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“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.

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Commentary On The Prayer Of Jabez.

cropped-12301412301.jpg“And Jabez was more honorable than his brethren….” (I Chronicles 4:9).

“Prayer puts Gods work in His hands, and keeps it there.” Charles Spurgeon, (1834-1892). There was an book entitled, “The Prayer Of Jabez” by Bruce Wilkerson published a while back. In this book it was taught or at least implied at if you prayed like the honorable Jabez that you to could and would be blessed as he was by the Lord. Critics sighted that it all sounded so much more like the Prosperity Gospel that they justly dismissed it as questionable theology. It sounded too much like a worldly prayer than a God-honoring prayer to the critics. But let us look at the actual scriptural man of the Bible story.

“And Jabez called on the God of Israel.” Think about that statement a moment. He called upon the God of Israel; not any other self-proclaimed deity of the land. Jabez was acknowledging the sovereignty of the God of Israel. That God was one and the only one that was Holy and Perfect. The Shima says it all from the Torah and to the Jewish heart and soul, “Hear O Israel the Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deuteronomy 6:4). To a Jew prayer is as natural as quoting the Shima with the great awe and understanding of who they were and are praying to. Remember what the Apostle Peter wrote in his own epistle, “Because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11;44a). Jabez called, sought, and most important prayed to the only God in heaven who actually wants ton hear from Jabez. Remember again from Scripture, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6). The bottom line from all this is that God is sovereign. But He is always willing and ready to hear and respond to Jabez’s prayer. He wants to hear from us. He wants to hear our prayers. His throne is always open to the prayers of His people. The preacher D. L. Moody, (1837-1899), once stated, “Some people think God does not like to be troubled with our constant coming and asking. The way to trouble God is to not come at all.” D. L. Moody got his theology from reading and studying the Bible. He could quote, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).

Continuing with the prayer of Jabez, “…Saying, oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coasts, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me.” (I Chronicles 4:10b). What was Jabez asking of the Lord? What is he stating do fully? He is asking the Lord for help in his work, to be with him in all he did. Remember from Scripture, “For it is God which workest in you both to will and to do His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13). And he prayed to keep away from evil, from sinning against the Lord. Remember also, “Prayer is submission to God.” E. M. Bounds, (1835-1913). It’s a prayer of acknowledgment that he is and was completely reliant on the Lord for all his blessings. He was praying for a blessing from the Lord, he was kneeling before the Lord God of Israel like Jacob and his wrestling with the Lord for a blessing. There is humbleness in his words of his prayer. There’s a confession of dependence on the Lord for his life and blessings. There is not sense of expectations that the Lord had to do anything for Jabez; He owed Jabez nothing and he knew it. As the preacher E. M. Bounds spoke, “Prayer has in its hands a double blessing, it rewards him who prays, and blesses him who is prayed for.” The Lord praised and thanked for His blessings via Jabez’s prayer.

“And God granted him that which he requested.” (I Chronicles 4:9c). Did God have any obligation to answer his prayers? The sovereignty of God does not require Him to do anything for a sinful mankind let alone one single man called Jabez. He is a God of sovereign grace and mercy and wants to bless His people who obey and have faith in His Word. He wants us to pray to Him, to talk to Him, to acknowledge Him throughout their lives. He wants to be part of our lives on a very personal level. His sovereignty covers His throne in and of holiness and yet He calls all to that throne of grace and mercy. Jabez didn’t call on the Lord of all creation because he thought he was owed a blessing. The prosperity gospel teaches that we are owed a blessing because we call upon the name of the Lord. Jabez prayed for a blessing from a humble heart. He didn’t demand one or expect one because it was owed him. He acknowledged the sovereignty of God and was blessed for it.

The whole point of the prayer of Jabez is to show the absolute sovereignty of God by the act of acknowledging God and God alone as the rewarder of prayer and the faith behind the prayer. Why were the lives of Abraham, Hannah, King David and the reformer King Josiah so blessed as they were? The answer? They acknowledged the complete and absolute sovereignty of God in their lives. The prayer of Jabez was no different in it’s proclamation and standing toward God and that was stating that God was sovereign and owes humanity nothing but what He chooses to give humanity by His own grace and mercy. In closing, “Holy character are formed by the power of real prayer.” E. M. Bounds.

REFERENCES/RECOMMENDATIONS

Bible. (KJV).

Christian Heroes:Then And Now Series. By. Janet And Geoff Benge.

Heroes Of History. By. By. Janet And Geoff Benge.

Delighted By God: Biography Of George Mueller. By. Roger Steer.

D. L. Moody. By His Son.

Complete Works Of E. M. Bounds.

The Prayer Of Jabez. By. Bruce Wilkerson.

Commentary On Phebe Of Cenchrea.

cropped-12301412301.jpg“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the Church which is at Cenchrea…” (Romans 16:1-2).

Who was this woman of Cenchrea that the Apostle Paul spoke so highly of? (Cenchrea, now the city of Kechries, was a ancient harbor of the City of Corinth, Greece). What comments can be made of this woman’s brief mention for us today? Phebe was obviously someone the Apostle Paul thought very highly of. He may have had something negative to say about women preaching in the church but nothing but praise for their value in all other aspects of the life of the growing Church. So, what can be learned by this very brief fragment of a life via Scripture? Is there a lesson to learn from a woman of such devotion to Christ and the Apostle Paul. Devotion to my reading is this brief mention is the crux of her life in Christ. Devotion to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ that the Apostle Paul preached as it appears to some scholars she was the one who delivered this Epistle to the Romans to the Church of Rome. She had a devotion to the Christ who saved her. Who loved her. Who went to the cross for her. There was a devotion to the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to her life. It’s a thought but did this devotion to Christ cost Phebe her life during the persecution during the reign of the Emperor Nero? Did her devotion to Christ allowed her to die as Stephen did with a prayer for her killers? Was she able to pray for those who screamed for her death because of her faith in Christ in the arena in Rome?

What is devotion? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as enthusiastic loyalty to a person or cause; great love. What greater person than Christ or the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to live for and die for? The Apostle Paul’s devotion to the Gospel of Christ could and would be summed up in his own words, “I am a servant of Christ.” The life of Phebe of Cenchrea can also be summed up in those exact same words of faith and devotion to Christ. The core of devotion to Christ is the first great commandment and it created a duty toward the second great commandment. The essence, core, very heart of devotion is to love, serve, and worship the Lord God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength, (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:29-31). the obedience to the first great commandment bears the fruits of loving thy neighbor as thyself. There is no doubt that Phebe had that sort of quality that the Apostle Paul wrote about and preached about. Devotion to God practiced what was written by the bother of Jesus, James, in his own epistle, “But, be ye does of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22).

A brief aside as to not leave out of the vast history of the First Testament and the many stories of devotion to a cause or person. The Book of Ruth is a pinnacle story of the power of what devotion is for one person toward another in the story of Ruth and Naomi. It’s a great story of true love and devotion to each other is told in that short book of the Bible. The friendship between the not yet king of Israel and the son of the present king of Israel is a classic story of love and devotion to friendship in David and Jonathan. The prophets of God are a history of devotion to a higher relationship with the very God of creation. The lives and sometimes some very horrible deaths of the prophets of the Lord was and is written in blood; Isaiah was traditionally said to have been place in a log and sawed in half under the evil King Manasas for preaching the truth from the mouth of God. That is devotion to a great and holy cause. Service to God is the highest calling of the human life and the prophets lived it in power and their own blood. The Book of Nehemiah is a book of devotion and duty of one Jew named Nehemiah to those Jews still in Jerusalem and the devotion to rebuild the Temple; the Book of Ezra is also a story of strong devotion to the same cause. The revolt of the Maccabees against the tyranny and idols of Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire was a devotion to the idea of Jewish freedom and the Temple and to restoring of a faith to God. Devotion to a cause or person is a powerful motivation to live and die for.

