional scene. But in real life … well, it was different. For him.

Perhaps it was because death had taken on a new meaning to him, now that he had crossed worlds.

The tombstones were side-by-side. Hayley Tamara Jenson. Marty Irene Jenson.

  He held two bunches of flowers he had picked along the way. But he just held them now in his hands. Those stones were not his family, he knew. Even if he dug into the earth, their bodies would have degraded by now.

Jerry inhaled. He still missed his wife and daughter. He still had regrets. He still wished he could do something more. But, there was a difference now. He knew he was different now. He was different. His past was over and done. Somehow, it just felt right to return to a place of significance between himself and his family, the ones he missed the most. Perhaps he was really here to say goodbye to all that represented his past. All he regretted. All that had held him down.

Thinking about it now, it felt unfair to make his wife and daughter represent all those things.

I miss you, Hayley. You too, Marty … I really wish I could change the past.

It might not be easy, but he knew he would find the strength to face the future. His Father had promised to be with him. The Father of all worlds.

He would hold on to that.

His family had lived under the control of the Darkness for long before it finally took them away. His friends were still stuck in that evil system. The Darkness would remain until that day when the Writer Himself came and blotted it out with His Light.  He could not break His own rules. But for now, He would fight the Darkness through people like Jerry, shining the Light.

He realized that this was his new mission. His friends. The people around him. Baynes Clint. Jamie. Everyone. He was to let the Light shine. It may not be by pushing a hand on their faces, though that would also be fun. It would be through his lifestyle and words. To brighten their lives, and let them see the Light at work in Him. That way, they would believe and then it can take them in, like it had taken him. And bring them to life. Igniting the Writer’s characters.

In one small way, he guessed that made him a ‘Taser’ too.

Like He had said, Grace had been written into every person’s story. As long as the Darkness remained, Grace would be there ever stronger, ready to save another soul and bring them to life.

——-

6:00PM

It was raining when Clint Barker parked his car at the Towne Post Office. The man at the door hurried over to his car, the package in hand. Getting the Post Office to leave someone with the package on an evening like this had taken a lot of phone calls. He was already late, as it was.

“Thanks, man,” Clint said. “You’re a lifesaver. If I didn’t bring those packages in today, my wife would kill me!”

“Nah, it’s not a problem.”

“Hop in.”

As soon as the young man was in the car, they sped off.

“So what’re my charges? I know they don’t pay you to wait overtime for lousy people like me. Sorry, I had to stay in at work. Some clumsy cases to deal with.”

The kid shrugged. “It’s OK. No charge. Another day, another smile on a customer’s face.”

Clint peered at him. “You’re alright, kid. So what’s your name?”

“Hanan.”

“You Indian?”

“Nah, I’m Jewish.”

“Nice to meet you, Jewish,” Clint said. That elicited a chuckle. “So what does Hanan mean? I know you Jewish folks always have meaningful names and stuff.”

He chuckled. “Well, I guess everyone does. It means Grace.”

Clint arched a brow. “Grace, eh? That’s quite … amazing.”

And Hanan smiled.

T Tonight

THE END

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5, NIV)

Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21 (NKJV)

Thank you all for following the story thus far, folks.

This story was God’s idea. And it’s been totally AWESOME!!!

More than anything, I hope you keep these words to heart, because they tell of the reality that is.

God bless you all. Keep the Light shining.

Let it shine, shine, shine

And it will chase away the darkness

Let it shine, shine, shine,

And it will chase away the night!

(from ‘Father of Lights’ by Petra)

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