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Gog And Magog. (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpgSomewhere in the Northern region of Israel.

Ezra was still chatting to relieve the boredom he felt for some reason. He shouldn’t have felt such a feeling of boredom considering the events of the last few weeks. He spoke gingerly of the subject to the other fellow who sat in the jeep with him; Josiah could be prickly at the mention of some subjects.

“….Very strange, Josiah, all those people simply vanishing like that around the world, even here in Israel.”

Josiah who sat next to him in the jeep was mostly staring through the binoculars of the Valley of Megiddo, he spoke up slowly, feeling a sense he knew where this was going, “Nice day today, nice and sunny.” Looking up into the sky as he took notice of the jets in the horizon, “Their busy.”

“They usually are and certainly of late considering what has happened lately.” He noted the slight smirk under the man’s short trimmed beard, “It’s been a strange few weeks, Josiah….”

He looked over at Ezra with a knowing look but lately he was not in the mood to tell him to not bring it up, “Something on your mind, Ezra? You do seem lately preoccupied by the last few weeks more than I am. Speak up, state your mind.” He could guess but he liked the younger fellow who had only been in Israel for the last year? Seemed about right Josiah thought. Josiah was a native born Israeli for the thirty-one years of his life whereas Ezra was a immigrant from somewhere in America; Ezra was in his mid-twenties last time the subject came up. As for the subject of the strange vanishings around the globe, well, he was keeping his opinion to himself because even he didn’t like his own opinion. He returned to his scanning the valley below, “What’s on your mind, Ezra?”

Ezra was a little surprised by the fact that Josiah was allowing the conversation to continue; Josiah was not a fan of Christians or the subject of their Jesus. But Ezra would proceed with caution despite his friends willingness to listen. “It’s sensitive subject, Josiah, and I know your mind on the subject of the one you like to call the false Messiah…” Noting he was about to be interrupted, “Let me finish my thought, I’m getting there…”

Amused somewhat, “Ah, the diplomatic approach, just talk.”

He spoke up despite Josiah’s assurance of listening, “Your sister was one of those who vanished, did she not? She became a follower of the false Messiah did she not a few months ago and she is gone.” As he spoke he could see Josiah struggling to maintain his composure let alone force the anger Ezra knew was there.

Josiah of course looked away at the valley below them; the scenery was always quite beautiful as he saw it. Israel was his home and it was worth defending but the vanishings had bothered him but he was in no mood to confront what he felt about them but lately he wasn’t so sure about too much on the question of his beliefs. He spoke up, “Yes, Ezra, it’s a sensitive issue with my family right now. mostly with me I suppose….” Looking at the landscape before him with pride, “I love my country, Ezra. I was born here and I will die here…” More to himself than his friend Ezra, “It’s a beautiful country we have here. It’s worth defending.”

“I agree.” What else was he going to say. He also knew this was Josiah’s way of getting to his thought he wanted to state. I have no regrets immigrating to Israel.”

His voice was a little strained, he was struggling to be calm or at least not get emotional, “Rebecca is indeed gone. Vanished with the rest of those who believed as she did. Anyone who knows me knows my opinion of Christians let alone Jews who become one…” He spat on the dry hard ground, “They’re not Jews anymore.”

Ezra remained silent knowing it was best; but at least he was talking.

Josiah was still in deep thought as he also continued to notice the landscape, “Rebecca is gone. She is simply gone….” He wiped his face, watched as another group of fighters went by, “Their busy today.”

He was of course trying to avoid the topic but something was making it impossible noted Ezra, “Everyone is on high alert lately because of the events of a few weeks ago…”

“Yes, yes, I know.” He replied sharply but regretted it as there was no reason for it really as he was one about to talk about the forbidden subject. But he also hated the idea of talking about it as he felt no pity for the apostate Jews or their Gentile friends and he hope they had all been taken away and far away as well. He knew his mind on the subject was in conflict because of the disappearance of his younger sister, Rebecca. The only fact of the whole last two weeks of events was that she was gone. Very gone and so where those damn false Messiah loving Jews? He wouldn’t admit it let alone to the younger fellow sitting next to him in the jeep over-looking the Jazreel Valley. He knew the fellow was waiting for him to continue. Continue for what reason? To discuss the very subject he wanted to talk about but had sworn a hatred for those involved? He would have laughed at his own double-minded thinking if it weren’t for the fact that Rebecca was gone and had believed in the false Messiah. He finally spoke up, “If you are asking me without saying it do I believe that she was correct in her….heretical beliefs….then I cannot answer truthfully if I am to be honest with at least myself…” Again the silence as he thought of his next remark; he knew he wasn’t making sense. Why couldn’t he just be honest with Ezra? If the fellow was anything he was an easy guy to talk to.

Ezra decided to be blunt, “Are you afraid she was right?”

Josiah would have normally reacted to the comment with anger but what was the point of that after the last few weeks? Ezra was blunt once he got talking, Josiah liked that even if the subject churned his stomach sometimes. Maybe the truth of it was that it was his sister he was talking about and despite it all he missed her. She always saw through his tough brother act and teased him about it. Looking again over at the fellow, “She’s gone, Ezra, that is a fact. I admit of late my opinion has been somewhat changing but not because I like those people anymore than I did before they vanished. I still don’t like them and I don’t see much in their false Messiah to believe in as, well, our so-called promised Messiah. I have never seen much of a Jew in their beliefs. Nothing about it is remotely Jewish…” He was making no sense to his logical thinking but he found the words simply wanted to come out; maybe he was just frustrated at knowing what happened to Rebecca.

Ezra could see the man struggling with his thoughts to make them make sense; it had become personal since the strange vanishings.

“What if Rebecca was right, Ezra? Is that the question you are so afraid to ask?”

“Well, she is gone, Josiah. She did believe in the one you call the false Messiah.” He agreed with Josiah on some points of what those who had vanished where and that was they were wrong? Where they? Of late and certainly within the last two weeks since his friend Jacob also vanished he had more questions than he wanted to have. Jacob and his whole family were gone. Jacob gone. His wife, Naomi, gone. The four kids all gone! He had seen them the day before the vanishings and the next they were gone. There little well-kept home was empty; it was a strange feeling of emptiness as well. The house was usually full of life and noise and four kids being kids; Jacob was a teacher. Jacob was gone. Vanished? Or as Jacob called it that last day he saw him, Jacob and family were Raptured. Raptured? Jacob had tried to explain the word but it made no sense to Ezra. The Messiah would come for His people and gather them in the air before the last terrible days of human history? It all sounded like so much rubbish that Ezra barely remembered too much of it. He didn’t posses the great dislike as Josiah had for them. Ezra could tolerate them better than most of those who simply disliked everything about them.

Josiah’s voice broke into his private thoughts, “What is on your mind, Ezra. Stop dancing around the subject that the whole planet is discussing…” He looked over at the fellow with a slight nod, “I promise I wont shoot you for bring up that particular subject. It’s a subject of late that I am sure no one has not thought of….even if the whole idea of it disgusts me because of the possibility that, well, that the false Messiah did actually come and take away His people….” He laughed at something but it was a cold laugh; a laugh of a man not so sure of his own private beliefs. His beautiful beloved Rebecca was gone. No body or anything was left of her. If there was a body to bury then his thoughts wouldn’t be so at war with his doubts and what Rebecca came to believe in. He continued, “If you want to talk about the event of a few weeks ago, then just talk, Ezra, because it is very evident you want to.”

“It is also about the false Messiah as you like to call their Jesus?”

Bitterly under his breath, “I hate that name, but continue, Ezra.” Looking at him with a brief look of suspicion, “Don’t tell you’ve turned into one of them…I could not even right now tolerate that. I have only patience enough for so much right now.” He stared into the horizon as if something had caught his attention but it seemed nothing but normal vehicle traffic, “I feel uneasy for some reason since I woke up this morning and it’s not just the subject you wish to discuss. Something in the air is just not right. I don’t know, but I woke up today feeling…that today something was going to happen….” Looking at the fellow with a half smile to relax him as well as himself, “I just don’t tell me you have come to believe in this false…Messiah.”

Wanting to laugh but didn’t, “No, no, Josiah, I have not come that far.” He was a bad poker player but his friend didn’t seem to notice, “I have, I mean I had friends who did believe in the false Messiah and they are gone as well.”

“You mentioned that before. They are gone as well?”

“Yes, he was a friend I met a few months ago. His whole family were believers in the false Messiah…”

“You don’t have to keep adding the false part. I know you do it to humor me, but just get to your point.”

“I have not become a believer in their Messiah, Josiah…”

“Good, because I hate to lose another friend since the vanishings.” He again was distracted by something in the far horizon, “Maybe I am just being jumpy for no reason other than the subject. So, keep talking, Ezra.”

“But I have been listening.”

“That is obvious.” He replied too sharply, “But continue, talk.”

Ezra took a silent breath, he still felt he had to be careful with the subject even if Josiah was telling him to speak his mind, “What if the Messiah was who they claim He was?” He was trying to be diplomatic but Josiah was holding his tongue, “The friend I spoke of use to talk to me about the prophets in our Scriptures, our Torah…”

Looking at him skeptically, “The prophets? We are now going to talk about the prophets?” Studying his friend slowly with a look, “I would generally cut you off at this point but of late this seems to be a subject also coming up. I have never been a very religious Jew, I observe our holidays of course. I see no reason to not at least enjoy our heritage as it is my heritage…” A slight softness came into his voice, “My father loves the Passover season, he’s more the practicing Jew than I will ever be….” He noted the slightly busier human traffick on the road, “Busy day today on this road, feels strange…” Looking at Ezra, “As you were saying, Ezra.”

“I was asking I suppose of you know much about our prophets? Mostly the Prophet Ezekiel and what he predicted for the future of Israel…”

“How long ago was this, Ezra, that this Ezekiel spoke?”

“During the Babylonian Captivity.”

“The Babylonian Captivity?” Trying to be funny, “Before my time.”

“It was 2,600 years ago, Josiah. We as a people were still in Babylon.”

He wanted to cut the conversation off but he noted how much Ezra wanted to talk, “Okay, what about it? What about this Prophet Ezekiel?”

“He predicted the return of the Jews to the land as a nation was one thing he spoke about….”

Josiah laughed, “Easy to see that or read it after the fact, Ezra.”

“That might be true, Josiah, and as I said I am not fully ready to believe as my friend did, but he is gone as well and along with his entire family. But he told me that Ezekiel predicted that from the scattered across the globe the Jew, He our Lord and God, would gather His people back into the land in a future event.”

“Did we already return after that captivity?” Looking at him with a smirk, “I am sure we did long before 1948….”

“And we lost it all by the hand of the Romans in 133 or 134 A. D, I don’t remember really,  when we were again defeated by the might of the Roman Army. We were kicked out of land and had it renamed Palestine to take away any and all that was our heritage to the land. The Prophet Ezekiel was talking about a very far away future event and out return to the land…”

“You sound very much like one of those who actually believe the Messiah had come.”

“I’m repeating what I remember from my friend, Jacob. Like you I really didn’t believe a word of it. But I started doing my own research into our history and the Scriptures and I mostly started with the Prophet Ezekiel…”

“Again the Prophet Ezekiel I have no knowledge of.”

“He predicted after a long time we the Jews would occupy our land again. He saw into the future a time when the people of Israel would be called from the Gentile lands back to the land of Israel. Our history has always been about next year in Jerusalem and returning to the land promised to us by our God to Abraham…”

“Ah, now it’s Abraham.” He looked across the horizon, “Our history has been one long and bitter thing after another it seems to me. My grandfather came to the land after being once again place behind a wire fence on Cyprus. He was smuggled into the land and fought the British till they left and then fought the Arabs to stay in his land. He fought during our War of Independence…” Fondly, softly, “He loved this land he fought for, was willing to die for it.” Looking at Ezra with a knowing look, “My grandfather barely survived Auschwitz. He was the only one he thought of the family who did but a few years later, he and my Uncle Josiah discovered each other by accident in Jerusalem; he also discovered that his niece had survived but died of something in Cyprus. It was later discovered they had both been in Cypress and didn’t know of each other was there.” He sighed deeply, looked about the landscape and smiled, “We created a nation from what the Turks had turned it into. We created a land of…”

“Milk and honey?”

Amused, “I was thinking oranges and dates, but if you insist on milk and honey.” He looked at his hands a brief few seconds, “I am named after my grandfather, he was killed during the Suez conflict, he was in the wrong place, but he died in the land he loved and gave indeed his life for. If your Prophet Ezekiel spoke the truth then why were we not called to the land before the rise of the Nazi’s let alone the horrors of the Holocaust? Let alone the last two thousand years of Jewish history and the so call followers of the false Messiah. What about all that history and so much more?”

Ezra spoke softly and still being careful, “I have had the same questions to even my friend Jacob.”

“His response?”

Ezra went silent a bit with his thoughts but it was obvious he was troubled by his friend’s thoughts, “He simply stated that the Church of the Messiah, he would refuse to call it Christ, simply started denying and removing the Jewish roots of the church very early in it’s history. He called it replacement theology if I remember correctly.”

Uncertain, “Replacement theology?”

“Jacob explained it as the church was replacing Israel and the Jews in God’s covenant. The church was now Israel and Israel, we the Jews, were rejected by God and His covenant’s.” He was sure he was making no sense to the Israeli sitting in the jeep trying to follow Ezra’s explanation.

“So, God lied when He told Abraham the land was our forever? My grandfather would have had much to day on that. My grandfather never lost his faith, Ezra, despite the nightmare of the Holocaust.” Looking at people walking by; they all seemed preoccupied and troubled and in deep thought. One pretty girl walked by and noted his look at her very Jewish profile and deep dark eyes. “My grandfather according to my father was still a very religious man. And as my father stated that my grandfather would ask questions respectfully of his God about this century and the Holocaust but he was going to ask questions until he got answers for such places as Auschwitz and the Holocaust…”

“Must have been an interesting conversation when it happened.”

He was actually amused, “Yes, my father told me that grandfather was a determined man for answers. He returned to teaching in Tel Aviv….”

“What did he teach?” Ezra asked sensing that it was a good point for a brief break.

“He taught music. He could play the piano quite well according to my father.” Adding because one flew by, “And he collected and observed butterflies. My father still has his collection of butterflies. He could name them quite easily.”

“Butterflies?”

“He liked them. What’s wrong with them?”

“Nothing just seems odd.”

“What is odd is the conversation we are having but my grandfather collected butterflies is the most normal conversation in the last few weeks I have had.” He again noticed movement in the horizon, “Does seem very busy over there.”

“Yes, been noting it but the radio had been quiet so maybe it’s some kind of excercise we don’t know about…”

“It’s making me uncomfortable. I have felt uneasy all day and I am not sure why.”

Ezra shrugged his shoulders, “The last few weeks events will do that.”

“Yes, I suppose.” He didn’t like the answer but it was all he had, “I will ask to be blunt, do you think their, lack of a better word, their Jesus was the Messiah, Ezra. Let us get to the real topic this is slowly getting to.” He gave him a look but it was friendly, “It is the million shekel question of the last few weeks by many and not just you. My sister, my Rebecca, Ezra is gone. She has vanished into what or where or by whom? I know what the Christians where babbling about before this…this, whatever you want to call it…”

“The Rapture is what my friend Jacob called it.”