Phebe of Cenchrea did the same thing. She was obviously a woman of substance both in material and the most important the spiritual realms of her life. Her devotion to Chriat and the message that the Apostle Paul preached was well-known to the Church in Rome. Paul may have had an issue with women in leadership via preaching in the Church but he seemed to have no issues with them spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ; which for the Apostle Paul was the only real important part of the Church. The Book of Romans is the clearest sermon on the Gospel of Jesus Christ her Lord and Savior. Paul was many things but he was not a man to stand in the way of that Gospel being spread and devotion to Christ. Devotion to Christ should always be evident in the Christian life and service. Devotion is like one’s integrity and that it should be without approach or negative comment before God. Out integrity we take everywhere we go and it is or at least should be the first thing people can or do say about us via the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Phebe had an integrity that the Apostle Paul saw in a great usefulness in the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to deliver the greatest explanation of the Gospel in one letter to the Church at Rome that explained a complete understanding of salvation by grace and grace alone via the cross of Christ. Phebe of Cenchrea may have been one of those crucified and set ablaze in the arena under the Roman Emperor Nero for her devotion to Christ and died for that devotion to Christ and message that the Apostle Paul preached and was himself beheaded for in Rome by the same Emperor Nero. The thousands of Christians tortured and put to death for that very devotion and love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is written in it’s long history of devotion to the same God and Savior the Apostle Paul was beheaded for and possibly Phebe also died for in the arena in Rome. Devotion is love put into practice and these early Christians went to their deaths for a devotion to the Gospel that the Apostle Paul and Phebe preached. Devotion is a powerful motivation to serve, worship, and love the Lord who saves those who call upon Him.

REFERENCES/RECOMMENDATIONS

Bible. (KJV).

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

Foxes Book Of Martyrs. By. John Foxe.

The Cross Of Christ. By. John R. W. Stott.

The Message Of Acts. By. John R. W. Stott.

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

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

Early Church Fathers. Edited By, Cyril C. Richardson.

Early Christian Writing. (Penguin Classics).

Commentary On Zacharias.

cropped-12301412301.jpg“There where in the days of Herod, the king of Judah, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia, and his wife was the daughter of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth, and they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments, and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” (Luke 1:5-6).

Who was this priest named Zacharias, who’s name means ‘Jehovah has remembered,’ who burnt incense in the Temple before the Holy of Holies of the Lord God of Israel? We know by the Scriptures that he was of the division of Abijah. His duties as a priest of the Lord was to burn incense before the Lord the people could even enter the Temple to the Lord. But what kind of man was this father who would bring forth the future John the Baptist and thus fulfilling the prophetic message uttered by the Prophet Isaiah, “The voice of him crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3). The Scriptures indicate that he was a righteous man before God. How was this man of earth and sinful flesh righteous before his maker as the Scripture states so clearly by the hand of the future Apostle Paul in his letter to the Christian’s in Rome, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good; no, not on. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-12, 18). With these small moments of the Apostle Paul’s letter ringing in the ears the question remains, what made this man Zacachias so worthy of this statement from Scripture that he could be placed on the same level as Abraham’s faith? The simple answer is that he had the faith of Abraham? The man simply lived his faith and had the faith of a child that pleased the Lord. He walked in all the commandments? As if that were possible in our fallen state of being human while in our fallen natures. Yet, the Lord God of Israel decided to use this man of faith to bring forth into the world the promised messenger to herald in the coming of the Messiah.

Zacharias did what any honest man would have done when confronted by an angel of the Lord, he doubted, he questioned, he wondered at the strange tidings of the angel sent by the Lord.But he also wanted to believe in the tidings of the being standing before him in the Temple of the Lord. His doubts where not of the sinful or prideful kind. No, his doubts came from a heart that wanted to believe and had believed since he was taught as child as to the promises of the Lord via the prophets as he went about his priestly duty. Like Abraham, Zacharias in his actions where actions of faith and it was counted as righteousness because he showed faith despite his doubts at the strange message of the angel; always remember the Lord looks upon the heart. The faith of Zacharias, as well as his wife Elizabeth, was why he was declared righteous because his faith like hers was in the Lord and His promises He was to complete. His faith made him worthy because it was not of him but in the Lord God of Israel he served faithfully in the Temple.

Read the proclamation of this man in Scripture, Luke 1:67-79, and let it be understood that this man who was struck dumb for nine months came to a fuller understanding of who his wife was about to bring into the world. And that John’s mission was to be a profound fulfillment of the Scriptures. Zacharias understood that his son was a fulfillment of the prophets and the promises of the coming and longed for Messiah who was to redeem Israel. He had been struck mute to have a deeper understanding of the ways of the Lord not because he doubted but to understand the profound movement of God in the history of His people. His heart didn’t doubt as a Judas would and did doubt, he doubted as the future Apostle Thomas doubted. Thomas doubted because he wanted to believe. Zacharias was a man of righteousness and obedience to the will of the Lord and in that act of faith he was transformed. He was a vessel of the Holy Spirit to the birth and mission of his coming son, John the Baptist the greatest of all the prophets. Zacharias could himself have penned the following words of the future Apostle to the Gentiles, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). He also could have penned the following as well, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is the cornerstone of why Zacharias could be called righteous before the Lord because his faith was not in himself. Zacharias knew this every time he stepped into the Temple to do his duty before the Lord as he remained mute those long nine months. Zacharias learned to live his faith to the fullest extent. He learned to walk in faith as Abraham had walked in faith.

REFERENCES/RECOMMENDATIONS.

Bible. (KJV).

Commentary On The Apostle Paul’s Unknown God?

cropped-12301412301.jpg“Then Paul stood in the midst of Mar’s Hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceived that in all things ya are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and behold your devotion, I found an alter with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD, Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you.” (Acts 17:22-23).

How did a pharisee of pharisee’s have such a knowledge of Greek literature and it’s philosophical thought? A true Bible trivia question would be to find someone to name at least three of the pagan author’s sighted by the future Apostle to the Gentiles. Can the basic Bible reader even name one of the author’s Paul quotes from in his message on Mars Hill in Athens? But somewhere in his early years while living in the city of Tarsus and his journey to Jerusalem to learn at the feet of the great teacher Gamaliel he was to become the zealot for the law and battle the heretical teaching of the man from Nazareth. Somewhere within that time from of Tarsus o Jerusalem he was influenced by the Hellenism that had penetrated his home town of Tarsus. He became a strict follower of the Law and had left behind whatever influence the Greek culture had on his young life before he reached Jerusalem. The future Apostle Paul had read the works of these pagan authors he would quote from and he used them to teach and proclaim in his messages and letters the truth of the one true God and His Son Jesus Christ. But how did this zealot for the Torah and the strict life of a pharisee read such forbidden books in the first place so he could indeed become the Apostle to the Gentiles.

In his fiery message and proclamation in the City of Athens of the message of Christ the Rabbi Paul who stood by while Stephen was stoned was indeed quoting pagan author’s as if he they were second nature to him. The man called Saul of Tarsus was in my view a Hellenized Jew than he is given credit for being. True, he was a man totally devoted himself to the Torah but he also at some point in his early education he was introduced  to the Greek mind and mythology and it’s many branches of philosophy and it’s teachers. The home town of Saul was a Hellenized city. Saul could not have escaped it’s historical impact on the Jewish population in Tarsus. Saul could not have escaped the Hellenization of the Jewish people even if he tried and it seemed to be he really didn’t try to hard to not notice his fellow Hellenized Jews. The influence was there and the man knew his Greek language and audience and probably wrote in good and understandable Greek as well. He could not have escaped the Greek culture about his life in that city of Tarsus. If Gamaliel was the strict teacher of the Law then he did indeed influence the Apostle to the Gentiles before his conversion on that fateful road to Damascus. Both influenced the Apostle Paul for a future missionary and author of Scripture and salvation that is still felt today by his missionary travels. But who was this Gamaliel?

A brief aside via Jewish and Christian tradition. The man called Saul was quite possibly Gamaliel’s greatest student and defender of the Law; until grace knocked him off his horse as he viewed Damascus in the horizon. Who was this great Jewish sage and teacher Gamaliel? In the Jewish tradition of the man who influenced Paul? In the Talmud, he is portrayed as bearing the titles of Nasi and Rabban or our Master, as the president of the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem; it is disputed by some scholar’s that he ever held a senior title in the highest court in the Jewish world of defending the Torah in Jerusalem. Gamaliel has been thought of as one of the greatest teachers in all the annals of Judaism by the authority of the Mishnah. Other bits of information on this teacher of the then young Saul of Tarsus? Gamaliel’s authority on the important questions of religious law was suggested in the Michnaic brief notes in which ‘the king and queen’ ask for his advice about Jewish rituals. Who where these king and queen? The generally opinion is that it was either King Herod Agrippa I and his wife Cypros or King Herod Agrippa II and his sister Berenice. In classical rabbinical literature it is always contrasted with the school of Hillel to that of Shammai and only shows the gathering opinions of each of these opposing schools of Jewish thought on the Torah and Scripture over-all without mentioning the personal nuances and thoughts of those in involved in the debates and opinions of the rabbis. Oddly enough, these texts do not show that Gamaliel as being knowledgeable about the Torah or Scripture over-all let alone a teacher of Torah. This is the reason that Gamaliel is not shown as being part of the long chain of leadership of individuals who continued the Mishnaic tradition; the list simply mentions from Hillel to Johanan ben Zakkai. However, the Mishnah does mention Gamaliel’s writings of a few legal ordinances on the top of the Jewish community’s welfare and conjugal rights. Gamaliel defended from the Torah that the Law did protect women during divorce, that for the purpose of a woman remarrying that only one witness to the death of the first husband was needed for the woman to remarry. The Mishnah also has a single quote of his on religious scruples, “Obtain a teacher for yourself, keep yourself (on religious questions) far from doubt, and only infrequently give a tithe using general valuation.” Sounds like good advise. There are other various pieces of classical rabbinic literature that mentions Gamaliel that he sent out three letters/epistles, (Maybe where the Apostle Paul got the idea?). The epistles were sent out as notifications of new religious rulings, and they show Gamaliel in leadership of the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem for religious Torah observers; two went to the Jews of Galilee and the ‘Darom’ (Southern Judea), the third epistle went to the Jews of the Diaspora. What of the Christian tradition concerning this Jewish teacher of the Law and of the Apostle Paul? The Luke’s work, “Acts Of The Apostles” he introduces Gamaliel as a Pharisee and a well-known and respected defender of the Torah in the Book of Acts 5:34-40. The larger drama, (Acts 5:17-42), The Apostle Peter and the other apostles are described as being arrested for preaching Jesus and brought before the Sanhedrin and the elders of the people for the apostles reaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ after they were prohibited and warned to cease from doing. They didn’t stop and were arrested, (Acts 5:27-33). The Scripture account shows Gamaliel as coming forward and arguing against killing the apostles as they didn’t like what the Apostle Peter told them, he then reminded them of the not so long ago history of Theudas and Judas of Galilee and their failed attempts to over-throw the Romans from the land and of their fate, (Acts 5:34-37). Gamaliel stood up and spoke, “And now I sat unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” (Acts 5:38-39).

The critics of the Apostle Paul, and there are many outside and even inside the Church, like to accuse him of being against learning or scholarship into non-Biblical works. They are simply wrong. Paul was a educated man of his time and didn’t live in a world where ignorance was a virtue; Jews value education far too much. A Jew like the Apostle Paul do not quote pagan author’s such as Plato’s Book Ten of his ‘Republic’, (The Great Architect of the Universe), or Greek playwrights of the Greek Golden Age of creativity and deep thoughts on the human condition such as Paul’s reference to Euripides in his ‘Hercules’, (As God really does not need anything if He is indeed God), Paul quoted the playwright Aeschylus from his play, “Eumenides, (Objects of worship). The Apostle Paul quoted the Cilician poet Aratus or Euripides of Crete when he quoted from his play, “Minos”,  ‘In Him we live and move and have our being…we are indeed His offspring’.The Apostle Paul didn’t just pull these quotes out of thin air. He knew them because he read them somewhere in his hometown of Tarsus. The Apostle Paul was a Jew to his core. He was a pharisee, from the tribe of Benjamin, he was a child of the Jewish Hellenization of the Chosen people who no longer lived in their once homeland of Israel. And all of this made him the Apostle to the Nations outside of the promises of God via Israel. He would proclaim the message of salvation via the Gospel of Jesus Christ to these Gentiles at Mar’s Hill by quoting their own philosophers and poets. I believe without the influence of that Hellenization it is questionable whether his message would have made such a greater impact on the Gentile World or it’s view if it’s own gods and philosophy about life and death. The pagan authors he quoted and referred to and spoke of his audience would have understood. Even in the short letter to Titus, (Titus 1:12), mentions the poet Epimenides’s comment on his fellow Cretans; that is where the line comes from that Paul quotes. The Apostle Paul knew his Greek/Pagan authors and audience and when and how to use them to point to the one true and only God of creation.

The Apostle Paul wasn’t against pagan learning but he saw it as being so far and away removed from the absolute truth and majesty of the God that they knew nothing about and the truth that was in Christ. The Apostle Paul was standing alone and surrounded by a crowd of mockers, pagans, and those Greeks and other nations who didn’t really have any real motive to understand what he was preaching from Mars Hill. But he preached and the message he preached has come down through the ages of human history as one of the greatest oratories in Athens and is today still remembered. The Apostle Paul was mostly dealing with would-philosophers of the school of Epicurus and the Stoics. Both mostly to it’s core preached that we should live today for tomorrow we may die and a very materialistic world-view of life and even death. What gods or a single God is needed would be one of their thoughts. The Apostle Paul saw the value of the pagan author’s to point to a much clearer and far more profound view and truth of that ‘Unknown God’ that they either ignored or simply paid lip service to was the one true God of the universe and creation spoken of even by their own philosophers and poets. As the Apostle Paul stated to these people of Athens who mocked and jeered, “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an alter with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN God. Who therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him I declare unto. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” (Acts 17:23-24). So began the sermon that would echo down through the centuries as one of his greatest defenses of the God of the Torah and Scripture more profound than their own philosophies or poets could ever understand. But for the Apostle to the Nations to have preached as he did the man had to have some good knowledge of the works of the very pagans he was preaching to. He was a child of a Hellenized Jewish city. He was a child of the Torah and the history of his own people. He was the instrument God used to reach the Gentile nations via both worlds of his birth and learning.

The story of the Apostle Paul in Athens is the story of the One True God being preached to a very pagan city. The story recorded in Acts 17:15-34 is a confrontation between one lone Jewish rabbi with a message that their was one God and only one God and He sent His Son to die for the sins of the world and was resurrected from the dead after paying the full and complete price for the world’s sins. Paul had been literally dropped off in the capital of all that was Greek and Greek thought in the City of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law, justice, and the list would go on. It was her city and she was worshiped. The Apostle Paul had to wait in the great and terrible pagan city of Athena for the the arrival of his fellow missionaries, Timotheus and Silas. This was the city were people came from all corners of the known world. Travelers, students, teachers came from all over the Roman world to see the glory that had once been Greece and it’s philosophies. People came to talk, “(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)” (Acts 17:21). It was the focal point of good talk and endless ideas and philosophies from those who came and stayed in Athens. It was a city of gods and goddesses and their worship. It was a cosmopolitan city of gods and ideas and people willing to listen or talk. This was the mass of humanity that the Apostle Paul found himself being surrounded by. The Apostle Paul was not idle in this mass of small Jewish community and the vast humanity of pagans, “Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.” (Acts 17:17). The Apostle Paul continued to reach out and preach to his fellow Jews; he never gave up on trying to reach his fellow Jews with the message of the Gospel of the Messiah. He also of course reached out to the citizens of Athens and their pagan worship, “Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him, And Some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.” (Acts 17:18). He was apparently reaching them on some level because the next thing we hear from the story, “And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest is? For thou bringest certain strange things to out ears; we would know therefore what these things mean.” (Acts 17:19-20). (Areopagus is Mars Hill). The Apostle Paul’s message was reaching and provoking reacts and inquiries into his message; yes the majority mocked but they also listened despite themselves. Who were these Epicureans and Stoicks? What was their basic philosophy that the Apostle Paul was preaching against?