“Fine, call it that, but it explains nothing to me or even proves that their…” He slowed himself down, “That their Jesus was the Messiah promised by our prophets. His name isn’t even Jewish!”

“Well, in Hebrew it would have been Yeshua which is Joshua in English.”

“At least those names sound Jewish.” He retorted, “That I can understand. So this Prophet Ezekiel told of a time when we would come back to our land; okay, we are back. Where is He? Where is this Messiah we were promised?”

“Jacob told me that indeed Yeshua, he refused to call him your least favorite name, was indeed the promised Messiah via Scripture….showed me via the prophets that He was and why He came the first time…”

“The first time? Let me guess, He came, we rejected Him, and now the Gentiles have decided to turn Him into some kind of Jew turned Gentile and who gave away all the promises to this church….” He spat on the ground out of habit, “I want my Messiah to be one hundred percent Jewish and not some Gentile creation…”

Ezra raised a hand, “Same thing my friend Jacob said. He to refused to believe in a Messiah more Gentile than His Jewish roots and prophecies proclaimed. He wanted a Jew for a Messiah, not whatever the church claims He was. He took a long time and much reading to realize just his Jewish Yeshua was. He did much research and study and being a history teacher he was quite thorough in his studies. He came to the  conclusion that the church simply after many centuries tossed away it’s Jewish roots and foundational doctrines and created a hodge-podge of a church and simply turned against it’s very Jewish Messiah it claimed to serve, worship or even love.”

Bitterly, “A long and bloody history is all I see. The Jew has never been treated well.”

“Jacob noted that. But the truth is according to him, Yeshua was the Messiah and was and is still quite Jewish and will rule in Jerusalem for a thousand years when He returns. He came first for His true church…”

“True church? What is that?”

“As Jacob states, it’s a church that supports and loves the Jewish people as God’s still promised people.”

“And when is this Jewish Messiah returning to rule in Jerusalem?”

“At the end of a seven year period of human history call the Tribulation but first something else is suppose to happen before that hasn’t happened yet sometime after the Rapture so Jacob told me…”

Humoring him though he was thinking about it, “What is suppose to happen now?”

“According to Jacob, the Russian’s are going to invade Israel with a few allies we know all too well…”

Laughing, “Russia is going to invade us? When?”

“It’s again from the Prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel chapters thirty-six to thirty-nine. It’s a long portion of Scripture but it details a massive invasion from Russia and her allies in the last days…”

Laughing but not really feeling that funny, “And you think this is the last days?”

“Well, don’t you feel that something is coming to a conclusion since the vanishings?” Adding, “I do and that is why of late I have been doing my own research into the Messiah.”

“Ah, so you are beginning to believe in this Messiah?”

“I am beginning to question my reasons for my disbelief in the Messiah of our Scriptures, yes.” He held up a quick hand as Josiah was about to say something unpleasant, “Let me finish my thought.” Josiah nodded, “Thanks, I am not ready to confess Yeshua as Messiah but I cannot denied what our own Scriptures, our Torah has made known to us as Jews.”

“You sound as if you want to start confessing this Messiah, Ezra, do you?”

“I want to know the truth, Josiah.” He replied sharply, “I want to know why so many people simply vanished and why my friend Jacob and his family vanished…I just want to know the truth…”

Amused despite himself or his private thoughts, “So, Russia is going to invade Israel? When?”

“So my friend Jacob said. Russia and her allies, mostly Iran, Libya, and I think he said one other major nation will invade Israel in the last days sometime after the Rapture….”

“And what happens to Israel?” Looking into the clear blue sky and feeling the heat of the air, “”Sounds like once again the end of Israel….again we lose, Ezra?” Looking again across the landscape, “Beautiful country and we are to lose it again?”

“Yes it is, it’s worth fighting for.”

“It was a barren dead land when we first started coming back. From a dead wasteland we as a people have created a miracle…” Josiah seemed briefly lost in thought, “So does Russia and her allies win? Are we finally wiped off the face of the earth? Is the final solution finally accomplished by this invasion?” Looking at Ezra with a questioning look, “My grandfather fought for this land and the right to create a nation from the ashes of the Holocaust…well, that’s how my father tells it.” Looking at his hands, making a fist, “So, what happens to us when this invasion happens?”

Ezra spoke slowly, measuring his comments, “What happens, according to my friend Jacob, is an act of our God.”

Josiah looked at him with a cold look, “It does does it?”

“Jacob stated that the Lord God of Israel will utterly destroy Russia and her allies, it will be a sole miracle by our God to show He was still very much the God of Israel.”

Still observing the landscape with his thoughts, “Beautiful country and to be simply destroyed…” Looking at Ezra again with more questions than he wanted to ask, “You still believe in God? You still believe in the God of our history and heritage?” He took notice of the silence from Josiah, “I have always enjoyed studying history, mostly our history. We are a people who have survived and have returned to our land. It’s our land, it was given to us…so yes, I believe in God. I believe in our God more now than I did before the vanishings…”

“You have more faith that I do, Ezra.” It was said honestly. The traffic seemed to be going mostly in one direction he took notice of. Did they sense something he didn’t? The whole last few weeks life and people seemed to have been knocked out of a normal routine daily life. Daily life certainly had been disrupted since the vanishings; even his life was not the same and how could it be? “I have always struggled with a faith in such a God who would allow the Holocaust.”

“My friend Jacob didn’t understand either but he refused to blame the actions of evil men on God.”

“And he believed in the…Messiah claimed by the Gentiles?”

“No, he believed in the Messiah preached by the prophets and Moses. He believed in the Messiah preacher and written about in the stories of the Messiah and he believed in the Messiah preached and written about by the Apostle Paul and the others.”

Trying to relax, “That’s a lot of believing, Ezra.”

“Jacob had the same issues with the Gentiles as you and even me, they have ignored or worse yet throw away the Jewishness of the Messiah and created a Gentile version devoid of anything Jewish.” Softly, “Jacob would get visibly angry at the subject sometimes, it angered him how much the Jewish Messiah and His foundation of being the Jewish had been removed and ignored.”

“Sounds almost like someone I wish I had known.”

“He would have liked you as you are so much like him. Or at least sound very much like him. He told me that indeed Yeshua was and is the Messiah and He will return and reign in Jerusalem for a thousand years…”

“So, Russia will invade. And our Messiah has come. We are talking in circles, Ezra.”

“Yes, we are trying to understand.”

His tone became troubled by something as he didn’t fell comfortable anymore about the traffic; it felt wrong. All morning it seemed something was off about the day. The air even seemed to carry a hidden message that something was happening or was going to happen? He was blunt, “Was Yeshua our Messiah?”

“Have we not been asking that question since, as Jacob stated, since Yeshua was born? Since He preached? Since He was killed that Passover?”

Josiah interrupted feeling angry again, “He better be Jewish! He better be our Messiah and not some Gentile who thought He was Jewish!” He forced himself to calm down, “They stole our Messiah and turned Him into a Gentile Messiah…”

Ezra nodded.

“….He is suppose to be our Messiah, our son of King David, not the goyim, not them! He was promised to us, not them!”

Ezra noted the anger so he remained silent as some things were beginning to make sense about his behavior lately.

He studied the traffic and the people who walked by with the look of the still shaken and something else that was troubling him. He was blunt, “I have not been completely honest with anyone lately. I have been doing my own research, my own looking into what my sweet Rebecca came to believe in and is now gone. Vanished? I have kept it to myself because I know what the reaction would be. I have been in her room, I have been reading her books…”

“Explains some of your secretive behavior lately.”

“My father wouldn’t understand and the family is not in the mood to talk about it, but Rebecca was my younger sister and we were after all born together….” He forced a soft smile, “Call it the twins connection but I felt it was something I had to do. Not sure that makes sense, but she was so sure of her new faith…and she is gone.”

Ezra noted the traffic seemed to be increasing, he noted the mood as well in the faces of those walking by. They all looked troubled, broken by something or a loss of someone, or something else he couldn’t fathom. He let Josiah continue.

“She certainly read a lot, nothing escaped her need to understand and believe in this Messiah…Some of the books she read are beyond me and I am reader like her. She was very clear and precise in her research. She had many notebooks filled with thoughts and questions. She would have made a great scholar.”

“Was He the Messiah?” Ezra asked again, “Was Rebecca correct?”

He went silent a while, he spoke up slowly, “Rebecca certainly believed she was and she is gone. And so is your friend as he is gone….” Softly and honestly, “Let Russia invade and let’s see what happens, Ezra.” Amused, “Even I can’t ignore an entire invasion being stopped by an unseen hand…I am not that stubborn! Though Rebecca would claim otherwise….But the books she was reading, so much she read and took in. Her notes are quite clear….”

“And?”

“I wish I had at least listened to her…” He still remembered the unpleasant last meeting they had; he screamed and she simply walked out of the room. “I she always had a better mind than I did on spiritual matters….”

Ezra noticing something in the horizon, “Looks like aircraft coming from the south of Syria, Josiah…”

“Yes, I noticed,” Picking up the binoculars and looking through them. He frowned.

“Well?” Ezra asked as he didn’t like the look in Josiah’s expression, “What’s wrong?”

“Their Russian, Ezra…”

Ezra watched in horror and awe as the invasion began and seemed to be stalling and falling apart in defeat before it even crossed the mountains of Israel; Josiah stood up and found himself speaking as if from somewhere else.

“And the Word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, And say, Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses, and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords: Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet….and I will turn thee back, and leave out the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and I will being thee upon the mountains of Israel: And I will smite thy bow our of thy left hand and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand…So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel…Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord God, this is the day whereof I have spoken….” (Ezekiel 38:1-5, 39:2-4, 7-8).

Josiah stood and watched the battle in fear and a great awe of the moment, his voice was low when he found it again, “Ezra…”

Ezra was too shaken to say anything.

“He had not forsaken us….”

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Commentary On Church History:The Three Pillars Of The Church And Why The Reformation Matters?

cropped-12301412301.jpg“Seek the truth, listen to the truth, teach the truth, love the truth, abide by the truth, and defend the truth.” Jan Huss.

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (I Corinthians 13:13.

They can be called the three central pillars of the Christian life and if we are to understand why there was a Protestant Reformation we must look at their value first. At the core of the Christian heart is the Messiah and in that core is the virtue of the life and work of the Messiah in us. The virtues or qualities that the Messiah wants us to show at all times are these three core doctrines. They cover the core of His own earthly life and ministry. The life of the Lord and Messiah  personified the principles of faith, hope, and love in His every word and action. He prayed to the Father in faith in His obedience to the cross, He brought hope to those in need of someone to believe in, and lived a live of compassion to the lost about Him. He taught faith is the way of all those who seek and wish to follow Him, He pointed to the hope He was about to give them by His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection, and He taught His followers the greatest of the commandments is at it’s core the love of God and toward one’s neighbor.

As Abraham learned, as the Apostle Paul learned and preached, and as the Reformer Martin Luther taught and that was the just shall live by faith alone, (Romans 1:17; Habakkuk 2:4). Without faith we do not see, we stumble about in spiritual blindness, we stumble and fail before the holiness of God. Faith is a rudder of our daily walk by the Holy Spirit guides our lives and our own ministry  upon this mission field in the actions of Noah in the building on the ark, the prayer of Hannah the mother of the Prophet Samuel of the Lord, and the steadfast character and actions of Daniel before the pagan kings of Babylon and Persia. The prophets of the Lord preached, suffered, and some were killed for being faithful in their preaching to the people of the Lord, but they preached and had a testimony of their faithfulness. Hope is a powerful word when empowered by the truth via the Holy Spirit by the Word of God. Hope implies a fire in the soul and a belief in something or someone higher than ourselves. Hope inspires, it motivates, it stimulates hope in action. Hope declares the omnipresence of God that hope is the natural state of the faithful Christian. It is the natural state and standing of the man or woman who places their sole hope in Him. Hope is why the Apostle Thomas despite his great doubts of struggling belief and stayed with the other apostles despite not believing them when they proclaimed they had seen the risen Lord. He doubted the Resurrection but he stayed and waited to see what his fellow apostles had told him was true or not. He had hope; it was all he had left. Hope is why Job could utter with great confidence, “…yet in my flash shall I see God.” (Job 19:26b). Job had a steadfast faith in his own resurrection and that he would indeed stand before his Creator and God of his hope in salvation. The Blessed Hope of the return of the Messiah of Israel is the hope of all Christians.  Love is the foundational bedrock that supports the pillars and of faith and hope in God and His Son. Literally the two beams of the cross beam of the house of the Christian walk. Love is all that makes the other two possible. Love gives us hope in the One who by faith had given us salvation via His righteousness alone. Love sent the Messiah to the cross. John 3:16 should mean more than some sign at a sporting event. It’s the statement of a holy and righteous God to a dying in sin world and that statement is that faith and hope in God is a personal fellowship with His creation because His love demands action to redeem humanity fallen into sin and rebellion. The Lord’s dialogue with Abraham over Sodom and Gomorrah showed a love in that God was willing to go as low as only ten righteous to spare the city that the Lord had marked for destruction. Love is merciful so it would seem that Abraham sought mercy for the people of those two wicked cities for the sake of ten. God is merciful because His love demands it as is who God is.

The binding element to the Christian life with faith and hope and is and shall always be love guided by the Messiah via the Holy Spirit. Love is an action word that signifies a higher conduct of life in and toward others in the Messiah. It is fulfilled in the statement, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). And that starts with love as the motivating principle. Faith can move mountains. Love sent the Messiah to the cross that Passover. Love sent the Apostle Paul to Rome and to suffer death for his faith and hope in the Messiah he preached throughout the Roman Empire. He preached the Messiah out of love and a faith and a great hope in the resurrection from the dead of the Messiah that Passover. He preached, “We love Him, because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19). Printed in great bold letters on the banner of all Christian’s hearts should be the words faith, hope, and love because this is our foundation and pillars of  our lives. Always remember we as Christians are the ambassadors for the Messiah. What did the Apostle Paul write to the Church at Corinth, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ…” (II Corinthians 5:20a). Also he wrote to the Church at Ephesus, “For which I am an ambassador in bonds…” (Ephesians 6:20a). The Apostle Paul stood before the Emperor Nero of the Roman Empire that Ambassador of the Messiah and King of Kings and Lord of Lords with the message of those three central pillars of the Christian life in the Messiah; along with the Apostle Peter at some point stood before the Roman Emperor Nero as an ambassador of the Messiah. Both men would die for their faith in the Messiah they preached. To be an ambassador of the Messiah one must stand upon the foundational pillars of faith, hope, and love for without them one is preaching a religion of works. The Apostle Thomas traveled as far as India as an ambassador of the Messiah where he was to die for his Lord and God but he steadfast upon the three pillars of his Christian faith. The Reformation was about returning the Church and the Christian back to his faith and hope and love of the Lord Messiah that somewhere along the way was replaced by everything but Him.