What is Epicureanism? The basic definition it’s a system of a philosophy that is basically live today for tomorrow we may die. It’s a philosophy based upon the teachings of the Greek philosopher Epicuras of Lesbos, founded 307 B. C. Basically philosophy was atomic materialist-everything is made of atoms and nothing else is involved. His philosophy continued in his attack on the gods as a superstition let alone his attacks on divine intervention; gods existed but had no real concern with human affairs so don’t worry about them. The universe was made of small atoms and no gods need apply for his thinking in the big picture of life. Basically, pleasure was the greater good but with moderation. Pleasure is the true intrinistic goal of life and not worrying about the gods too much if they existed at all; they didn’t deny the gods existed but had no use for them. They sought peace of mind and knowledge and the important virtues of the human life. They felt indeed that life was meant to be lived in the here and now and pleasure was the chief goal of the good life; he wanted to be free of the gods and death by his philosophy of living for the chief purpose of daily pleasure within moderation. To quote from the philosopher himself, “When we say…that pleasure is the end and aim we do not mean the pleasure of the prodigal or the pleasure of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice or wilful misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul…” (Epicuras Letter To Menoeceus). Epicureanism rejects immortality; it has a belief in the soul but it’s philosophy is that the soul is mortal and material. Their philosophy can be summed up by the Epicurean Epitaph, “Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo”- I was not; I was; I am not, I do not care.”

Who are the stoicks? The philosophy of Stoicism was created during the Hellenistic era of Greek history and culture by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd Century B. C. It’s a philosophy of personal ethics promoted by it’s idea of logic being central and it’s understanding of the natural world. According to it’s philosophy that as social beings and members of a society the path to happiness, (eudaimonia in Greek), for the human good and well-being is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself by simply not allowing one’s well-being to be controlled or manipulated by emotions or desires for pleasure or the fear of pain, but by using one’s logical thinking and actions to understand the world and society we live in and to simply treat others fairly and justly. Their philosophy and full teachings cane be summed up that ‘Virtue is the only good. for the complete human being and that external things-health, wealth, pleasure-are not good or bad in themselves, (adiaphora in Greek), but have value as ‘material for virtue to act upon.’ Alongside Aristotelian Ethics, the tradition of their philosophy was the major founding of Western virtue and ethics; until it was taken over by Christianity and it’s virtues and ethics of the Scriptures. The stoics felt and thought and preached that it wasn’t what a person said that was important as much as what they did and lived. To pursue and live a good life, one had to understand the rules and laws of the natural order of the universe and remember that everything was grounded and rooted in those laws of nature. The basic tenants of their philosophy was the development of self control and logic over the lesser parts called emotions and not letting them control the person. Another of their statements, ‘Virtue consists in a will that is in agreement with nature.’ and ‘To be free from anger, envy, jealousy.’ Another philosophical point, ‘Equals of other men, because all men alike are products of nature.’ Some well-known stoics would be Seneca, (4 B.C.-65 A. D.), who lived under the rule of the Roman Emperor Nero, (37 A. D-68 A. D), was a philosopher, statesman, and dramatist. The better well-known stoic was the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, (121 A.D.-180 A. D), who’s book, ‘The Meditations’ is still read.

These were the two major philosophies that the Apostle Paul was preaching Christ to. The Apostle Paul stood alone on that hill names after a pagan god of war. He stood alone against the pagan philosophies of those who mostly came to mock and argue with the Apostle Paul. He was in the city of Athena. Athens was known for it’s history, it’s culture, it’s philosophies and mostly for it’s Parthenon where stood a huge gold and ivory statue of the goddess Athena; whose shinning spear-point was visible forty miles away. It was one of the few glories of Greece left to an ancient culture that had given the world the early seeds of democracy. This was the city where elsewhere there were images, shrines, temples to the hosts of Olympus such as Apollo, of Zeus, Aphrodite, Mercury, Bacchus, Neptune, Artemis, the list would go on and on until there was one to the Unknown God for which the Apostle Paul preached about before this throng of humanity lost in their pagan sins of idol worship of gods made of stone, brass, and gold and silver and ivory and marble and all of them dumb and deaf to those who prayed to them. This was the glory that had been Greece and the Apostle Paul saw none of it except the idolatry of the people and it’s human cost into eternity. The Apostle Paul was greatly distressed by what he saw and he felt it to the very core of his being not just as a Jew but as a man preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He preached that there was more to life than their limited worldly philosophies and their gods. He preached Christ and His resurrection. He preached the value of human life in the present world of Athens and into eternity. His audience listened depending in their inclination and beliefs and reacted in kind. They even thought he was preaching different gods and reacted according to their thoughts on that. This was a hostile crowd that the Apostle Paul proclaimed Christ to. They mocked and they accused him of babbling what others had told him; something many did in Athens. The Apostle Paul stood alone against the gods of Athens and their worshipers and her philosophers. And the Apostle to the Greeks used their own literature and philosophers against them to preach a greater and more powerful message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for their salvation. And to the Apostle Paul that was the only important message to preach to the citizens of Athens.

REFERENCES/RECOMMENDATIONS

Bible (KJV).

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

Saved Without A Doubt:Being  Sure Of Your Salvation. By. John MacArthur.

The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12. By. John MacArthur.

The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 13-28. By. John MacArthur.

The Message Of Acts. By. John R. W. Stott.

The Message Of Ephesians. By. John R. W. Stott.

The Apostle: Life Of Paul. By. John Pollock.

Paul. By. Edgar Goodspeed.

The World Of Saint Paul. By. Joseph M. Callawaert.

Hellenistic Civilization And The Jews. By. Victor Tcherikover.

Paul: A Man Of Grace And Grit. By. Charles Swindoll.

Trafficked. (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpgMears Park wasn’t very crowded and Mark was grateful for that as he took notice of a young couple heading somewhere through the park; the guy next to him was staring at the young girl with a look. Mark knew that look and it was proving something he was kind of hoping wasn’t true but it was becoming apparent it was. He told Brianna he believed her story about the guy but he was still hoping it wasn’t completely true. But apparently it was with that look the guy was giving the girl in the cut-off jeans and tank top.

Trevor was still talking, “…The writing assignment is to write about what cartoon character would you like to seduce and write a story about it.”

He wasn’t sure he heard right, “A cartoon character?” But he sure Trevor was serious even with that pleased look in his face.

“Yes.”

“A cartoon character was the theme of the story topic in this class?” Adding with a look of disgust, “Sex with a cartoon character?”

Trevor leaned back a bit as he sat on the bench at Mears Park, he sipped his coffee with a pleased smile, “What’s wrong with the topic? Sounds quite interesting. It is a creative writing class after all, Mark.”

Mark repeated himself only because it gave him a chance to digest what Trevor just told him, “It’s a creative writing class? At Century College?” He was sounding stupid but the subject was just too weird; weird being a mild way of putting it. Sex with a cartoon character? That was some of the questions Trevor had been asked to write about and had just asked Mark.”It’s a creative writing class, Trevor. An actual teacher assigned this as homework?”

Trevor Lindgren laughed at Mark’s expression, “Yes. it’s a creative writing class. I said that before….”

“It just sounds weird, Trevor.”

Still in a good mood, “It’s very simple, Mark, if you could seduce a cartoon character who would it be was the assignment and we had to write a short story on the subject…”

Mark bit into his philly steak sandwich, thought of a response as he noted the man was watching others in the small St. Paul park but he was still talking on the subject.

“….I’m taking this class to see if I can make a living writing. I need a job change….”

“Don’t like what you’re doing now?” Mark had long ago forgotten what the man actually did for a living as he rarely ever talked about it; Mark thought he worked in one of the small stores along the walk-ways across the city?

He looked at Mark with a impersonal look, “I work at the damn bank sitting at a desk dealing with other people’s crap. It’s boring. Pointless and boring….”

Mark said nothing but he nodded in agreement.

Still talking but watching the few people walking through the small park, “I’m forty-nine years old next October, time to do something else, Mark. Time to do something more interesting with my dull life than playing banker.” He took a longer notice of an attractive young woman walking by the small stage, smiling he continued, “She walks by about this time everyday. I have her image practically memorized. Every detail.” He studied the girl with his thoughts not too hidden, “She would be useful in a story idea. Look at her.”

Mark looked of course, “Yes, quite pretty.” He was simply being nice in his comment of the probably little over thirty-something blonde in the Beatles beat up old t-shirt and blue jeans, “Well, she might make an interesting character but not one in your teacher’s assignment?”

“Why not?”

“She’s not a cartoon character, Trevor.”

“I can make her into one.”

“Sounds very perverse to me.” He watched the look in the man’s eyes as he watched the girl turn the corner and out of their sight. Did vampires look at their victims with the same look? Except the fellow sitting next to him on the bench looked more like a young Charles Laughton than Christopher Lee in the full prime of being Dracula. The look of the man as he watched the pretty blonde vanish with a slight smile that was obvious in it’s meaning. He had seen the look in others who simply saw girls as a piece of human flesh to enjoy. That was one phrase he had actually heard from a guy he had interviewed, a piece of human flesh to be enjoyed and at times abused. “Sounds perverse, Trevor…”

He was still in a good mood behind the short trimmed light red beard, “Oh, you puritan’s and your morbid fear of sex and sexuality. Sex and sexuality is a normal human function.” Adding with a look of pleasure at something, “I enjoy sexual things. I like the assignment in my creative writing class. It seems an interesting subject…” Annoyance came and went away slowly, “I need it to relieve the boredom of working for a bank, Mark. A man needs something to release the tension of his tedious life….” Looking a bit around the small park, noting a few people walking by the stage, “Sex is normal, Mark. And yes it’s even fun to write about having sex with a cartoon character as a writing assignment into creativity….” He was amused by some inner thought, “Japanese animation would understand…”

He knew what he was talking about. Mark Interrupted with a raised hand, “Yes, sex is quite normal and healthy, but not with a cartoon character. It just sounds weird, Trevor. Just sounds little too, well, lack of a better word right now, too kinky if that is even the right word….It just sounds too weird of a writing assignment even for a creative writing class, Trevor.”

Laughing at him, “But you really can’t explain why can you?”

“It’s weird, Trevor.” Looking at the man trying to understand the man’s thinking, “I know it’s a creative writing class, but still, the assignment was to write a story about having a physical relationship with a cartoon character. Didn’t anyone else in the class object or at least have questions on the assignment?” He didn’t wait for an answer, “I find it hard to believe that the entire class simply had no trouble with the teacher’s choice of writing subject….” Brianna said she had.

Trevor smiled, “Well, there was one students who didn’t like the assignment and spoke up in class…”

“Why?”

“Oh, religious objections. She didn’t like the assignment because she said it was no better than pornography…”

“Really?” Mark took notice of the older man walking his dog; the mini-schnauzer with a big dogs personality was apparent. “What exactly did she say?”

The pleased look vanished, “I don’t remember, I stopped listening the moment she started talking religion. Something about it being dehumanizing. That’s all I really remember….” Adding with that look, “Pretty girl though, shame it’s being wasted on religion. She should be doing something else besides sounding so close-minded. Great body like hers and she’s wasting it on religion. Waste of a life….”

“You don’t remember much about what she said?”

The face didn’t want to talk about it, “Look, Mark, she was one of those religious types who thinks morality is some sacred God-given virtue and shouldn’t be touched by people who don’t think like she does.”

“Okay.”

“She kept going on and on and on about how her God created man and woman and created them to create other humans by sex…” He looked at his watch, made a disgusted face, “She was one of those religious types that really does believe that their religious book is the only religious book of truth…”

Mark noted the guy seemed to be talking more to himself now than to Mark.

“….The teacher did finally say something of course.”

“What?”

Again the displeased features continued, “That she didn’t have to do the assignment but it would be she would get a failed grade for the assignment. It was as simple as that. Either do the writing assignment or fail the assignment.” He watched across the straight as some teens laughing and chatting went by; he stared too long for Mark’s comfort at the young teen girls, “I don’t get some people. Just do the assignment. What’s the damn problem. In class we were simply discussing the differences between what makes erotic fiction and what makes it pornographic? I certainly didn’t see the problem with what the teacher was telling us to write about.” He looked again about the small park, noticed no one worth his efforts to watch was apparent, he started talking again but with a bored tone, “I’m not a prude, Mark. I like sex and I like porn. It’s normal to like porn…” Trevor looked hard at Mark as if he wanted his statement to be challenged, “Porn has been around for thousands of years. Look at some of the paintings on the walls in the ruins of Pompeii. Sexual in nature indeed. Sex is normal and healthy and I have no problem writing about it or writing about the assignment from the teacher….” He seemed lost in thought as the metro bus went by, “Look, Mark, I am an adult for a long time now, I’m allowed to enjoy porn if I want to. And I see nothing wrong with the teacher’s choice of subject…”

“All this because you’re bored with your job?”

“I’ve always wanted to start writing, somehow make a living at it if I could.”

Another bus went by.

“And you think you could or can?”

He frowned at something, looked at his hands briefly before looking at Mark, “I’m stuck in a job I don’t like anymore….” As a thought came to him, “Doesn’t it say to write about what you know and love.”

“And porn is it?” Mark replied really wishing to get off the subject but it was partly why he was there, “Trevor, I work with kids and believe me some of them have been sexually abused. It’s heart breaking to listen to their stories…”

Abruptly, “I’m not looking at child porn, Mark. There is nothing wrong with what I like…”

“I have one teen girl, she was trafficked, Trevor, for from age ten to about seventeen…”

The features didn’t change much, “When did this conversation turned into something so serious? Look, Mark, I’m sorry for those kids and I’m sorry that the kid was trafficked, but I am doing nothing wrong…” Angry for a second or so, “Look, it’s just a class assignment and nothing more.”

“That student who stood up in class to protest, what happened to her?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you said she was against the assignment, what did the teacher do?”

“Told her to either do the assignment or fluke the assignment. Nothing happened to her, Mark. She’s fine. She’ll survive…”

“Doesn’t it bother you at all, Trevor, what pornography does to those girls? It’s dehumanizing. You need to talk to some of those girls after it’s over and ask them if it’s just something they can survive and get over. Some can’t just get over it…”

Trevor glared back, “Look, I don’t force my personal life on anyone.”

“Trevor, I deal with kids who have gone through hell from the pornography industry and being trafficked….”

“Sounds like a depressing job, Mark.” Taking notice of another girl walking across the street, “See that girl, pretty isn’t she and yet I would not force myself on her….”

“You’d watch it though, Trevor.” He said because it was obvious that Trevor would have.

Annoyed, “You go to church don’t you? You’re one of those religious nuts who thinks that any portion of a woman’s body seen it’s pornography. I never thought you a religious person, Mark, and you certainly sound like one….” He was still watching the girl walking down the sidewalk, “That girl in the class was just as bad as you in that everything is sinful if sex is involved.” Looking at the man finally, “I like the subject the teacher has given us, I hate my job, and if I can make a living writing about sex and whatever else I want to write about I will…” Pointing to himself to make a point, “I am quite capable of living a normal life and watch porn. I’m not hurting anyone…”

Mark had been thinking as the guy had been talking, holding up a hand, “I actually don’t go to church because I am religious, Trevor, but my daughter does go.” He wished the guy would have some kind of change of expression other than indifference. The truth was it was a requirement of Mia’s that if she was to move back into the house with him he was going to go to her church; it was a small price to pay for what he had put her through lately.

“What, the wife doesn’t go?” The comment was snarky of course, “What? You don’t go but the family does?”

Softly, “Trevor, I lost my wife five years ago to cancer, it’s just me and the kid.”

“Oh, sorry, must be tough raising a kid alone.”

He would have liked to believe that the guy cared, “Me and the kid are doing fine. We’ve had our rough moments but we are doing fine.” He was uncomfortable using Mia’s name at all. “My wife died when the kid was about to turn thirteen. It was hard on her, very hard.” He knew the guy didn’t want to talk about the other subject, but Mark was going to get back to the subject. “The kid just graduated high school, probably go to Century College for a bit….” Adding, “She wants to get into writing as well. Her mom would have been proud of her. I’m proud of her.”

“Creative writing?” Trevor asked with a look of someone with too much of something else on his mind, “She should take the class I am taking on the subject. She’s a good teacher…”

“Who’s the teacher?”