The history of the Church of the Messiah has been a long story of those who have stood on the three pillars of the Christian life and given their whole lives to that cause of the Gospel. For three hundred years of the Churches history has been one of preaching and persecution from within the Roman Empire. It’s a long three hundred year history of those willingly to die for the faith, hope, and love they had in the Messiah. Despite the persecution and the inner theological debates and even the heresies such as the Gnostics the Gospel of the Messiah continued to be preached and spread across the earth. The Church’s history is one of men and woman preaching and defending their faith with their lives and the history is worth remembering because they stood firm and steadfast upon that pillar of faith, hope, and love. Read the history of the Waldensians and read the story of a people who defended the Scriptures. The movement started in the late 12th century as the Poor Men of Lyons. It was a band of believers organized by Peter Waldo. He preached apostolic poverty as the way to perfection. The Waldensians defended and taught the Scriptures and saw the early as having abandoned the truth of the Scriptures not only the Gospel of the Messiah. This of course brought this into conflict with the Catholic Church; they were declared heretical by 1215 and were subjected to persecution that nearly wiped them all out by the 17th century; in the 16th century they had become part of the Reformation spreading across Europe. The Church of Rome in their Scriptural reading had gone off into theological heresy and had become too worldly to be anymore the Church of the Messiah of the Bible they fought and died for. This what the Waldensians stood for and that was against the heresy, corruption, and the worldly ambitions of the Church in Rome.

The Waldensian’s doctrine influenced the slowly growing seeds of the coming Reformation of the 16th century. They had an influence on the English John Wycliffe, (1320-1384), who was an English scholastic philosopher and theologian who saw the issues of the Catholic Church in England and in Rome and wrote about and against those issues of doctrinal corruption and worldly ambitions of the Catholic Church; for which he was declared a heretic. He was also an advocate for the translation of the Scriptures into English; he had by 1382 translated from the Latin Vulgate into Middle English into what is now known as the Wycliffe Bible. His followers became known as the Lollards. His followers followed his lead in advocating predestination, iconoclasm, and the idea of caesaropapism; they also attacked the veneration of the saints, the sacraments, requiem masses, transubstantiation, monasticism, and the very existence of the Papacy. All doctrines that the Waldensians would and did defend and uphold and why they were declared heretics. Wycliffe stood up against the Catholic Church and it’s theology that had replaced the doctrines of the Word of God with the traditions and commandments of men.

A reformation was needed and he was the small seed growing toward it’s eventual true beginnings by Jan Huss, (1369-1415), Martin Luther, (1483-1546), John Calvin, (1509-1564), Huldrych Zwingli, (1484-1531), and John Knox, (1513-1572), and William Tyndale, (1536).1494), and the list of the others who stood up for a much needed defense and restoration of the Church of the Messiah of the faith delivered to the saints by the apostles of the Lord they followed and lived and died for. The above names were inspired by the truth of the Scriptures. They sought the faith that had been once given to them by the apostles and the Scriptures they preached from. The Reformers sought hope that was in the Messiah and in the Scriptures He was preached from of His resurrection and hope in eternal life in Him. They sought out of a deep longing and a deeper love of Him and the Scriptures He preached from a love that only in Him could be obtained in Him. The Reformation was brought about because the Church at Rome had forgotten it’s roots in the Scriptures as it’s only foundational bedrock for faith in the Messiah, hope in the Messiah, and the love of the Messiah to sacrifice His own self for the sins of the world and to bring salvation that Passover to a dying world. The Reformation was men and women standing up and demanding a return to the fundamentals of the Scriptures and that salvation was a free and compete gift outside of any human system or church. The Reformers wanted to return to the original preaching and teacher of the Scriptures and the epistles of the Apostle Paul, Apostle Peter, and the Apostle John and them alone as the source of all things needed for the Christian life; this includes the two epistles of the brother’s the Lord, James and Jude. Read the classics of the history of the church, “Foxes Book Of Martyrs” and understand the full impact and lives of the coming Reformation on those men and woman of the preaching of the reformers. They knew the history of the Church in Rome and what had happened to it’s original preaching and defending of Scripture and the slow and steady worldliness of those in leadership and the growing commandments of men being place on the same level or even above the Scriptures. What happened to the idea of faith in the Messiah alone became the faith in the Church of Rome alone; what happened to the idea of all hope in Him alone for salvation became that all salvation is found only in the Church of Rome; what happened to the love of God toward the world via the Messiah alone became the role of Mary of Nazareth because He was still angry? The wrath of God was poured out on the cross for the sins of the world that Passover unto His Son; His anger at sin had been paid for in full. The Reformers sought to return the Gospel of the Messiah to it’s rightful place as the center of the Church of the Messiah and return Scripture as it’s only rule and government of life.

The Reformers knew their Scriptures as they had placed them above the traditions and commandments of the Church of Rome and it’s monopoly on who can or can’t read the Scriptures. Martin Luther didn’t start out as a reformer but became one as it was apparent the Church in Rome had no intention of seeing the issues as a problem. He stood his ground at his trials; he stood his ground and defended his belief in faith and faith alone was a requirement for salvation. The Church at Rome believed it and it alone was the giver and taker of salvation. Martin Luther and the other reformers stood up to the powers of the religious and secular leadership and preached and taught the faith, hope, and love given to them by the Scriptures. Jan Huss was burned at the stake for his preaching; William Tyndale also burned at the stake for giving the English People the Scriptures in their own language. Men and women lived, preached, and died for the beliefs of the Reformation. Martin Luther demanded that if he was to be proven wrong let it be proven via Scripture and not the commandments, traditions or laws of the Church at Rome. The Reformation and it’s message was to return the Church of the Messiah to the Scriptures, to return them to it’s message, to restore the idea of faith, hope, and love via the Messiah, via Scripture, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)….”For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Reformation was about the truth of Scripture and the message of the Gospel being restored to it’s original meaning to those who heard it. The Reformation restored faith and faith alone to the Christian life via the Messiah. It restored hope and hope alone to the Christian life via the Messiah. It gave back the love of God toward a fallen world via His Son upon the cross that Passover. The Reformers stood their ground against a Church of Rome demanding complete obedience to their laws, commandments, and traditions above Scripture. Martin Luther and the other reformers said no and even at the risk of their lives. The Church of Rome demanded they had the sole authority of salvation and who could and could not read the Scriptures. Martin Luther and the other reformers said no. The Church of Rome said that it and it alone was the way to knowing God or His Son. The Reformers said no. The point of the Reformation was a restoration to a personal relationship and understanding of who God is and His Son. The Reformation restored to the common man and woman the Gospel of the Messiah and His message of salvation. Without the Reformation and those willing to stand up and defend the truth against the worldly Church of Rome and the secular powers of nations is to have a very watered down understanding of the three pillars of the Church of the Messiah. The Reformation of Martin Luther and the other men and woman of the Reformation is to restore that salvation is a free and complete gift in the Messiah and Him alone and no church has the power say otherwise. The Church of Rome nor any church has the power to give or take away salvation from any individual who believes in the Gospel and Scriptures. The conclusion of the Reformation is a defense of the point of the Gospel, “Jesus saith unto him, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6). The church doesn’t save anyone; only the Messiah can and only He can.

“We must seek the truth, love it, defend it, and hand it down uncorrupted to posterity.” Philip Melanchthon.

REFERENCES/RECOMMENDATIONS

Bible. (KJV).

Here I stand: A Life Of Martin Luther. By. Roland Bainton.

Martin Luther. By. Eric Metaxas.

John Calvin: Pilgrim And Pastor. By. W. Robert Godfrey.

John Know: Fearless Faith. By. Steven J. Lawson.

William Tyndale: A Biography. By. David Daniel.

John Wycliffe: The Dawn Of The Reformation. By. David Fountain.

Christianity’s Dangerous Idea. By. Alister Mcgrath.

Theology: The Basics. By. Alister McGrath.

Reading Scripture With The Church Fathers. By. Christopher A. Hall.

Learning Theology With The Church Fathers. By. Christopher A. Hall.

The Most 40 Influential Christians Who Shaped What we Believe Today. By. Daryl Aaron.

Understanding Theology In 15 Minutes A Day. By. Daryl Aaron.

Christian Theology For People In A Hurry. By. Daryl Aaron.

History Of The Waldenses. By. J. A. Wylie.

Foxe’s Book Of Martyrs. By. John Foxe.

The Search For The Twelve Apostles. By. William Steuart McBernie.

Early Christian Doctrines. By. J. N. D. Kelly.

Early Christian Fathers. Edited By. Cyril C. Richardson.

Four Witnesses:The Early Church In Her Own Words. Edited By. Rod Bennett.

 

Commentary On Church History: Israel, The Church, And Replacement Theology?

cropped-12301412301.jpg“I say then, Hath God cast away His people?…” (Romans 11:1a). “God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew…” (Romans 11:2a).

The God and steadfast friend of Israel has not forsaken nor forgotten His promises’s to her. The Scriptures are plain and simple in their blanket statement throughout that Gos is and will never be done with His chosen people Israel. He will never forsake her nor give up on her as she is His special people that He called the smallest of tribes upon the earth, “The Lord did not set His love upon you, not choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people. But because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeeming you out of the house bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Look at the modern history of the Jewish people and it’s founding in May of 1948. Look at the tragedy of the Nazi years of Germany and the horror of the Holocaust and try and convince me that the Lord has forsaken or given up on His chosen people of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob throughout the world. The history of Israel and the Jewish people as a whole is one of  promises’s kept and will be kept.

The history of Israel has always been a very rocky road of a Heavenly Father toward His wandering blindly children who never quite understood that the Lord did and does have their best interest at His Holy heart. He wants them to call unto Him and He will anwer them when they place their faith and hearts into His hands. He will show them great and mighty things in that Israel as a whole will see and reclaim the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they will reclaim Jerusalem, and be a great nation protected by a greater God than all the hordes of Israel’s enemies. The true follower of Jesus Christ love and pray for and support the Jews and Israel. God calls the Church to pray for the Jews, to support His people and He will answer such prayers as the Lord declared to Abraham that He would bless those who bless the Jews and Israel. He spoke to Abraham very clearly on the subject, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3), and again, “Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and might nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?” (Genesis 18:18). A Christian with no heart or mind for Jews or the nation of Israel is a strange creature who claims that he serves, worships, and loved the selfsame God of the same people He called His special and beloved and particular people. He calls to all Christians to hear His voice and to see the mighty things He will perform for His steadfast love and promises He made to His promised Children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all those Jews who believed and held steadfast to their faith in God’s promises to come. From the moment He spoke to the man from the city of Ur He was and will always be their God; the covenant with the Lord was sealed forever.

He has shouted from the heavens and unto the earth from the voice of the Prophet Jeremiah from chapter thirty-one thirty-five to thirty-seven, Israel was His and was going nowhere! The Lord has promised and has declared to His people of His everlasting covenant that began with Abraham to His adopted children called the Church. He has declared that He is always there in the midst and always listening and is swift and steadfast to hear and swift to act in His very mercy, grace, and forgiveness to those who ask, seek, and knock. The Lord is never slacking in His Word and in His promises toward Israel and His Church. Seek the Lord He cried in the Prophets and in the Messiah. He will hear and He will act. He has and is crying from the heavens and across the earth that He is proclaiming His great promises and in His great and mighty works are in His hand toward His people; both Israel and the Church. The prophets of the Lord all proclaimed a basic message and that was the Lord is near and is listening and is ready to reply. Hear His voice of the Lord and hear what He promised the man from Ur who followed in faith and believed in faith. He promised Abraham, He taught Moses, He helped conquer the land through Joshua, and proclaimed King David as a man after His own heart. The promises of the Lord are countless and endless. The Lord calls from the heavens to be heard but its a soft voice of Elijah’s God that calls to the people of Israel and His Church. Listen to it and see the great works of the Lord.

A case against replacement theology is to read the prophets; a simple definition is that the Church has replaced Israel as God has rejected Israel as His chosen people and nation. The central foundational pillar to the fact that God has and will not forget or forsake Israel or His promises is Jeremiah 31:31, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” It’s a strange thing for God to say if He was planning on in the future to really forsake and forget His chosen people let alone going to replace with something or someone else the future. Why not just replace them then and there and move unto to another people. The above verse tells those listening that God had and has a better plan in the future. This new covenant was going to be better and everlasting. God has not replaced Israel in the apple of His eye. God is still holding Israel in the palm of His hand. God has not forgotten His own Words He spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah. The Prophet Jeremiah continued, “Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:32). This is not the words of a God that is forsaking or forgetting His promises. He is disappointed with His people but He has not given up what He promised them through Abraham or the Mosaic Covenant. But God also knew something better was needed. God has been the faithful one in the covenant between the Lord and Israel. God was disappointed but not surprised by their faithlessness. He knew and told them via the Prophet Jeremiah that a new and everlasting and perfect covenant was needed and coming. He gave them a glimpse of the coming new covenant’s purpose, “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34). The last part must have hit the Prophet Jeremiah’s listeners as a new thought and revelation that what was coming was going to be completely without the sacrifice of animals for their sins against God. He would forgive them and not remember their sins no more? It was a profound message that completely replaced the old covenant of continual sacrifices. Complete forgiveness? Complete and absolute forgiveness and He would remember them no more? What was this new covenant that was to come and replace the old with a far greater new way of being His chosen people? As if to make a point and knowing what was to happen in a future age of the Church, God reminded His people that He will not forsake and forget His special people of the Torah and the promises; it was also a warning against a Church that might start teaching and spreading the message that God had chosen someone else for His promises. From the Prophet Jeremiah, “Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; the Lord of hosts is His name. If those ordinances depart from me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the Lord, If heaven above can be measured, and the foundation of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:35-37).

Basically, when the church can answer all those questions then He will forsake and forget His people Israel and His promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Apostle Paul would have rejected the idea of the Church taking possession of the promises made to them by God. The Apostle Paul spoke to the people of the Church at Rome, “I say then, Hath God cast away His people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew. Wot ye not what the scriptures saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel…” (Romans 11:1-2). The Apostle Paul’s heart and mind on the subject of his own people he made very clear, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” (Romans 10:1). Israel has not left the plan that God set forth not had He given over to the Church the promises He made to His people Israel. The Church has begun to slowly and rather happily to remove it’s Jewish roots. It’s become a theology of replacing Israel with the Church and removing as much of the Jewishness from the Messiah they claim to believe in; and in some cases turning the Jewish Messiah into a Palestinian Messiah. The Apostle Paul would rise up and denounce this theology that actually began pretty early in Church history; Justin Martyr of the second century was the first to put forward the idea that the Church was replacing Israel in the covenant of promises and God had indeed rejected the Jews for rejecting the Messiah. (Strange statement from a guy who read the Book of Acts where the entire early Church was nothing but Jewish). The Church has not replaced Israel in the heart and mind of the One who made the covenant in the first place. Too many church’s and too many preachers are simply ignoring or simply don’t want to see their own corrupted theology on the subject of Israel and the Church and it’s role in history and God’s eternal plan. It’s becoming a rebirth of a old theology that God had rejected Israel and His chosen people and simply given over everything He promised to Israel to the Church. This is a false doctrine and is nowhere found in Scripture.