“Mrs. Thatcher, looks about in her forties but still attractive.”

“Is she a good teacher?”

He laughed, “Not really. But the subject’s she wants us to write about are very interesting…”

“She thought a good creative writing subject was what cartoon character you would have a sexual relationship with? Are you serious?”

“She doesn’t have a problem like that student has with the subject. Her view is that a writer should write about things that bother them as much as it interests them. Creativity is her main goal in what she wants us to achieve. She simply wants us to learn and explore all avenues of the creative process. It’s not her fault that some students are so offended they had issues with a creative writing assignment.”

“What happened to that student?” He knew he had asked already, “Is she still in the class?”

He shrugged his shoulders as if that said enough, “I don’t know, I know she wasn’t in class last time it met. Not my problem, Mark, if she’s too offended to do a simple writing projects that upset her precious religious beliefs. So don’t do the assignment, not my problem if you think it’s dehumanizing on some level…”

“Maybe she has a personal reason why it bothers her?” He was sure the guy didn’t care, “Whether it’s because of religious belief or not, she felt it was offensive for some reason.”

“It’s not offensive, it’s just another form of creativity, Mark. Nothing wrong with enjoying such things…”

“Not for some people, Trevor, apparently.”

“Their in the wrong class then. It’s a creative writing class, that’s the assignment for this month. Write a short story on what it would be like to have a relationship with a cartoon character…”

“So, it doesn’t have to be really sexual?”

“Mark, of course it does. What does having a relationship about but sex. It’s always about sex. The porn industry isn’t about relationship goals, Mark. It’s about tits and ass and everything else that involves the act of sex…”

“I think you just like the idea of sex and wouldn’t matter what the assignment is about.”

The features changed somewhat but it was agreeing with his statement, “Hey, most things are about sex when it comes to any relationship. She was very clear to everyone what the assignment is to be about, Mark, very clear…”

“And that was?” He also wanted to ask more about the teacher but he wasn’t sure anymore that Trevor was actually telling him the truth of his class he was taking. Holding up a hand, “Let me finish, Trevor, I work with kids, I’ve worked with some very troubled kids because they were either abused on some level or other. Mostly sexual abuse. I’ve heard their horror stories….”

“What does this have to do with anything? I’m not writing child abuse stories or watching child porn, Mark…”

“No, probably not, but so far you’ve shown no sense that there is anything wrong with the idea. Not one hint that it might be a little unpleasant to even write it as a writing assignment.”

He stared at the man in disbelief of what he was being accused of, “Look, Mark, I’m just taking a creative writing class, I am simply trying to get out of a dead end and dull bank job and maybe write a book. I hate my job, and if this damn assignment gets me out of that damn job I will write whatever it takes to escape a dull life…” Adding with a angry tone, “Nothing wrong with porn anyway…”

“Whatever it takes?” He looked at the man with some understanding and a faint sense of anger, “That’s the point I’m badly making I guess. Because you see that young girl was used and abused by her father because he convinced himself that he had to do something, anything, to get out of debt. He borrowed money from the wrong people because of gambling. He ran into the wrong people while in that frame of mind and the next minute that little girl knew she was being held down and raped for a thousand dollars. And it didn’t stop until she finally ran away…”

“Doesn’t apply to me, Mark. I’m not abusing anyone…”

“I met her father once, I asked him why he did it and his answer was what you just said, he did what he thought it would take to get out of debt. He trafficked his own kid, he never got out of debt and ended up finally being arrested. So you see it does matter…”

“Not the same thing!”

“The rationalizing is. As far as I can tell it’s rationalizing. Her father still doesn’t think he was wrong in what he did. It was all about him as I interviewed him from prison. He kept repeating that he did what he had to do to get out of debt. I kept asking him about how he could have done that to his own ten year old daughter; she was ten, Trevor, not an adult…”

Trevor said nothing but it was very evident he didn’t like the conversation.

“He kept repeating that he did what he had to do.” He forced down the anger he felt then as well, “He sat there behind the glass window and kept repeating that as if it justified his rationalization about what he put his own daughter through. He felt no remorse, Trevor. He dehumanized her to save his life from people threatening to kill him if he didn’t pay them back…”

“What does any of this have to do with my creative writing class?”

Standing up, “That, Trevor, should be obvious.” He studied the man, “That girl in your class is the same girl, Trevor. She knows what she is talking about and what such things reduce people to and what happens to the victims…and she has a very good memory for faces…”

Anger was there, ignoring the comment, “Isn’t it unethical for you to tell me a patients history?”

“Wouldn’t be the first time when something like this has come up, Trevor. I have a bad habit of letting the horror of the victim override good old ethical common sense. And in your case I am not sure I am far off in saying that you have more than a creative writing interest in the subject.”

Standing up, anger was evident, “I have done nothing to anyone, Mark.” He wanted to walk away was very obvious, “You’re not the cops anyway…”

“Trevor, rape of a minor is still a crime.” He had noticed the young girl a while back; she sat near the stage with a look that said much but she sat bravely he thought.

“And I certainly don’t know this other girl you’re talking about…”

“Funny, Trevor, I never said you did.”

He shoved his hands into his pockets with clenched fists, “This is stupid, what does this have to do with a creative writing class?”

“She recognized you.” He had taken notice of her slightly nodding painfully in his direction, “She wasn’t sure at first as it was such a shock to her, but she recognized you.” He could see the man thinking, “I did ask the obvious question, was she sure?”

The look said as much as the cold tone, “She’s wrong.”

“I questioned her a bit, I could see she was getting emotional on the subject, but she described you pretty well even if it was some years ago, but she doesn’t forget very easily such nightmares as being molested as her father watched…”

“None of this applies to me in any way, Mark.”

Mark studied the man just as coldly as the man spoke, “I’ve been around abusive fathers and men who got off molested young girls….”

Angry, “You sound like you get off on the subject, Mark. And you sit there judging me on my personal life. You’re being such a hypocrite, Mark. How much porn do you look at? I’m at least up front and honest about my likes and dislikes. What about you?”

Mark of course knew rationalizing was coming as they all pretty much had one, “You sound just like them and their defense of their behavior. They all for the most part rationalize it as their personal lives are none of anyone’s business or it’s the child’s fault. Mostly the second one, the child flirted with them and asked for it. I’ve heard many of them and most of them had convinced themselves they were not in the wrong…” He could see the man was thinking of his own rationalizing excuse that he hoped would sound good, “I’ve heard them all, Trevor, I’ve heard some that only made sense to the predator and those involved in trafficking girls…”

“This girl or you can’t prove any of it, you are aware of that. You’re taking the word of a troubled girl who was probably abused by her father and is just blaming every guy she doesn’t like the look of…” The smirk was there, “If she is the same girl from the class, she’s been a issue ever since she entered the class with the teacher, Mark. Doesn’t like any of the assignments because her damn religion says it’s wrong…”

“Actually, she has only been recently been going to church with my daughter…” He could tell the guy didn’t care. They had met in his office as Brianna waited for her appointment; Mia was the kind of kid that made friends easy and she made one in about ten minutes.

Interrupting, “What got into you to even think of doing this kind of work? I mean seriously, who goes into this kind of head shrinking and to deal with such terrible tragedies in kids lives? What, guilt of some kind?”

Mark understood the fellow very well, “I actually was with my daughter in a used bookstore and I found this book called “God In A Brothel: An Undercover Journey Into Sex Trafficking and Rescue” by. Daniel Walker. The title caught my attention as I do deal with kids who have been through such things…”

“So, it was guilt of some kind I take it then. What’s your dark little secrets, Mark?” The smirked laughed, he studied the man with a cold eye as if he knew something, “What black and ugly sins have you got buried in your life…”

Mark simply replied, “I have a drinking problem, Trevor, that’s my demon to deal with.” He could the guy wanted to say so much more, “After my wife died it got a little worse…it was a rough few years for me and the kid…” He refused to say Mia’s name with this guy; the kid was good enough. “It wasn’t easy for the kid, I took a lot of anger out on her…”

“Hit her at all?” It was of course spoken with complete belief that he was going to be right, “You’re accusing me of raping a child, so did you hit your kid?”