The Scriptures are clear that when it speaks of the Church it is referring to the Church and when it speaks of Israel it is only speaking of Israel. The Church is not spiritual Israel and never has been. The Church by the second century had become convinced that it had become the inheritor’s of all the promises and the new covenant brought by the Messiah’s blood sacrificed on the cross that Passover so long ago in Israel. The modern Church has been slowly and with very little push back been removing from it’s foundation the very Jewishness that brought it into being. The Church of the early apostles has been slowly replacing Israel at almost every turn and that includes it’s right to the land given to them from God Himself. Too many Christian’s have resorted to excepting the watered down or simply ignore Scripture for their own beliefs or what others preach from the pulpits. There are even preachers who make the founding of Israel in 1948 as a historical mistake and that God had nothing to do with it; these people are not reading the Bible I am reading. The miracle that was and is the rebirth of the nation of Israel is becoming viewed as a mistake and even some claiming that the Jews there are not related to the Jews of the Scriptures? Serious theologians have turned Scripture into a hodge-podge of doctrines that have stripped away the foundation of the new covenant in the Messiah is founded in the Jewish heritage of the apostles of the first century Church. Replacement theology treats the rebirth of Israel as if it has no meaning to God’s plan for Jews in the future. One would have to ignore or simply never read the Book Of Ezekiel to make the claim that the birth of Israel on May 14, 1948 was just an accident or mistake of history. God is calling His people, His chosen, His Israel home in these days since her creation and fight for independence. God has never forsaken or forgotten His people. He has not given up on His eternal plan for Israel and the replacement theology has no basis in Scripture. The modern Church is losing it’s foundational pillar of it’s Jewishness and the power of the Scriptures are being rewritten to preach a message it isn’t in Scripture. God is calling His people to their land and the Church is either going to help that plan via the preaching of Scripture as given by the Holy Spirit or hinder it by their preaching of corrupted doctrines. The Lord God of Israel is calling His beloved Children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob home to their land and the Church needs to reclaim it’s foundational pillar of it’s Jewish heritage before there is no Church of the Messiah left.

REFERENCES/RECOMMENDATIONS

Bible. (KJV).

Early Christian Doctrines. By. J. N. D. Kelly.

History Of The Jews. By. Paul Johnson.

The Case For Zionism: Why Christians Should Support Zionism. By. Thomas Ice.

Playing Around. (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpg“Youth is wasted on the young…” He thought it out loud and mostly to himself, “I don’t know if I agree with that idea but it’s true sometimes…” So thought Paul to an inner dialogue he had been having for a few days now but out loud which he was sure was causing looks by some. But at the moment in he was in his own large bathroom talking to the guy in the mirror who didn’t mind the conversation, “Sure, Paul, youth has the energy to climb mountains but don’t have the patience to enjoy the climb let alone getting on the top and taking in the majestic view of the world they stood above.”

He heard the light foot steps in the other room.

He talked lower, but not a whole lot lower because it wasn’t his nature to talk softly, “The view, Paul, isn’t always the important part of the climb anyway. But don’t tell youth that as they would not get it as they only see a climb as a struggle or a survival of the fittest?”

He heard a light chuckle from the woman in the other room; he laughed back at the reflection in the mirror. He spoke up changing subjects. “Heather, did you think about my suggestion?”

The woman responded, “No, I don’t want to go to Australia.” Adding because it did matter to her, “Not going to a place where most of the animal life is trying or could easily kill me, Paul.”

He laughed a bit, “It’s not that bad.”

“Not from what I have read, Paul.”

He emerged from the bathroom and leaned against the door frame, “Heather, it’s not that bad an idea.” He knew the woman would probably change her mind at some point, “I would like to see Australia…” Her blue eyes stared at him with that all knowing but not pleased look of a woman who knew she was going to see Australia at some point.

“I have no desire to see Australia, Paul.”

“You can go diving off the Great Barrier Reef.” He knew her well enough and her love of diving and photography; some of her photographs of sea life occupied portions of the walls downstairs. “You can take some pictures…”

She frowned at his attempt, “I haven’t dived in years and you know it.”

“So take it up again.”

She looked at him was smirk of a smile, “I have not the equipment anymore, remember? Nor the time, Paul.” She eyed him from her table near the full length mirror, “I also have no real ambition to return to photography.”

“I thought you enjoyed it?” He studied the still attractive woman even at fifty-two, “Australia has some really magnificent scenery and you can take it up again….” Amused at a memory, “I wanted to see Australia since I was fourteen…”

Without thinking, “I wanted bigger breasts, one works with what one is given, Paul.”

“There fine as they are, Heather.” Adding as it might matter, “I have no complaints.”

Looking over her bare shoulder at him, “Not one? I find that hard to believe that you have never thought that my breasts could use a lift…or someone else’s?”

He knew her mind, “I’ll let you know when I am tired of you, Heather. Physically or otherwise, I’ll let you know when I am tired of you.”

Turning back to her mirror with a slight smile, “Australia?”

“I found it interesting as a kid.”

Heather started brushing her still auburn hair with a little grey strands here and there, “Why?”

Sitting on the made bed, “I think it was a world war two book I was reading on the Pacific part of the war. It probably was on MacArthur as I was just getting into history…”

Laughing, “I thought you came out loving history?”

“No, it was my freshman year of high school that got me in to history…” Proudly, “Mr. Cyrus was a good teacher. Once I discovered history not much else interested me as a subject.”

“Well, girls.” She softly commented but knowing he heard her, “You still like them?”

“I married one.”

“Ah, is that what we’ve been doing? Being married.” She knew of late the writer’s block he was going through was bad, “Has it been a good marriage?”

“Go to Australia with me and let’s find out, Heather. It will be great fun….”

As she brushed her still long hair, “I’m sure it will be, Paul, but I don’t have any desire to see the land down under…but you didn’t answer my question, has it been a good marriage?” She again but briefly looked at him over her shoulder, “I want an answer? An honest answer for our almost twenty years of marriage.”

He answered slowly as he did have other thoughts, “Don’t you think we’ve gotten into a marriage rut?” He observed the woman sitting at her desk brushing her hair still, “It’s been a while since we went on a vacation that didn’t involve any form of work related activity for either one of us. We need a vacation, Heather.”

Heather wasn’t convinced, “We had a good vacation in Hawaii, Paul. You do remember that?” She looked at him with a slight smile, “We met that wonderful young girl Kalea, you do remember that part of Hawaii?”

He remembered Kalea, “That was ten years ago, Heather.”

Heather continued with a look of bemusement, “You talked to her enough, but then again, she was quite a pretty girl….”

Still sitting on the bedside with his many thoughts, “She was constantly around, Heather, it was her job to be helpful to the paying guests of the hotel.”

Slightly amused, “You know what I mean, Paul. I allowed you your little mid-life crisis only so far. She was quite the pretty girl and knew how to work that angle….”

Playing along as he lay back on the bed staring at the wood and metal fan above them as it slowly swirled around, “Only so far? Wouldn’t a mid-life crisis imply I want to replace you with a nineteen year old girl from Hawaii…” Adding with a thoughtful moment, “I have never felt the need for a mid-life anything. I am quite happy with the woman I married…”

Heather took notice of her husband lying on the bed, he looked relaxed, his thoughts were always apparent and actually he never really tried to hide anything; it was one of his qualities she appreciated about him. Sure, he would have fucked every inch of the nineteen year old but he was married and it would have bothered him. Heather spoke up, “I saw that particular nineteen year old, Paul, and I’m sure you would have enjoyed it for a while. Well, until she killed you…”

“Death by nineteen year old, not one of the worse ways to die.” He lifted his head a bit and looked at her, “You were nineteen when we ran into each other and started dating, Heather….”

“We had actually met in our freshman year in high school. I was an unattractive fourteen year old girl with more red hair than confidence in her abilities, Paul”

“Social studies class, Mrs. Bell.” Paul replied, “We had both been military brats stationed oddly enough in Hawaii. Oahu, Hawaii.” With a flurish with his hands as if conducting a symphony, “Honolulu Junior Academy. I remember it fairly well.” Adding with a smile, “Well, I remember certain people more than others….Ah, Faye, whatever happened to you?”

“I didn’t like it too much, Paul.” The tone was apparent she wanted to change that subject, “I don’t remember Faye.”

“I didn’t mind it too much.” He noted the tone, “I liked our little two week vacation to Hawaii.”

Teasing him, “You liked a certain nineteen year old girl, don’t deny that. I saw the way you looked at her. Actually I should say you studied her like a good writer would. Noting every line, curve, and breath she took. I’m surprised she wasn’t pregnant by the time you were done observing her….”

Playing alone, “A writer must observe everything, Heather, you know that and where is this really going anyway?”

She laughed at his faint guilty look, “You brought up Hawaii my dear.”

“Yes, Heather, because I feel we are in a rut in our marriage. A vacation would do us some good.”

Remaining not moved, “Define rut?”

“You know what I mean.”

Still holding her ground, “It’s been only ten years since our vacation to the land of Miss. Kelea, Paul. Do you really think we need another vacation? And Australia of all places?”

He studied the woman before speaking, “Are you happy in our marriage, Heather?”

“Are you, Paul?” There was a slight concern in her voice, looking at him with a look, “Are you unhappy being married?”

He gave her a calm look, “No, no, Heather, I am just say I feel we, not just I, we are in a marriage rut.”

“So no Kalea in the future….” She was teasing of course to relax the mood they had gotten into, “No young girl to think about?”

He smirked with a laugh, “No, no, Heather, sorry to disappoint you I am not having an affair with anyone.”

“No, nothing, not even a brief moment of weakness?”

Playing along still, “Yes, there was a brief moment, Heather.”

She frowned, “And?”

“It was a brief wild affair and it’s over.” He stood up  and looked at her with a slight serious look, “Her name was Heather, a beautiful young woman indeed….”

Trying to remain impassive, “Sounds like a not so interesting person to me.”

“She was and is quite a woman, Heather. I have had a secret crush on her for years.”

“And what makes this woman so interesting, Paul? Is she married as well?”

“Yes, to a dull man of no interests outside of fishing.”

“Yes, Paul, I have been meaning to discuss your dullness that drove you to this other woman.”

“Yes, I can be quite dull.” He walked toward where Heather sat still eyeing her husband trying to fathom where this was coming from really or why. “I am the dullest man alive…” He noted her slight curving lips in a smile.

Heather looked away. She knew the man was not capable of having any kind of an affair. It wasn’t that he still didn’t have that young man charm about him because he did. He still had that full crop of short hair but now grey which he was rather proud of. He looked the part of the professor of history that he was. She could see his appeal to the young girls if there was one. Maybe he was right that they had since the Hawaii trip had become stuck in a rut but he only saw it. Maybe it was just her in the rut because Professor Paul Parker was still the same man for the most part.

“You’re not capable of being dull, Paul. Granted you were quite enthralled with our Kalea but that was understandable, but dull you have never been.”

Bowing slightly, “Madam is too kind.” He tenderly ran his hand through her hair, “The feel of a woman’s hair never ceases to amaze me in it’s effect…”

“And that effect is?”

Whispering in her ear, “Sexuality at it’s finest.”

“Is that what this is all about, Paul, our lack of a sex life?” She knew it wasn’t but he was going somewhere with all this talking about a past vacation, “We have a sex life if I remember correctly…”

He started rubbing her neck a bit, “You’re tense, Heather.”

“I’m concerned where this conversation is going.”

“I simply think we are in some kind of rut, Heather. Nothing more than that and I am trying to figure out a way to break out of it.”

“Why do you in particular think you are in a rut?” Heather asked in a serious tone though she didn’t mean it to sound so ominous, “You brought up Hawaii and I doubt it has to do with just the lovely Kalea coming to your memory. I don’t deny it’s been a while since we went on a none working at some point vacation…” She actually was enjoying the neck rub, “I mean our last trip was to the Bad Lands and that was for a drive to your book signing in Montana….”

“We did visit Little Bighorn, Heather.”

“No, you were visiting Little Bighorn, I was being dragged alone.”

He lightly laughed, “Yes, I remember.” Wondering what she was really thinking, “Was it that bad? I thought you enjoyed the photography part.”

“Oh, I did, Paul, I’m not saying it was all bad. It wasn’t that bad, Paul, you just had more enjoyment from it than I did.”

“I suppose that’s true. We have been married almost thirty years and I have yet to make you a amateur historian yet…” Whispering, “But I am always hopeful.”

“You become interested in my gardening and I’ll read more of the books you like so much….” Her cell phone buzzed a message, looking at it with a pleased smile, “Our youngest is on her way, Paul.”

With other thoughts on his mind, “Have we really been married thirty years? I just realized what I said, has it been that long, Heather?”

Amused with her husband’s reaction to realizing how long he was married, “Yes, Paul, thirty years in a few days.”

Fondly, “Thirty years?” Because it did matter to him, “I have no regrets, Heather….you said Mia was on her way?”

Teasing, “Oh, you were actually listening, and yes, Mia is coming in about an hour…”

“With the kids?”

“No, she got a baby sitter.” Standing up and walking toward her own walk in closet. Speaking from the closet as she looked for something worth wearing, “She thought it would be nice to simply have the adults for tonight.”

“Well, I wouldn’t have minded the grand kids.”

“They love their grandfather and his stories.”

“Have you heard from the other two?” He sat on the lone chair, “I know Geoff said he might not be able to make it…”

“Geoff will be here, Paul. I’m sure he’ll figure out some way to get here before next Saturday…”

“Ah, the official thirty year mark.”

“Yes, tonight we are just going out for a dinner to get back in touch with Mia.”

He looked about the bedroom with a sense that it was a pleasant room, “And our oldest, Lydia?”

“She and the family will arrive tomorrow.”

A slight silence followed.

He finally spoke up what was really on his mind, “I’m planning on my next book, Heather.”

Looking out at him from the closet for a second, “Really?” Returning to her search with a smile, “I wondered when you would write another book, Paul.”

Thoughtfully as he still studied the large bedroom, “I have been pondering it for a while now.”

From the closet, “What brought this on?”

“Emile Zola.” He flatly stated.

The laughed came from the closet, “You were watching Paul Muni’s film again weren’t you?”

“Yes, I admit it, I do like that movie a great deal. The only French author I can stomach next to Jules Verne, Heather.”

Standing at the door frame, “And watching Paul Muni make you believe it was time to write another book?”

Looking at her and noting her still attractive shape beneath the lose fitting blue dress, “You have kept your beauty quite intake, Heather, most intake….”

“You need new glasses, Paul.”

“I see just fine.”

“So why the new book?” Returning to the closet with a look at his smile of satisfaction of her standing at the door frame, “What brought it on besides Emile Zola?”

He still studied the large bedroom, took notice of furnishings that certainly were mostly of a woman’s touch and not much of his; well, he did have his own home office and his ever growing library. He started up slowly, “I am thinking of writing a fictional novel based on our vacation in Hawaii. It’s a start anyway.”

Teasing him from the closet, “How fictional?”

He laughed out right at her suspicious tone, “Fictional enough, Heather.” Rubbing his hand through his short trimmed beard, “I am thinking of shaving the beard…”

“Don’t you dare or I’ll divorce you.” She stood at the door frame, “Have an affair but you not shaving that beard. I’ve grown use to it and I don’t think I could handle you without it…” Walking toward the bed and sitting down, “What’s the novel going to be about?”

Looking at her some affection, “Think of calling it, ‘A Sweet Scent Of Youth.’ But I may change it at some point but the idea is there…”

“What’s the plot?” She knew he hated to talk too much about his beginning drafts but he seemed to have a need to talk about it. Joking with him, “Old college professor falls in love with a pretty nineteen year old girl from Hawaii named Kalea?”

With a look, “That plot has been done too death, Heather.”

“Yes, very true. So, what is this one going to be or about?” Pointing to her shoes near the chair, “Toss me the shoes, Paul.”

As he tossed them, “Not sure yet Heather. But I would like to avoid the usual cliches and dumb plots where a guy meets a pretty girl, have a brief affair, and then slowly and of course painfully walk away from each other.”

“Will a Kalea type make an appearance?”

He got slowly, looked at her with a look and smiled, “I really don’t know if a Kalea type will show up. I have of course decided to place it in a historical setting. Naturally the most important, before December 7, 1941…”

Heather felt like interrupted but he was on a talkative mood for him on the subject of his next book so she didn’t.

“….It was such a mundane moment…”

“Mundane? I think that girl made quite an impression for some reason.” Adding with a look, “You sure there is nothing you want to tell me ten years after the fact?”

Standing up, looking at her with a smile, “Heather, I have been faithful to you since day one…”

“Not even tempted?”

Standing over her, took her hand, kissed gently, and pushed her back on the bed, looking down on her with a look, “Heather…”

“Mia is coming in a bit, we don’t have time…” Adding, “I’m all dressed…”

“Take them off then.” He studied the woman with a look that told her they were going to be late for dinner with Mia, “It’s either we have sex now or Australia later, Heather….”

They were late; Mia didn’t bother asking.

Mars Hill. (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpgProfessor Benjamin Brentson was finding this particular student tedious; but what else was new? Nothing. But he was going to try and explain it again to the kid. So another day begins in his Religious Studies Class he thought half bored of late with the subject.

“It’s all about morality, Daniel. It just is about the idea that absolute morality does exist and should exist….” He had addressed the whole class on the subject but of course there was always one student bent on being smarter than the teacher. Mr. Daniel Johnstone was such a student in his class. A short, mousy little ego wearing dirty beat up looking jeans as far as he was concerned was a pain in the ass. But he had to be nice to the kid or he’s go run off and complain because he was told he was wrong. He continued talking to the kid who was standing up with that look of the self-important.

“Does morality really exist?” He paused only a second, “Does morality really exist as a concrete philosophy or does it really matter? Do we really need any religious texts or dogma or doctrine to be moral? Where does morality really begin or come from?” He could see some of the kids thinking about the questions he was asking; Daniel was standing his stoic ground with no reaction. And a few of them looked simply bored of the whole subject and only hoped they remembered enough to pass his class. He was sure some of them simply took the class because they thought it would be easier and would have very little extra work to do. They were wrong and they looked depressed about it. But there were scattered about the room kids actually interested in the subject.

He continued, “Aristotle defines the supreme good as an activity, an action, a motivation, of the rational soul in accordance with virtue…Aristotle defines moral virtue as a disposition to behave in the right manner and as a mean between extremes of deficiency and excess, which are vices.” He was sure half the classes didn’t have a clue what he just said and some probably tried to understand; the girl with the deep hazel eyes smiled as if it all made perfectly good sense to her. She had the look of a philosophy major or maybe she was just pretty he thought.

Dan was still standing, he interrupted, “I think morality is purely subjective, Professor Brentson. It’s a personal choice to make or not make….” The hands where shoved into his baggy pants pockets, “Morality is relative to one’s own personal beliefs. There is no higher moral authority but myself on what I think is right or wrong…” The smirk remained, “I’m the master of my own life. I don’t need some religious authority or anyone else to tell me right from wrong….”

He wondered how many other dumb ass cliches were coming from the kid; he looked about twenty maybe nineteen. He wanted to ask could he actually say something from his own thoughts but he was sure that the kid had no real answers but cliches. But then again this wasn’t the first time the kid got up and started pontificating stuff he had heard somewhere else and acted as if he had thought of it himself. He wished the girl behind the kid would talk more as she had an intelligent look to her eyes; she was thinking and had real thoughts when she did speak. At the moment she seemed to be trying very hard to say nothing? Her features seemed unhappy at some private thought she didn’t like.

The kid was still talking, “…There is no spiritual authority to dictate my choices in life. I make my own rules when it comes to morality. I don’t need some religious books or priest telling me right from wrong…” He took on an air of all-knowing, “I know right from wrong and don’t need some gods to tell me what it is…No god or even a lone single God is going to tell me what I can or cannot do with my life, Professor Brentson.” The dark eyes flashed a smile, “I am an atheist…”

He asked the obvious question, “So you don’t believe in God?”

The girl smiled shyly; the others reacted differently; and some as if afraid to admit what they believed or thought on the subject would be obvious if they didn’t anything but sit stone faced and blankly at the teacher.

The response was sharp, “I don’t need one. I’m not so weak that I need some invisible God for support to get through life. My life is just fine without any religious crap in it.” The smirk remained, “There is no God anyway, because seriously if there was one, I would be greatly troubled if I was not a god myself…”

Yes, kid, I know Nietzsche as well he wanted to say but didn’t.

“…I mean seriously, there are no real eternal truths, as certainly as their are no absolute truths or facts.”

More Nietzsche kid? No thoughts of your own but cherry picking and quoting to prove what? You can memorize quotes? But he let the kid continue as the kid was enjoying the attention and being the center of it.

“…I mean seriously are there really any eternal truths let alone facts? There are no real absolutes that have anything to do with a God of any kind…” Amused at his own humor, “Better to know very little than to know half of many truths. Truth is subjective to the person who believes what they want to believe not some Bible or religion.” He also seemed to be waiting for someone to agree with him, he seemed disappointed by the lack of those around him to praise his deep thoughts; most of the kids actually looked bored of him.  “What thinking person really requires the belief or hypothesis of a God? I don’t need any of that religious crap telling me anything let alone how to live my life and what is right or wrong…”

Someone coughed which he seemed to not like.

“…I’m just saying I don’t believe in absolute truths, I don’t think a belief in a God is for people who think for themselves. The belief in God is silly.” He seemed again disappointed when no one said anything in agreement. “I don’t understand how anyone can believe in a God they can’t prove exists. Show me God and I’ll believe in it but there isn’t one anywhere in the universe. We are on our own on this planet.”

He noted one student start to raise his hand but stopped himself. Most them all looked uncomfortable to raise their hands to voice an opinion; except the girl behind the still talking student, she had a look of one thinking actual thoughts of her own?

“…I’m an atheist for a reason, Professor Brentson; for a good logical reason. I’ve done my reading and came to my own conclusions that God does not exist, never did exist, and if it did exist is long gone and dead somewhere. I’m an atheist because it’s a logical world-view of the real world….”

“The real world?” He finally decided to say something, “There would be many who would say that the real world is also connected to a spiritual one, Mr. Johnstone. Some would say that one cannot have one without the other. The spiritual is a very important part of their lives and connection to the universe.” The girl smiled a bit; others reacted according to their own thoughts and that seemed to be not any. “The spirituality of a civilization or just the individual is very important to society, don’t you think?”

“No I don’t.” He stood his ground with that smile that said it all, “I don’t need to be told what to do or believe in. I am quite capable of making my own rules of conduct. I’m an atheist because as far as I can see there is no higher power other than my own opinion on right or wrong. I don’t understand the need for some god to make rules for my life…”

Keep the cliches coming kid he thought as he listened patiently.

“…I don’t tell others how to live or what they can or cannot do. None of my business..” He was also pleased with the attention was apparent, “There are no absolutes anymore. The religion has out lived it’s use as anything worth having or defending…”

He had hoped someone would speak up but it was obvious no one was going to do so; the though girl him seemed on the verge of saying something. He cut the kid off calmly.

“You’re big on no one telling you what to do, Mr. Johnstone.” He shoved his hands into his pants pockets, “You seem to have declared yourself your own god…”

“I don’t believe in any god, I just also don’t need a religion to tell me right from wrong. I can manage on my own thank you.” Adding, “It’s my life, my rules and I allow others to live their own lives as they choose. I’m not intolerant, I’m open-minded, let people live their own lives…”

How many cliches can one kid have he wanted to ask but of course didn’t. He was still hoping someone else would speak up but he was pretty sure no one was; maybe the young girl behind him maybe? She looked like she wanted to say something and seemed trying to formulate something to say. She certainly didn’t agree with the guy as her facial expressions certain said she didn’t.

He spoke up, “And, Mr. Johnstone, if someone disagrees with your opinion or rules? What if someone finds them to be against their beliefs on religious grounds shall we say as that term seems to be one that you have a problem with.” He held up a hand as the kid was again about to pontificate thought Professor Brentston, “I’m not offended by other people’s opinions or thoughts on an issue I may disagree with them on. So I ask again, what do you do about someone who doesn’t agree with you? What if they have a religious objection to your beliefs? What do you do then?”

He spoke up coldly, “Don’t interfere with my lifestyle. It’s as simple as that, Professor Brentson. My moral choices are my own personal business and no one else has any say in the matter. You have no right or business telling me I’m wrong about how I live my life.”

The girl behind him seemed ready to say something.

Professor Brentson had noted the girl wanted to speak up, maybe that was why he was prolonging this pointless debate into cliches and repeating of Mr. Johnstone, because he wanted her to say something; anything!

He decided to prolong it a bit as he felt she was getting ready to say something or was it wishful thinking?

“Cliched answers are not actual answers, Mr. Johnstone, and pretty much that is all you have said and quoted others out of context or they sounded good. I would prefer that I hear your actual thoughts on the subject and not you repeating what you have heard or read somewhere.” He stopped ever so briefly, “You have a problem with religion, Johnstone, that is very apparent to me. You have a great dislike of any belief that you feel would tell you that you might be wrong…”

Johnstone stared back and it was obvious he was thinking of something to say.

“….Most of what you have been saying are indeed cliches and badly quoting Nietzsche…”

The girl thinly smiled; he wished she’s say something other than smile.

“….So  most of your thoughts are not even yours. You’re simply parroting someone else’s ideas and philosophy and making them your own ideas. Philosophy let alone religion is about thinking in this class. I teach this class for three hours Monday nights and I expect actual thinking and logic being used in my class not simply parroting quotes or information read off the internet. I want to know what you actually believe in and why?”

There was a very uncomfortable silence.

He decided to try another tactic to get someone to say something, “Who in this class believes in God?”

Johnstone spoke up, “You can’t talk about a god in school, Professor Brentson, separation of Church And State you know…”

He knew the kid was serious, “It’s a History and Philosophy of Religion class, Mr. Johnstone, sorry, but God will be mentioned.” Adding, “And it’s my class, I will talk about whatever I want to talk about.”

Quickly, “There is no God or gods anyway.”

“Then the subject shouldn’t bother you so much as we will be discussing something you don’t believe is there in the first place.” Repeating himself, “So, who here believes in God?”

The silence that followed was disappointing.

“So, I have an entire class of atheists?”

Of course Mallory was no atheist, she finally raised her hand feeling rather guilty for at least not admitting her belief in God at the most.

“Yes, Miss. Rosen, you believe in God?”

Mallory found herself nodding and then realizing she was doing just that, “Yes, I believe in God.” She felt every eye on her as she said it, “I’ve never been an atheist…”

Under his breath, Johnstone spoke up, “You should try.”

“Why should she try it, Mr. Johnstone?”

He didn’t like being called out for his comment, “I’m just saying that it’s better than some belief in a god you can’t see or even prove ever existed….”

“You can’t prove there isn’t one, Mr. Johnstone.” To the girl who looked uncomfortable, “Why do believe in God, Miss. Rosen?” He noted a few other students seemed to have become more interested in the subject, “We’re you raised in a home where your family believed in God?”

Mallory felt she should be standing, so she stood up feeling even more the eyes of the others on her, “I have always believed in God. I simply never thought that there can’t be some reason why life exists.”

“Lame.” Johnstone couldn’t help himself.

“Not a valid argument, Mr. Johnstone. And if you can’t have a civil debate on the subject I suggest you enroll in a different class.” Adding with a smile, “Am I clear?”

Johnstone nodding, “Fine.”

“Why do believe in God, Mrs. Rosen? And what faith do you believe in?”

She was never good a these things, “I was brought up in a fairly agnostic Jewish home actually….” The look the kid in front of her gave her was all she needed to know about his opinion of her announcement of her Jewishness. Well, that was his problem. “My heritage is Judaism.”

It was apparent that Mr. Johnstone was trying to be silent.

“Okay, the Jewish faith then. Anyone else in this class of that faith?”

No one said anything.

“Why do believe in the Jewish faith?”

Mallory had to think about it a few seconds, “I don’t know if I believe in all of it, I do like the sense of moral boundaries it gives me. A sense of right and wrong is very much evident in the Bible…”

“You can find moral principles anywhere, not just in that particular book.” Johnstone was quick to reply, “That book has no moral superiority than any other religious book.”

Someone in the class laughed lightly and went silent real quick; Professor Brentson had noted the student in the back row. “Do you have something to add, Mr. Knutsen?”

Mr. Bobby Knutsen shook his head quickly, “No, I have nothing to say…”

“I thought you had.” To the class, “Let me be clear about this class and I know this is the first class of this semester. But I believe in civil dialogue between different views and philosophies. I see my class as a mini-Athens where ideas, philosophies, and opinions are discussed and debated.” Ad if it needed to be repeated, “I believe in the philosophy of debate and exchange of ideas. I believe this room as bland as the white paint job is is the arena of debate…”

A tentative hand went up.

“Yes, Mr. Peterson?”

“What if their wrong?”

He smiled, “By who’s opinion are we to tell anyone there wrong? What is your guideline for making that statement?”

Jeff Peterson only stared a bit, he was trying to think of something was obvious, he went to church because he had to go as his family went, “I just was asking what if what they believe is in wrong?”

The kid was not comfortable talking with so many people looking in his direction so Professor Brentson interrupted, “There is being wrong out of ignorance and then there is being wrong because you refuse to see the truth of things, would that be a fair way of putting it, Mr. Peterson?”

“Yes, yes Sir.”

Professor Brentson wasn’t going to make the uncomfortable student talk but he did speak up, he thought quickly of something to get the kid to talk a bit more, “Is truth important, Mr. Peterson? What or how do you define truth?” He could see the girl slightly smile at his statement, “What do you believe in, Mr. Peterson?” Looking at the girl knowing she was going to be the only one to speak so he turned to the young girl looking at him with a look, “What do you believe in Miss. Rosen?” She had sat down as Mr. Peterson had been talking.

“I believe in God though my parents are mostly agnostic.” Standing up again as she spoke, “My parent’s are not practicing Jews but they have not forced me into their thinking on the subject…”

“A general statement is not an defense is it?”

“I agree but it’s a foundational point of my beliefs.”

“Continue then.” He noted that Mr. Johnbstone was not happy so he spoke up, “You have a problem with Mr. Rosen’s beliefs, Mr. Johnstone?”

“There is no proof of the existence of a god let alone her God.”

“So, then, you know everything there is to know about the universe? What would that make you, Mr. Johnstone?”

“What?”

“You made the claim that you know for an absolute fact or truth that God doesn’t exist. So you are claiming to be all-knowing what other civilizations out there may or may not believe in. That is what your statement is claiming is it not?”

“I’m just saying there is no proof of her God.” Adding with a smirk, “And she can’t prove there is one so her beliefs are not on any logical foundation.”