Mark knew of course what the guy was doing, but he wasn’t going to lie either, “Yes, I did. I broke her arm by slamming her into a wall…”

“And you think I’m a bad guy.” He smirked again as if he made a point, “I may like pornography, I at least don’t go around hitting a kid because I had too much to drink, Mark.” Almost amused, “Broke her arm, huh, must have been one hell of a punch…”

He knew what the guy was trying to do; Brianna had moved from the stage and was standing looking down from the little bridge into the water; what was she thinking in those large blue eyes that only saw her life as a abused little girl. He was beginning to regret letting her come and observed but she wanted to. Why he gave in he had no idea.  “It wasn’t a punch, I shoved her very hard into a wall in my study….I remember all too well, Trevor…”

“I bet so does your kid.”

“She does sometimes when we are having a bad day in our relationship, but we are trying to have one.

“What happened after you hit your kid, Mark?”

He decided to play along a bit, he ignored the comment, he had his reasons, “She moved in with her grandmother for a while. It’s when she also started attending church with her Grandmother Rose. The kid of course made friends rather quickly as she always did…” It was of course more complicated than that but when was life not complicated by human nature. What did Grandmother Rose call it, human nature is very corrupt? Sounded about right Mark had to admit and he did.

“Ah, so she became religious to deal with your own abused…”

He forced a calm smile, “I never abused my kid, I drank too much, I’m dealing with that, but I only lost control one time with the kid, only once…” And that was all it took and then Mia moved out and into her grandmothers house for a few months. It took a while but he finally had to admit he had a real problem and that was he was becoming a real dangerous alcoholic who had broken his own kids arm! It was lucky he supposed that Mia’s grandmother was visiting that day and was able to take the crying girl to the hospital; the look she gave her father should have killed him as they wrapped her broken arm in the bright blue cast; she refused pink and refused to talk to him for a long time. He remembered watching her walk away with his grandmother with the bright blue cast on her left arm; she told her grandmother the color would match her soccer team colors.

“So, what did her grandmother think of you?” He was enjoying himself, “And you think I’m the criminal….”

“That I needed help.”

“Sounds like it. At least what I like doesn’t involve hurting anyone, Mark.” He was still standing but his body language was that he wanted to walk away, “At least what I like simply involves the internet where no one really gets hurt…”

“You actually believe that?” Mark knew where Brianna had walked to and sat down; she looked unhappy. She didn’t have to come but she felt it was needed to come and simply at least face her fears of something she could never explain very well. Maybe never explain very well such a terrible feeling of being violated and not believed Mark figured. He also knew that Mia had pushed her in this direction to face her demons. Mia meant well but Mark wasn’t sure it was a good idea but Brianna insisted. He had been outnumbered as the two of them stood in his home office office making it clear that Brianna was going to go with him. It made no sense and he wasn’t sure it was a good idea but Brianna could also be stubborn. So, he told her when and where he usually meet up with Trevor for lunch; Mia had to work but wished she had been able to be there for Brianna.

Trevor was growing impatient, “Look, Mark, go and be religious with your kid and leave my personal life alone. You sound as if you have your own problems to deal with…”

“Well, she does pray for me, so I have that going for me.”

“You’re an abusive father and you think I should feel guilty about a little pornography?” It was evident he wanted to added something else and Mark had a feeling what it would have been.

Standing up slowly, feeling very tired, “No, Trevor, I actually feel bad about what I have done to my own kid, we still have a long way to go but we are getting there…”

“And if you don’t, you going to hit her again?”

“We’ll get there.” He studied the man with a calm look he didn’t really feel, “I’m just telling you that one of your victims is sitting in that classroom and she knows who you are.”

Trevor’s expression changed to a smirk, “Stupid bitch….” He walked away.

Mark felt Brianna walk up behind him.

Brianna spoke up, “He looks so pathetic, Dr. Robinson…”

He looked at the girl who had been holding in her emotions of what she really felt like saying. He wasn’t sure what she was thinking behind those sad eyes but he could guess.

She was still talking, “I thought I would feel far worse than I am actually feeling, Dr. Robinson, I feel lousy of course, haven’t stopped feeling lousy, but I watched him and all I could see was a pathetic monster…A disgusting pathetic monster” She looked at him with her tearing up eyes, “I guess I have a far way to go before I can feel anything good…”

He had to ask, “What about your class?”

The girl simply smiled sadly, wiped her eyes, wished Mia was with her, and spoke up slowly, “I’m going back to class, I have got to stop running at some point, Dr. Robinson, can’t run forever….” Her expression remained unhappy, “I’d like to, but I can’t.”

“No, Brianna, we can’t run from our demons forever.”

“But I wish I could. I really wish I could just keep running and never stop…”

“Wouldn’t solve anything and we can’t really escape our demons, Brianna…” He didn’t like sounding like he was lecturing the young girl, “Sorry, don’t mean to lecture…”

Brianna tried to smile, “It’s okay, it’s the truth…Mia keeps pushing Jesus on me of course….” Shoving her hands into her pockets, feeling she didn’t want to talk about it anymore or at least with Dr. Robinson; maybe with Mia. She loved Mia; Mia understood her. She spoke up, “I’m hungry, do we have time for lunch?”

He knew her thoughts on Mia, “We have time.” It wasn’t exactly true but the office would survive a bit longer without him.

Brianna was still talking despite the obvious that she didn’t want to be talking so much, “I know she means well, and I don’t mind going to church with her but still, I don’t see a need for Jesus…”

They stopped at a crosswalk. He wondered where she was going because he was simply following her as she was walking with a purpose once the crosswalk light changed.

Still talking, “…She likes church, everyone likes her.”

“She makes friends easily, Brianna, always has.”

She smiled a bit, “No one dislikes Mia, Dr. Brentson.” She stopped abruptly, “Where the hell are we going anyway?”

“I was following you, Brianna.”

Looking at him funny, “Maybe that’s my problem, I don’t know where I am going…”

“You’ll figure it out.”

Sadly, “I wonder about.” Softly, “Is it okay if I just walk alone a bit, I’ll meet up with you at the office.”

He agreed and watched the girl walk alone toward a destination she only knew. She looked defeated despite her bravado at returning to her class and he continued to worry about her. She had become one of his patients he had grown fond of and the fact she was a friend of Mia’s made it more difficult; he felt responsible for her far more than he should? It certainly felt that way. Why did he care more about this one girl than any other of his patience? She needed lots of attention and patience but she was a good kid somewhere buried in all the pain and dehumanizing crap she had gone through. He watched her turn a corner toward the library and felt a strange feeling that she had decided on something as she was talking to herself was obvious. He headed back to the office.

Brianna stared down from the Roberts Street Bridge at the Mississippi river below; she stood there a bit watching the water go by and wondered how deep it was or cold? Would the fall kill her or the fact she couldn’t swim anyway kill her? Girls being used as sex toys don’t require swimming lessons she told herself. They only require complete obedience to their masters and do as their told. Her cell phone went off; looking at the caller ID and wiping her face as she shoved the phone back into her pocket and watched the river go by. The fall would probably kill her she thought as the phone went off again; she didn’t bother looking at it. If the fall didn’t kill her the fact she couldn’t swim certainly would. What did drowning feel like she asked. Drowning sounds a little more peaceful and less painful than falling off a bridge and slamming into a wall of water below. Either way, Brianna, you’d be dead. How bad can it be to drown? You get swallowed up by the water and your lungs fill up with water and you drown. Is it painful to drown? She watched a small boat go against the current heading somewhere important. Where would her body end up if she did drown? How long would it take to drown and die? She stared straight down at the murky and dirty looking water. Maybe it would be better to slam into the river’s surface and be killed by the impact than sink and drown in that murky water below. Either way, Brianna, you’d be dead at some point. One is just faster than the other method of execution of a useless life except to abuse and treat like a punching bag and fuck the hell out of. She looked at her left wrist and the scar that was deeply cut into her skin. Well, that didn’t work. Her phone went off again.