Mallory spoke up, “I believe in God because I take in account that nature is far too complex and even far too wonderful to have happened by some unknown process without a prime mover. The idea that the nature world in all it’s levels of life could have simply happened because a mass of energy from somewhere exploded and set into motion billions and millions of years into what we have now just seems rather questionable…”

“Evolution is a fact of nature.”

Looking at him briefly, “I don’t think God needs such a slow and cruel method to create an entire universe if He was and is who He claims to be.”

Professor Brentson noted the time was coming to a close; just when it was getting interesting he noted with a disgusted thought.

Mallory was still talking and could feel the cold look she was getting from the guy behind her, “I believe God is very capable of creating the universe as He wishes and I have not the ego to debate Him on His reasons why He created as He did.”

“I’m an atheist and proud of it.”

“You have that right just as I have the right to believe in a God who created or put into motion His creation.”

“Ya, I do and no God or anyone else id going to tell me how to live my life…”

“I don’t find what God requires of me being very demanding anything of my life but how to be a good person and how to treat others…”

“You don’t need a God for that, just think for yourself.”

“I don’t mind God’s guidelines for a good life or even a healthy life. I have been lately discovering my own Jewish roots and I like the Jewish faith as written in the Torah…”

“Not going to have some old book tell me what to do or how to live.”

Professor Brentson spoke up, “I think everyone listening has figured that out, Mr. Johnstone.”

Looking at the teacher coldly, “I have never seen any good come from religion. Nothing worth noting to make me want to believe in anything but myself. Truth is not absolute and I will stand by that statement. Truth is not absolute. No one has any right to tell me what is or isn’t the truth of my beliefs.”

Mallory spoke up, “It’s a question then who owns your life then I guess. If you don’t believe in God then you own yourself and have no obligation to anyone. But if you believe you were created by God then God is indeed owns you as a living soul of His creative hand….”

“No one owns my life. Truth is for me to decide not some religious book written hundreds or thousands of years ago by some guy staring into the sun too long.”

“Going bad to cliches again, Mr. Johnstone. Religion, faiths of all kinds have a rich history for many peoples and cultures. You are judging and condemning thousands upon thousands of cultures with a rich and diverse history of beliefs….”

Folding his arms, “It’s not for me all that religious crap, I don’t need religion to be a good person or live my life as I wish to live it.”

Mallory again spoke up, measuring her comments, “I find my faith helps me be a better person that I thought I was capable of being. I have even been reading a few books on Christianity lately because a friend of mine wanted me to…”

“Jesus was a myth created by the early church you know.” He blurted out, “Jesus, if Jesus really did ever exist because there are no other sources about Jesus outside of those written in the Bible, was not some god.”

Mallory looked at him with an odd look, “Seriously? What books have you read on the subject?” She was certain he had read the latest book called, ‘Zealot.’ which she herself found interesting but not written well and proved nothing but the author didn’t like Jews really or Christianity.

“He probably really didn’t even exist, yes.” Adding under his breath, “Don’t need Jesus anyway. I’ve read enough books on the subject, Jesus was a Palestinian anyway…”

Mallory frowned, “He was a Palestinian?”

“Yes, just a ignorant Palestinian peasant who got in trouble with the Roman or Jewish authorities….”

“Jesus was as Jewish as I am, that much I am certain of by what I have read up to this point.” Her friend had given her some small books on the subject, ‘Jesus;The Jews Jew’ by. Zola Levitt. So far it was okay a book.

“Believe what you want, but Jesus probably didn’t exist anyway.” He picked up his books as it was apparent class was coming to an end as others were collecting their stuff and started to get up to leave, “I don’t need absolute truth anyway, I like living my life my way and my way is just fine…” Adding with bitterness, “Certainly don’t need some damn Jewish religion in my life…”

Mallory spoke up as she picked up her own books, “Not if your wrong.”

Walking away quickly and with an angry last remark, “I’m not wrong, it’s my life.”

Mallory watched him walk away and then walked out of the room with her own thoughts on the subject.

Professor Brentson wished all his classes began that way instead at the ending of them; he collected his own materials and headed toward his office before heading home.

 

 

 

Between Services. (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpgThe voice was grating along toward hopefully a point though Joshua, “Is pornography something a Christian should be talking about, Josh, let alone writing about?” The voice was it’s usual tone of one who felt her opinion was allowed even if not asked for, Sarah was still talking, “It’s about pornography and pornography is disgusting, Josh. Why do you write about such stuff?”

Joshua replied as he closed the book he was trying to read between services, “Never said or wrote otherwise, Sarah.” How can someone with such a good sounding name be so annoying? It was a rhetorical question of course as he already knew the answer. He could she wasn’t about to say something, “Look, Sarah, no one has to read my blog posts and neither do you. I write what I feel like writing and I make no bones about why…I like to make people think and if that means annoy them or burst one of their sacred bubbles. Well, I’m going to burst that bubble. Nothing is really sacred to a writer.”

Sarah made a face before interrupting with her usual tone, “Why are you always writing about sex?”

Joshua leaned a bit back in the foyer chair, “Next to the plots of hate and love between human beings, sex is the most interesting of subjects on what it is to be a human being. Good or bad, it’s all part of being a human being in this world. And that includes the Christian world…”

Sarah made the disagreeing face again, “I just think you write too much about sex. You’re a Christian so why are so interested in writing about sex so much.” She gulped down some of her coffee, some of it ran down the side of the cup, “Everything you write is about sex and pornography, Josh…”

Joshua Weiss hated being called Josh; it wasn’t his name. He wasn’t a Josh anyway. It was a dumb pet peeve but it was his and he did correct people when they called him Josh but after a while it was becoming apparent and fated to happen that no one was really listening and they continued to call him Josh. He studied the strange fake blonde who sat across from him in the foyer where six small round tables sat; a coffee bar area sat against the far wall. Joshua didn’t drink coffee; couldn’t stand the taste. The blonde was still talking. The new foyer area had just recently been finished after a long hot summer of destruction of this smaller area back then to the much larger and roomy foyer it was now. In fact where he sat use to be a room off the side and was now part of the large room where people stood around and talked; in fact it was the old prayer room. The tables and chairs and even the dark blue leather chairs and couch looked good. He was trying to ignore the blonde and was failing miserably. Even the new ceiling and lights made the foyer look so much better and bigger. It was still talking.

“…Aren’t there other subjects you could be writing about. And some of what you write is so lame. It’s reads like how to book or something…Why can’t you write something happy and uplifting for a change?”

“Then don’t read it.” He leaned back further balancing on the back legs of the chair with his leg against the central part of the table, “No one makes you read anything I write.”

The face smiled oddly, “But I like reading your stuff, it’s just their lame sometimes. Dry sometimes…” She laughed at something, “I mean you could lighten up your stories and write better stories than about sex all the time. Their so lame sometimes…” And it continued like that for a while. She mentioned the word lame quite often he noted from her constant Face Book messages to him. It was either lame or dull to Sarah; Joshua believed she simply didn’t like thinking to hard. She was still talking, “…”I like your stories. Their good but they are lame at times….” Another long minute went by; Joshua tapped the cover of the book he had been peacefully reading before the interruption.

He had been simply and peacefully sitting in his usual table in the foyer reading the book, ‘The Narnian; The Life And Imagination Of C. S. Lewis,’ by. Alan Jacobs. He had also been doing some minor writing in a story he was slowly trying to get passed the first paragraph. He had peace and quiet before Sarah showed up and sat uninvited to his table and sat down as if she had every right to sit wherever she felt like sitting or interrupting his writing or at that moment his reading of C. S. Lewis. He studied the woman who had sat across from him and really wished she would go away. Just go away he wanted to say but he was sitting in church and wasn’t going to cause a scene by standing up, pointing to the other end of the building, and banishing her from his side of the building; he wanted to! She wasn’t the only one he wanted to do that to; in fact he had banished one particular fellow a while back. This other particular fellow liked to complain about the remodeling and then about the new lights were too bright and then the air conditioner was too high and so on and so forth. Jerry was a nice guy and all and a rabid Minnesota Vikings fan, but a pest none the less. Joshua didn’t sit in this one area of the foyer and try to write or read in peace so he could be interrupted by the weekly complaining feast of things to complain about so he simply said go away because this was a no whining table and that he, Joshua Weiss, wasn’t there to listen to Jerry complain about ceiling lights, air conditioners, or anything else so take it somewhere else. And Jerry walked away but he still tried to talk to Joshua but mostly about the Vikings and their season. Joshua was a Dolphin fan and would remain one till he died; he did like to remind Jerry who beat who in the 1974 Super Bowl. That would be the Miami Dolphins, Jerry! Not the Vikings. But at least he was complaining less and less of late. But the semi-banishment from his table was still in effect if he started complaining; he would eventually start up again as the guy couldn’t help himself. He wanted to banish Sarah from the building not just the table but that was not in his power to do nor would it have been very nice; but still, the silence would have been wonderful. As for the girl still talking? It was still talking and repeating herself of course.

The tone wasn’t changing and it still was opinionated, “Why are you always sitting here, Josh? You’re always sitting her when I come to church…”

“Because I like sitting here.”

“You’re so unsociable, Josh.” Was her quick response, “You ever socialize with anyone?”

Ah, this canard again he thought, “What’s wrong with sitting here between services? I like sitting here and observing everything…” He noticed the song leader head toward the offices in that determined walk of his. He liked the guy though he did have the habit of never having his keys on him and having to find Josh to unlock his own office door; Terry was a good guy and enjoyed his job but seemed absent-minded a times. It was still talking.

“I never see you actually talking to anyone but maybe that girl who sits here after church is over and that’s it….” Her tone of course said volumes; mostly she didn’t like the other girl. “Who is she anyway? Doesn’t she have kids already? She’s not even married and has kids…” It went on and on for a bit. “What is there to observe anyway? It’s just church.”

He could tell she wanted to know who Clara was; he wasn’t going to tell her. The fact it annoyed her that much was fun enough. But it was so obvious it bothered her that Joshua was telling her nothing about the young girl with the two kids who he also sat next to during the second service. Let her be annoyed. At least Clara didn’t ask dumb ass questions on a daily basis. He had no intention of explaining his relationship with Clara or anyone else as it always appeared she had nothing good to say about any of them.

He slowly lowered himself down from leaning on the back of the chair, took a long sip on his tea which was cold, studied the girl who blinked at him as if expecting an answer to all her questions. He really wanted to get back to his book or the semi-paragraph he had been writing before the interruption happened. The story he was working on was going nowhere and going nowhere rather quickly and Sarah’s interruption wasn’t helping. What he was working on was more important as it was also for another friend of his who wanted him to write her a story and she was more pleasant to talk to; certainly more pleasant to be around. Certainly more pleasant to look at! He kept that part of his thoughts to himself but he was sure she was smart enough to know it was one of the reasons he liked being around her. Writing for her and a few others was a pleasant task and it was being interrupted by Sarah who he had no intention of ever writing anything for. He felt her small eyes gazing still upon him, “I like writing in peace and quiet, Sarah, and I like to write about what I observe while sitting here…” He could see her wanting to interrupt again, “Observation is most of what writing is, Sarah, it’s all about observation and taking note of people and moments. I can observe all that sitting here…” He took notice of a family entering the church. The Keller’s were a large family and quite busy with church programs and events; Mrs. Sandy Keller was after-all the kids choir director. Her husband, Craig, was a lanky good natured fellow with a friendly smile too everyone. Pretty much everyone liked Craig; wasn’t possible not to like the guy. He had four kids ranging from ten, Lily, seven, Nina, five,Tyler, and three, Sage. He watched them go down the long hallway chattering away with each other; he was avoiding the small eyed gaze of Sarah as best he could.

Bluntly, “You write about sex constantly, Josh.” The chubby little arms folded across her chest, “It’s always about sex and of course pornography, Josh. Can’t you write about something else?”

A few others came and went from the foyer noted Joshua; Sarah paid no attention to any of them. One was Hannah Hanson who he was writing the story for in the first place walked toward the worship center with the purpose of one who enjoyed singing; which she did. He could listen to her sing all day as that was the kind of voice she had. She also had a interest in ghost hunting as well which was another reason he got along well with the just turned twenty-one year old girl with the dark brunette hair. He had to laugh at some of those he was actually friends with because most of them were half his age or a little bit more. Hannah was one of those kids; well, kid to his fifty-two year old life. He was still trying to ignore Sarah as much as it was possible. He wanted more Hannah’s and Clara’s in his life; no more Sarah’s! He was enjoying the view of Hannah walking into the worship center when he knew he was being stared at by Sarah.

He decided to be just as blunt as this was getting old, “I write about life constantly, Sarah, not just about sex.” Though of late it had been a subject more written about than normal even for his interest in all subjects. But he didn’t like the way that Sarah was looking at him or her tone of the opinionated girl she was. She had an opinion on everything but you don’t have to ask her because she will tell you. “Sarah, I write about what interests me. I like to write about human nature and what it makes it what it is to be human…” He could see the expression wasn’t really listening as she was apparently on a righteous cause against his latest posted story that if he remembered correctly had nothing to do with sex. He could see an interruption coming, “It’s simple, Sarah, I write about what interest me and what I think is important to discuss and effects the church over-all. I don’t force people to read what I read let alone like it…” Her features told it all and that was pretty much she wasn’t buying it nor liked it and still wanted to know about Clara. “Sarah, I write about issues that I feel are important to talk about. It’s that simple. Yes, I write about sex because I don’t treat it as some terrifying force of evil or sin. It’s just sex…” He felt the need to fold his arms but didn’t; a stupid annoying habit anyway. “I like to write what I feel is important. The Church of Christ is ignoring too many issues that is destroying it’s foundation….” The interruption was coming again, he continued as another family entered the building; he didn’t know these people. An older fellow followed them and Joshua knew Mr. Larsson who looked a lot like the director John Huston; Joshua often wanted to ask is he was related to the famous director. Larsson saw Joshua and waved his usual friendly greeting and headed toward the chairs outside the worship center. “I like bursting people’s cozy little bubbles too many of them live in. That’s not what the Church should be doing or allowing itself to become. I write about a lot of things because I care about what is destroying the Church and it’s people, Sarah…”

The tone was dismissive of course, “You’re stuff is so graphic. Why does it have to be so graphic?”

“Graphic?’ He wanted to laugh because he was actually being quite careful in his writing when it came to actually describing anything sexual. “How, Sarah, Am I being too graphic?” He was dreading her thought process on the subject, “I am pretty sure I am tame compared to what I could actually really write in full details…” Maybe he should write a erotic short story and really get Sarah and a few others going? It was an idea that came and stayed; he had already written one a while back anyway so why not post it in his blog site? The story, “The Game Of The Week,” would be scandalous indeed; well, once he rewrote the damn thing again. “I am not that graphic.”

Sarah’s small eyes seemed to narrow, “You described everything, Josh. Why do you have to describe everything?”

“I doubt I am describing everything, Sarah.” Mainly because he never felt the need to do so and so he didn’t. “I describe life as it is and people as I see them. I don’t describe or show anything unless it’s needed for the story. I don’t put a sex scene or anything just for filler. I have a reason for everything I write and why I write it. Sex is part of life. Pornography is part of life despite dehumanizing affect it has on people and society let alone the Church…” She wasn’t listening or comprehending was apparent by the view of her face that seemed to only get stuck on disapproval. “I write what interest me, Sarah, because life and all aspects of life interest me and should be studied. Human nature is fascinating, Sarah…”

“It’s disgusting to write about pornography being part of the Christian life, Josh. It’s disgusting.”

“And you don’t think the Church of Christ doesn’t suffer from it? Even in this church?”

“Yes, probably, doesn’t mean you have to write about it and tell people about it.”

He felt that he was getting closer to her real reason for not liking what he wrote, “Pornography exists in the church, Sarah. I would almost bet any amount of money that some in this church battle the problem in their lives.”

“But your stories you describe everything. Why do you have to describe everything. It’s not needed and no one wants to read it anyway…”

“You apparently are reading it, Sarah.”

Sarah spoke quickly, “Not that stuff you write. It’s disgusting.”

“I am not sure you are reading what I write sometimes, Sarah, at all because I do not write as graphically as I wish because I have no desire or reason to offend to just offend. What I write and how I write it depends on the story not on what will cause issues with someone. I suppose I could write a purely erotic short story and really show you what I could describe if I wanted to really bother or offend you. And in fact you are the only one who has a problem with what my stories are about…” Actually that wasn’t true but he had no intention of letting this person of high self opinion know about those few others with issues with his choice of words. One was Mrs. Johnson and she didn’t like the fact he attacked the church in her mind.

Mrs. Johnson was a small bony woman of about ninety and she wasn’t happy with Joshua the last time they spoke, “I’ve tried to read some of your stuff, Josh, but you’re always attacking the church and writing about sinful things….”

All Joshua could think of was that at least you were reading it.

“…Attacking the Lord’s anointed like you do is terrible….”

Joshua remembered what he said which didn’t please the woman at all, “The lord’s anointed doesn’t make them above comment, Mrs. Johnson.”

She looked at him as if he had just cursed in the church and walked away muttering the Lord would deal with him over this attack; three weeks ago he had to work the funeral of one Dorothy Johnson and he continued to write as he felt was needed. He would have found it ironic or whatever the phrase but it was a well attended funeral of a nice woman with strong faith and apparently opinions of his work. One less critic was his final thought on the matter of Mrs. Johnson.

Sarah had started talking again, “Your language is filthy, Josh. I’ve read a few of your stories…”

He choice to not mention the obvious.

“…Why do have to use words that are so vulgar? It’s not needed. You can say what you want just fine and not have to describe anything sexual.”

“I write people as they are, Sarah, I don’t romanticize life where it doesn’t happen. Life is about those things for some people and that is how people actually talk. They use words like tits and ass. And some even more graphically more than I will probably ever write. I use words to make a point and I use the words I know will make the point…” He would have mentioned the fact he had written a few erotic short stories at one point in his life but he didn’t feel the need to go down that writer’s road; he liked those stories.

Annoyed and at a slight low tone for a brief change, “The word pussy doesn’t belong in a Christian’s story, Josh.”

“Pussy?” He thought about that a second as he wasn’t sure he had ever used the word; he probably did at some point. “How about the words you mentioned tit’s and ass, that also bother you that much, Sarah? Because it doesn’t bother me but what does bother me is someone who has never written a word in her life. I write as I see life and to me, life is not always nice clean words and happy hymns. It just isn’t a picture of life I can write about.”

“Or even the F word, Josh.” She glared in righteous thought, “I’ve read your stories, you use that word.”

He frowned as it was better than laughing at her, “It’s a strong emotional word that I use very little and when I do it’s to make a strong emotional point. I try to not over-use certain vulgar words as it becomes lazy writing to do so. And I hate lazy writing. I use a few words to make a point not to offend. I want to burst complacent Christian bubbles from people who act as if the Christian life is never doing or saying anything that might be a problem to their sacred bubble lives.” He wanted to stand up and shout but calmly continued, “I want to burst every one of their soft little bubbles they live in and drag them kicking and screaming if I have to into the arena of ideas and thoughts and to deal with what the Church of Christ seems to be ignoring.” He could see her trying to think of an answer or something to say, “I write what I write because I don’t view life in the Church of Christ anymore sacred than I see the world. Sorry, human nature is alive and well inside this building and I will burst every bubble of ignorance and apathy I can find, Sarah.”

Her tone didn’t change, “It’s vulgar, Josh. It’s simply vulgar. You write badly, it’s also dull…it’s so dry too….”

He had to interrupt and he had to ask, “Which one?” He tried to hide his own annoyance.

Puzzled was her tone, “Which one what?”

He continued trying to be patient, “Which story is to dull, boring, dry, devoid of purpose and meaning to you?” This should be both interesting and very annoying he thought, “What story are you talking about?”

She seemed puzzled or confused, “The last one I read. It was on Thomas I think. It was so dry. Read like a text book…”

Joshua actually frowned a few seconds as he tried to think what she was talking about and then it dawned on him and he wanted to laugh at her; he didn’t of course but he wanted to. “Sarah, that’s a commentary on the Apostle Thomas. Not even close to a short story of any kind. Not. Even. Close.”

“It was so dry and read like a text book, Josh, it was boring as a story….”\

“It wasn’t a short story, Sarah. It was a commentary. You know, non-fiction.”

“It was dull, Josh. Put some life into your stories…”

“It wasn’t a story on any level, Sarah.” He knew he was going to repeat himself a lot with Sarah until maybe, possibly, hopefully, but not going to do any good but he would keep trying. “What you read is a commentary on the Apostle Thomas and I wrote that last year.” At the moment one of his projects was a commentary on the Apostle Andrew; it was going very slow. Very slow. In fact he had been working on this particular commentary for two years. It didn’t help that his friend Andrew had died that year and it reminded him too much of the guy. He also knew at some point he would make himself finish the latest commentary on the latest apostle he was writing about.

Still talking, “It read like a manual, Josh, and nothing like a short story…”

Forcing himself to be nice, “Sarah, it wasn’t a short story. It was a commentary on the Apostle Thomas, not a story….” He took notice of another few people walking about the foyer or heading down the long hallway of the church; he noticed the junior youth leader, Mike McPherson, heading probably toward his room and chaos of the junior kids. Josh liked the guy for the most part; his wife, Dana, was about to have their second kid.

Sarah was still talking, “You need to write better and make it more interesting…” She seemed pleased with herself as she smiled a bit, “You can write but it’s not that interesting…”

He studied the girl in the loose fitting dress that didn’t quite work for her slightly bigger frame, “Sarah, have you ever written anything in your life?” Joshua was sure he knew the answer, “I mean have you ever sat down and written anything that someone else has read?”

Her tone didn’t change, “Why are you writing about pornography anyway, Josh? It’s disgusting what you are writing. Write about nice things for once. I mean really, why write about sex and pornography and violence all the time? Why can’t you write about people as being happy with life and such.” Adding with a look, “It’s simply disgusting to write about the things you write about. You use words you shouldn’t be using in a Christian story anyway, Josh. Life isn’t that bad. It’s disgusting what you wrote in your last story…”

“You keep using that word as if I had written some Marquis de Sade story, Sarah.” He doubted she even knew who de Sade was. He could see the question or confusion coming a good long mile away, “He was a French writer during the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution….” Her blank expression said it so he decided to be more blunt, “Look, Sarah, I’ve write story I feel that to be written on subjects I think need to be…”

“It’s pornographic crap.” She blurted out, “Write something nice for a change, write something that isn’t full of disgusting porn…”

“Disgusting?” He studied the round pale face of the blonde with so much he could say but wasn’t going to, “What is disgusting about the human body? What is disgusting is what we as human beings do to each other or allow to be done to each other. That, Sarah, is the core of my stories. What is disgusting about what I write? Name me one thing that disgusts you?” Adding, “And by the way, Sarah, no one is making you read it.”

Her bare arms folded across her chest, “It’s pornographic, Josh. Simply put it’s pornographic in what you describe…”

“I describe life in all it’s flaws and sinful painful moments. If you don’t like what or how I describe something then don’t read it. But I am not going to romanticize life and make sex into some kind of sacred sacrament because it isn’t to me all that sacred. It’s simply a fact of life that people have sex and will have it as a romantic moment or an act of rape…”

“It’s still disgusting.”

He tried to not sound annoyed, “I don’t view sex as sacred, Sarah. It’s sex. It’s either done with love and tenderness or violence and violation with very little of a middle ground. And if you don’t think the church doesn’t have these same issues running down it’s hallways, then you haven’t been paying attention.” Looking at her with a look of one getting tired of the conversation, “My last story was about sex trafficking…”

“It was disgusting and what you kept talking about…”

He leaned forward a bit, thought about something unpleasant to say but changed his mind as it was pointless, “The story was about sex trafficking. It wasn’t ‘Anne Of Green Gables.’ Sarah. It was about violation and pain not sunshine and roses…” Calmly, “Sarah, I write as I see life. It’s not always soft, warm, and gentle. It’s hard, cold, and evil at it’s core and that is what I write and why I write the stories I do. I look at life as I have lived it and what I have gone through…life hasn’t been fun for me…”:

“You write about pornography, Josh, and not much else.”

“You are simply not listening to a word I am saying.”

“I heard you, you like writing about sex and pornography, Josh.”

“It’s about trafficking, Sarah. That’s all it’s about.”

“Why are you writing about it? I just can’t see why you’re writing about it so much.” Looking at him with a look, “Why can’t you writing about happy stuff?”

“Change the last thirty odd years of my life and I will.” He replied a little too sharply but at the moment he didn’t care, “My life has been what it has been and it’s no good asking me to see it any other way other than blood, sweat, and tears as the saying goes….” He could see she still wasn’t really listening or even grasping anything he was trying to tell her, “Life is about the stuff beneath the surface of the civil and polite human smile. Life is dirty beneath the skin, Sarah. Life is about people using other people for their own uses and desires and sometimes very violently.”

“Write something nice, Josh.”

He felt the need to get up as he watched Anna Brock enter the foyer and head down the hallway; Anna was poetry in motion he thought but never out loud. She also had an interest in writing and they did chat a lot on Facebook on the subject. He kept his thoughts to himself on the subject of Anna but he did enjoy her company and she did have one hell of a great laugh. He should write a story about her one day; maybe one day? But of course he would have to change her name to something else. Clara sounded good but he knew a Clara and didn’t want her to think he was writing about her. Maybe Natalie would be better? One of the damn wonderful joys of writing, naming your characters. It was still talking. Would it really be wrong to tell her to shut up?

“You need to write better stories, Josh. People don’t want to read that stuff that you write. You can write better stories and people would want to read them…” It droned on a while on that track.

He could name at least a few in the church that liked his stories just fine.

“Life isn’t all about what is wrong with people you know, Josh. There are good stories to write about good things in life. Write about that.”

“Sarah, I write how I see life and how I see life would make a great Greek tragedy…” He could see she didn’t understand the point, “I don’t see sex as being that sacred. It’s a basic biological fact that humans have sex or have sex forced on them. It’s also a fact people like to have sex and even role play about it at times and if you don’t think that happens in the church then as I said before you are not paying attention. I don’t use words to just use them, Sarah. There is a reason for why I write as I do…”

“Yes, because you like to write about sex, Josh.”

“Nothing wrong with writing about sex, Sarah. It’s a normal function of life….”

“No one wants to read about sex, Josh.”

Looking at her with a look with too many thoughts to say at one sitting, “Nothing wrong with sex, it’s the most human act there is.” Slowly getting up, “I like to understand people and why they do what they do or not do or allow or don’t allow, Sarah. And sex in a lot of ways is the ultimate act of being human. It’s the same actions but the motives are never the same. Sex is either gentle or violent just like human nature and that is what I write about. Simple human nature under the skin.”

“That makes no sense. Like I said your stories are lame.”

Joshua stood there a bit, picked up his notebook, the biography on Lewis, and Bible, looked at Sarah with a slight smile, “Unless you have actually sat down and decided to put pen to paper and write how you see the world you will never understand what it is to create anything important or just worth writing down.”

Frowning, “What? What does that mean?”

“Never mind, Sarah, go about your normal life, you’ll be fine.” He started walking away knowing full well where Anna went and that was to help McPherson with the junior high kids class.

“Yes, I’ll be fine….” She commented coldly as he walked away.

Under his breath as he walked toward the hallway that Anna had gone down, “You’re barely alive you just don’t know it.” He walked quickly through the growing busy foyer of people going from and to the next service; saying hi to a few people who stopped him along the way. To much noise for him in the foyer despite being a good size for the church that it was. He turned the corner to escape the beehive of the foyer and headed toward the junior high room and to see if Anna was done reading the book he loaned her a while back. He briefly thought of Sarah probably still sitting at his table wondering what he meant and how she could tell him her opinion of the comment and at the same time tell him how to write better. He turned a corner and walked toward the smaller of the two youth rooms.

He stood at the door watching the young girl as she hadn’t noticed him yet with his thoughts; he liked his thoughts. She was busy setting the lessons down along the long tables that the kids would sit at in a bit. There was something wonderful or quite interesting in watching a girl go about her business or just simply be in motion. He should write a story about it. Sarah would never understand that and would probably be too afraid to question her own beliefs.

Anna’s voice spoke up as she finally took notice of him at the door frame, “You finished with my story yet, Joshua?”

One of the kids came zooming into room; Sophie Knutsen all blonde hair and just turned thirteen.

“A writer is never really done with any story, Anna, if he then he isn’t much of a writer in the first place….” He stopped talking as Sophie started talking to Anna about her birthday party of yesterday at Como Zoo. Ah, another story in the possible making. He watched a bit as other kids started showing up for their class and then simply headed to the balcony section of the sanctuary with a few story ideas churning in his head.

“Please Stay.” (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpgNoslen General Store the sign over the old looking general store read as William and his father walked toward the old looking building that seemed to fit with the whole small town look of the place he heard his father comment. They walked up the old creaking stairs and into the building that had the look of a place that didn’t sell much thought William as his father walked up to the fellow in the dirty jeans, old flannel red and black shirt, and certainly an old Minnesota Twins cap.

The fellow spoke up first with a big smile that showed many teeth, “May I help you?”

William’s father smiled, motioned to his twelve year old son who shuffled next to him, “We’re on a fishing trip and noticed a lake name I have never heard of and wondered…”

The smile didn’t change of course, “Lake Annebelle.”

“Good fishing?”

William had noticed that someone was sitting behind a row of shelves rocking back and forth slowly with a book in their hands. It was a strange place to be sitting all alone and apparently not bothered by where she sat behind some shelves with can’s of something that looked like soup to young William. He decided rather quickly to go investigate.

The older man was talking, “…The fishing isn’t too bad. It’s a good size lake so the fishing is pretty good for it’s size. We use to have tournament’s a few years ago….” He noticed the young boy looking in the direction that had caught his attention and knew why. He smiled at the thought she was noted by the young boy about her age and would possibly get her to open up if that was possible for her condition. Such a quiet girl he thought and he knew why. But she had always been shy around strangers. He continued with the father, “I know there are some good size muskie in the lake. And it’s a nice day to go fishing. How old is your son?”

“William just turned eleven a few weeks ago.” He replied proudly, “This is our summer fishing trip.”

The older man nodded with a pleasant smile, “Fishing is a good way for a father and son to build a bond. Me and my dad did lots of fishing. There are a few good lakes around here to fish and enjoy the day…” He slightly noted the young boy seemed to be slowing down a bit as he headed toward the back shelf, something from his features was puzzling him? The store keeper knew the answer to that question.

The father was still talking, “This general store looks like it’s been here a long time in Noslen. Never even heard of Noslen, Minnesota.”

He laughed a bit as he continued to keep tract of the kid, Proudly, “It’s the original store location when this town was founded some time after the turn of the century….” Looking about the store, “It may look weather-worn and old smelling but it’s still got it’s charm for some as I still do get customers and sometimes folks like you stopping off. It’s an old building but weathering the storms of time and use.” He watched as the young kid vanished behind the shelves that like fortress walls hid the young girl from his father’s view.

William spoke up as he passed behind the shelves, “Hello, what are you doing back here?”

The girl in the blue and white sundress simply rocked back and forth in the chair as if he hadn’t said a word. The book in her hand she seemed more interested in than answering William’s greeting.

“I said hello.” William replied again feeling a little annoyed at the young girls rudeness, “You shouldn’t be rude to people saying hi to you….”

The voice came from somewhere from the girl reading her book, “I heard you. I was reading ‘Anne Of Green Gables’ and I wanted to finish this paragraph.” She continued staring down at her book, “What is your name?”

“William.”

“My name is Annabelle. Or just Belle is fine.” Adding with a tone, “Not Anna or Ann, don’t like that…” Still reading her book, “I prefer my name or just Belle.” She turned a page with a slight finger, “Where are you from, William?”

“St. Paul.” William answered back as he noted more of the girl about his age he assumed, “Me and dad are on a fishing trip…”

Again the voice, “Is he good to you, William?”

Puzzled by the question, “Yes, of course he is.”

“Do you like fishing, William?” Another page was turned; a slight drop of water hit the page.

William noted it but thought nothing of it, “I like fishing, it’s me and dad’s summer trip.”

The voice again, “Do you have fun fishing, William?”

William felt uneasy and why was it chilly in this one area of the store anyway, so he asked, “Why is it so chilly over here, it’s Summer outside?”

“It is?” The girl’s voice seemed to this time come from the girl sitting in the small rocking chair, “I don’t notice that anymore.”

“Huh?”

The girl’s voice continued but she kept her head down as if reading the book on her damp lap, “I stopped noticing the seasons a while ago. Means nothing to me anymore.”

“That doesn’t make sense?”

“Is your dad nice to you, William?” Something about the tone bothered William. Another page was turned, another drop of water hit the open page.

“I said he was.” He didn’t like the question, “We’re even going to a Twins game next month. Their doing great this year…” He took notice of her clothes seemed wet or at least slowly drying? They clung to her slight frame thought William, “Why are you wet?”

The silence took a while to be broken by her soft voice, “Am I?”

“I didn’t notice it had rained or anything….”

“It’s lake water, William.”

“Lake water? What, you fall in?” He asked with a laugh.

“I was pushed in, William, and then my dad held me under the water…”

“What?” William backed up a bit, uncertain of the girl’s story, “What do you mean, was he playing with you or something?”

“He was drowning me, William.” Another page was turned, another drop of water fell unto the book, “And then he grew tired of my thrashing under his hand he smashed my skull with one of our oars and after that I don’t remember much until I woke up in this store….”

William had noticed that the young girl never looked up and her long dark brunette hair cover much of her face and the hair looked like it was trying to dry, he noted the chill in the air but his kid’s curiosity was still stronger; or disbelief in the girl’s story? “That’s a terrible story, why would your dad do that?”

“Because I was born blind, William.”

He could see her lips partially form a slight smile but she didn’t look up.

“But you’re reading a book? How can you be blind then?”

“Who’s says I am reading the book, William.” Her voice was actually sad, “If I look up, William, will you believe me that I was born blind? Will that make you happy, William if I look up?”

William didn’t like her voice anymore.

“How big is the lake?” His father was talking still, “How deep? I enjoy fishing too much and I like all details of the lakes I fish….William rolls his eyes when I do this but we have a good time on these week long trips.”

The other fellow had taken notice the length of  time that the young boy had stayed behind the shelves but he was sure nothing would happen to worry about, “In some spots it’s very deep. It’s said that in some parts it’s over a hundred feet straight down into darkness. It’s said that it use to be part of a valley that flooded….”

William’s father was interested in the subject, “Must have been a long time ago? Probably during the last ice age.” Amused at himself, “I’m s science teacher, I teach the earth sciences to fifth graders.” He was please that the fellow he was talking to didn’t look bored, “Most people find science boring unless they actually like the subject. Though my students do like it when I talk about fossils…”

“Why did he kill you?” William found his voice after the brief silence between him and the girl who still stared at the book as if reading it.

“I told you, William, he didn’t like having a cripple for a daughter.”

“Why, that’s terrible.” He watched as another drip of water ran down her dark drown hair and land near the book.

The shoulder shrugged beneath the bowed head, “He didn’t want me. He didn’t want a crippled kid as his daughter let alone a daughter in the first place. He told me that more than once, William…”

“Why did you go with him fishing then if he didn’t like you?”

The hand stopped turning the page, “He told me we were going fishing, William, I didn’t think he was going to push me in the water, hold my head under the water and then when that didn’t work hit me with an oar until I stopped struggling and then drowned as I sank into the lake.” Another drop of water hit the page, “I do remember sinking into the cold darkness of the lake for a bit, I think I even looked up and saw the faint outline of him standing on the boat…”

“But you said you were blind, how could you see anything…”

The shoulder’s shrugged, “Maybe I imagined it as I drowned, William, I can look up, William, if you want…”

William’s voice shook a bit, “I just don’t understand how your dad could do that. My daddy would never do that.”

The voice came from somewhere deep, “I’m glad to hear that, William.”

William didn’t like the tone of her voice, nervously he asked, “What about your mom?”

She shivered a bit before answering; a few drops of water hit the book.

William noticed that she appeared to have gotten wetter or something as she spoke; he din’t understand it and wasn’t sure asking was a good idea.

The older fellow was still talking, “…It’s said that Lake Annabelle is also haunted. That wasn’t the original name of the lake, but folks around her in memorial of the actual young girl who drowned call it Lake Annabelle. It was such a tragic story…”

“He’s telling my story again, William.” Her voice seemed lost somewhere deep again, “He liked to tell the story. One would think he wouldn’t knowing that I am here listening…” Her head seemed to want to rise and look at William but it didn’t; more water dripped. “”I know how I died, William, because my father hated having a crippled daughter…” Softly again, “I remember sinking into the deep part of the lake, the cold water invading my screaming lungs and then the terrible darkness and then the loneliness…”

William looked over at his shoulder and a thought came to him but he didn’t like it too much and said nothing; the girl next to him he thought had laughed lightly. He looked at the girl reading her book, “What’s so funny?”

“I know what you’re thinking, William.” The page was turned.

“What?” William acted feeling a coldness go through his body.

The father was talking, “…Haunted? I don’t believe in ghosts, sorry. But it does sound ;like a tragic story.”

“Her dad was not a nice man, most people didn’t like him. He had a kid, the actual Annabelle, who was born blind and he hated the idea….”

“Born blind?”

“See, I told you William.”

William actually shooshed her as he listened; he noted the water pooling around the chair which also troubled him but he wanted to listen to the grown ups talking.

“Yes, she was a sweet girl. Long dark hair always in a pony tail, with a cheerful manner about her despite the fact her father’s dislike and unpleasant attitude toward her. He killed her out on the lake. It was called Lake Noslen back then…”

Concerned, “What about her mom?”

The older fellow seemed to not like the question too much, “She died when she was ten of cancer. It was a nightmare those last three years of Annabelle’s life before he killed her. He claimed for three days that he had no idea where she went and even created a long story that maybe someone had kidnapped her…” He glanced briefly at the place where the actual Annabelle sat and he was sure listening, ” He kept up the story to the end but enough people in this small town knew all about him and told the police of their suspicions about what happened to his little girl….”

“He killed her because she was blind, that’s it?”

He leaned a bit forward, “Sir, he had no use for a daughter and he told her that more than once. He told his wife, Marie, that enough times and that if she didn’t have the ability to produce him a son then what good was either one of them. He was a unpleasant man, and he took her out on that lake and tried to drown his own kid and when she wouldn’t drown fast enough he bashed her head in with a oar….”

“How did the police discover the truth?”

“They found her body in the deepest part of the lake and it was obvious what happened to that poor sweet girl. She was only thirteen.”

“So, he confessed to this murder?”

The look of the man was dark, unpleasant, “He laughed, he simply laughed and told a crude joke about that is what happens when stupid cripples trust strangers…” Shaking his head, “No, Sir, he denied to the day he died that he had killed her. Problem was he didn’t get rid of the oar and apparently didn’t have the brains enough to check and see if there was any blood on his small boat. It didn’t take the police long to figure out what happened to Annabelle.”

William heard behind him the girl standing up; what else could it have been his frantic mind was telling him.

“So, she haunts the lake?” He wasn’t sure how much of the story he believed.

“It’s said she does and other places.”

“William?”

He heard the cold voice and didn’t want to turn around but he didn’t want to be rude but he didn’t turn around, “Yes?”

“Turn around, William.” The voice was cold but there was a sadness to it, “I wont hurt you, I promise…”

“I don’t want to turn around….”

Wet foot steps came closer behind him, “Please stay, William, please be my friend…”

“I don’t want to turn around…”

“Please stay….”

The older man was talking, “It’s said she does. Some folks around here say they have seen her on the lake and sometimes under the water…”

William’s dad laughed nervously, “Well, that’s some story…”

“Not a story, town history.” The tone was harsh for a second, “She was killed and dumped into the lake and she simply never left…”

“What happened to her father?”

His features again grew dark for a moment, “He was of course arrested and like the coward he really was took his own life in our local jail a few months later..hung himself some how….He had no remorse over what he did. He left a note basically complaining that he was being set-up over a, and I quote, ‘a damn blind kid of no value to anyone.’ And that was all it said really….”

“Mommy loved though.” Her voice was close behind him as he felt the cold wetness in the air, “Does your daddy love you, William? Is he a good daddy?”

William ignored the question best he could; he didn’t like the question at all.

The older man was still talking, “..Funny thing though, the doctor who examined his body couldn’t really account for the water he found in his lungs….”

“You said he hung himself?”

“He did so the official report goes, but at the autopsy he was found to have drowned somehow in his cell. His lungs where filled with water….lake water.”

William’s father only smiled to be polite at the story, “Interesting story. And how did he drown in a cell?”

“Another funny thing, when the police came into the cell they found wet footprints…”

“You tell everyone this story, mister, it’s good one.” He laughed to be nice and to ignore the look in the man’s old features. The man’s features seem to be not quite right.

“Just saying, Annabelle doesn’t like certain types of people.”

“Answer my question, William, is your daddy nice to you?”

He felt the cold wet hand on his shoulder; he shivered and felt the water drip down his shoulder.

“Turn around, William, and look me in the eyes and tell me the truth. Is he nice to you?”

“No, don’t make me turn around, please, don’t make me look….”

“Turn around, William….” The voice seemed to grow hallow and cold, “Look into my eyes, Williams, and tell me the truth…”

“He’s a ghost isn’t he, the old man is a ghost….”

The laugh was hallow, “Yes, William, he is…my grandfather has always felt bad about what happened but he didn’t do anything about it, did he William?” Another hand went on the other shoulder; it was wet and cold and gripped his shoulders tightly. “This is my grandfather’s store, he’s been here also a long time. He died in this store, William….” The whisper came, “Please stay, William.” The voice was soft again, “I get so lonely sitting here….”

William’s father was talking, “Well, the fishing is still good.”

“Despite the ghost?”

Her grandfather knew she was now talking about him, “She only bothers father’s who are mean or abusive to their kids.” He took notice of how long William had been behind the shelves.

William’s dad spoke up a little defensive, “I’m not abusive to William. I’m a good father….you can ask William…”

The voice behind him seemed to speak from below the water, “Is he nice to you, William?”

The force behind William was soaking wet and smelled of deep lake water thought William as he felt himself talking again. “Please, don’t hurt my daddy…”

“Is he nice to you, William?”

William felt the hot tears begin to fall down his face, “Don’t hurt my daddy, please, Annabelle…”

The silence was terrible and he knew she was still behind him.

The voice finally spoke up as if down a long damp tunnel, “See you on the lake, William.”

He stood there afraid and breathing heavily trying to relax until he was very certain that she was gone. It took a while before he had the courage to turn around and hopefully not be staring into the eyes of a ghost without eyes. But she was gone and so was the chair but where the chair sat was a pool of water and he was sure he knew where it came from. He stared at the spot as long time until he had the courage to bend down and touch the cold water. The water was very cold in fact. He looked about him and it was still an old general store with shelves and other such things that looked old and used. He again looked at where the chair was and wondered of course where the girl went and also where the chair went; it seemed odd that the chair would vanish as well. What was bothering him the most was the puddle on the old wooden floor that seemed to just sit there and not dry out or anything that a normal puddle would do. He was afraid of it and he was afraid of what the girl had said about seeing him on the lake. He was glad she didn’t make him look into her vacant eyes if there were any. It would have would worse to look and see empty eyes of milky white nothing but have the horrible feeling she could see him. How could she see him anyway? His twelve year old mind could only explain so much and he decided to not ask his dad anything; it was better that way sometimes. Where did she go anyway was a question he mostly had as he backed away from behind the shelf.

The wet musky smell hung in the air as he came around the corner.

“Where have you mean, William?” His father asked as William walked up slowly to the counter; William eyed the old fellow behind the counter trying to fathom whether he really believed he was a ghost as well; Annabelle said he was. He wasn’t even sure he fully understand that the girl he had been talking to was real.

He was about to answer truthfully but changed his mind, “Oh, just exploring, Dad.”

His dad smiled, “My son the explorer.”

He looked behind again one last time and wished he hadn’t as they left the old store that looked older than it did before they entered; was it aging before his eyes? Annabelle was standing in the shadows of the window frame and the look gave William a terrible feeling. She had no eyes! She simply had dark holes where her eyes should have been! And why was she smiling?

“Daddy, can we fish on a different lake?”

His father looked at him with a puzzled look, “No, William, this sounds like a good lake despite the wild story the old fellow in there told me.” He noted the look in his son’s face, “You okay, you look like you’ve seen a real ghost….”

Looking in the rear view side mirror at the general store, it was decaying and crumbling and a lone figure of a girl with no eyes was standing alone and waving! He wanted to scream but he felt his breath gone. He watched as she waved with deep dark blank eyes that he swore saw just fine and was watching him.

“Please, can we go to another lake….”

“What has gotten into you, William. Good grief, besides we are here and we will fish this lake. We’ll have fun, what’s gotten into you? I need to also stop off at another store as that one didn’t have anything I like to drink…”

William looked sadly at his dad, “You promised you wouldn’t drink on this trip…,”

Sharply, “Don’t sound like your mother, William.”

William went silent knowing what was going to happen.

Still commenting, “What has gotten into you all of a sudden….”

William could still hear her voice from the depth of the lake even as he cupped his hands over his ears as the voice grew louder, “Please Stay.” He balled himself up in the front seat as the girl’s dead wet voice echoed it’s request. “I’m so lonely….”

The lake was clear and the small boat bobbed with the small waves; it was also empty.