“Leave me alone, Mia.” Choking back a sob, “Why can’t you hate me like I hate myself…” The phone went off again, “Leave! Me! Alone!” The phone kept going off. “Leave me alone, Mia! Go away!” The sobbing really began as the phone kept ringing, finally she took the phone out and looked at the caller ID, “Leave me alone, Mia, leave me alone and let me do this. I can’t do this if you keep calling me!…drowning is easy, Mia….you just breath in the cold muddy water and it fills up your lungs and you drown and it kills you…what’s so hard to understand….”

The picture of the two of them kept showing up with each call; it was of them at Como Zoo on a good day. Both smiling, laughing, having a good day for once.

“Why wont you leave me alone!” She studied the picture of a few months ago at Como Zoo. “That was a good day, Mia…We had so much fun….”

The ringer went off again; the picture showed up again; she wished Mia would go away again. She answered the phone; she started crying as Mia listened as she always did.

Mia listened and felt the knot in her stomach grow worse that at some point Brianna would not be answering the phone and Mia would know why.

 

Commentary On Mary Of Nazareth.

cropped-12301412301.jpg“And the Angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30).

Who was this young girl Mary from the little town of Nazareth? What character could this young Jewish girl of probably somewhere between fourteen to maybe sixteen have done to find favor in the sight of the Holy God to be granted this great favor? This favor and privilege to bring the Messiah into the world? The character of Mary is shown to be one of obedience despite her uncertainty of how this was going to brought about as she was still a virgin. Not just simply a young girl as some Bible translations have rendered the Scriptures who told of His birth, which by the way would destroy the all-important virgin birth that is required to be born without sin. Which would make the sinless sacrifice of her son quit null and void on the cross; young girls having a baby is normal but a virgin having a baby is not normal. Mary of Nazareth was a fulfillment of prophecy, “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14).

This was the will of the Lord for His handmaiden whom He had chosen. Mary’s every action was one of being observant to what she knew the Scriptures said about being a unmarried girl but she was also ready to be obedient in faith; she had the same faith as Sara, Ruth, Hannah of the Scriptures. She was ready to submit. She was ready to be a willing servant to the will of the Lord she worshiped, loved, and wanted to serve. Her only very human concern was to her own personal integrity but once that was explained to her troubled heart she was completely prepared to trust and be obedient. Mary’s faith was there for all the angels in heaven to see as her life was about to change very dramatically. She had the simple child-like faith of one of the greatest of those in the Scriptures from Abraham to those who waited for the coming of the Messiah to her own time in Jewish history. Her simple faith in the Lord was counted for her as righteousness as she showed true and obedient faith, trust, and of course a willingness to obey the Word of the Lord and the message of the Angel. Mary’s simple but humble prayer after her cousin Elizabeth’s proclamation was the words of one completely surrendering to His will in bringing forth the Messiah. Read the words of Mary to her cousin in Luke 1:46-55 and see one completely devoted to the call of the Lord. Look at what she simply stated as the angel finished what he told her what the Lord was going to do through her. “And Mary said, Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:38).

Think about what this young Jewish girl was being asked to do? Think of the profound idea what was explained to her and who it was that she was going to be indwelled with inside her young womb and who she was about to bring forth into a fallen world of sinful humanity. Think about the burden of having to explain it all to Joseph her future husband into a culture that deeply frowned on young unmarried girls with child. This young Jewish girl was about to carry the Creator of the entire universe in her all too small of a universe womb of flesh and blood for nine months and had to explain that to Joseph. This young Jewish girl had been chosen to bring forth God in flesh; think about that. Everything this angel told young Mary she had to tell Joseph and pray that he understood let alone believed her. mary was a young girl of profound and humble faith who knew that before God she was a sinner. But His handmaiden He had chosen from the moment she was born and to her it was counted a great and humble honor. Read her prayer as her cousin Elizabeth greeted her. It’s a prayer of great faith, a prayer of humility, a prayer of a sinner knowing that she was about to carry within her womb her God and Messiah. red her prayer and see the actions and willing heart of this young Jewish girl who thought about what she was about to be asked to do for the salvation of humanity. The prayer of Mary is a true servants prayer of faith and obedience to her God and Savior. It’s a prayer of profound trusting faith, a prayer in the hope of the promises of God fulfilled. She was a young girl of great faith and strength in the face of a culture not really expecting the Messiah anymore; too many had indeed lost their faith in Scripture. The Messiah was to be born from a virgin into the Roman Empire and far too many of them simply had stopped believing in the promises of God via the prophets and the line of King David. They had no real idea of the ramifications of their faithlessness and lack of faith as they were to crucify their God and Messiah that Passover some thirty odd years into the future of their own history.

Mary of Nazareth knew her Scriptures, she knew her long history, she knew of her God’s great compassion and mercy toward His people Israel. Mary deserves better than she’s preacher a bit about or mentioned on a Sunday message. This was a young Jewish girl deserving better sermons on and about her faith and obedience of faith, of prayer, her devotion to her faith, and for simply and humbly becoming the vessel of the Lord. This same young Jewish girl who would one day stand at the foot of the cross of her beaten and bloodied son and watched her son die deserves far better than a footnote in a Christmas message let alone an Easter one; by the way He wasn’t born in December and it’s called Passover when He died, not Easter. She had the kind of rare faith in Israel that should make everyone fell that they could and should do more than pay lip service to her life and what she did for sinful humanity. This is a story of a young Jewish girl who simply and very humbly obeyed in her child-like faith and trust and hope and was awarded with a profound girl to give to the world in her son. Her devotion is on the same level as the other women of faith in the Scriptures of Jewish history-Sara, Ruth, Hannah, Deborah, Abigail, and her own cousin Elizabeth. Mary was a girl of great faith and was chosen above all the girls of Israel to bring forth the Messiah that God had promised He would send. If Mary’s young life could be summed up in three words those words would be humbleness of heart, faith, and obedience.

Some brief thoughts on her life mentioned in Scripture.

The next event of the story of Mary and her reactions to her Son was at the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve years old as He debated with the leaders of Israel, (Luke 2:41-52). Jesus and His mother were observant Jews, “Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.” (Luke 2:41-42). The Law commanded three trips to Jerusalem for three of the seven feasts, Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles, (Exodus 23:14-17, Deuteronomy 16:16), This was a family of observant Jews and who would not have thought otherwise of obeying the Scriptures. They would not have thought otherwise to go to Jerusalem and celebrate Passover. “And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother knew not of it. But they supposed Him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought Him among their kinfolk and acquaintance. And when they found Him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.” (Luke 2:43-46). Jesus had a fuller understanding of His mission than even the one who carried Him in her womb for nine months. Mary and His step-father must have been shocked when they found their twelve year old son, pre-bar mitvah of age, standing among the leaders of Israel talking to them and listening and probably even debating a few who maybe twenty odd years later would be standing in judgement at His trial that future Passover; maybe a young Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea? The Scriptures are plain on their thoughts, “And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” (Luke 2:47). What questions did He answer or ask? It’s a mystery but it was apparent it affected all who heard it. Mary and Joseph must have been just as astonished as the leadership was at the young boy of twelve sounding so deep in knowledge of Scripture; it was easy as He was the One who gave it too them in the first place. God as a twelve year old boy was standing before them and not just the son of Mary of Nazareth. Mary spoke up for the family; I wonder if James, His brother, was there observing this? “And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said unto Him, Son, why hast thou dealt with us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” (Luke 2:48). A very Jewish mother asking a very good question of her son. Her Son answered, “And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2: 49). He knew what He was doing and why. Their reaction of course is recorded, “And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them.” (Luke 2: 50). The Elders of the Law, Mary and Joseph, maybe James as well, must have stared at Jesus the twelve year old doctor of the Law and Prophets with an uneasy eye. Scripture continues, “And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but His mother kept all these sayings in her heart.” (Luke 2:51). Jesus obeyed Exodus 20:12, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Mary pondered her son and all that He spoke and had been doing in the Temple with the leaders of Israel. In closing about Mary’s son, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Luke 2: 52). Jesus was increasing and Mary’s role was decreasing.

Other thoughts on a few later events. Mary was at the death of her first born son, (John 19:25-27). She was there and never left the place as of His death as the other disciples had except for the Apostle John who stood at Mary’s side. She witnessed His crucifixion and death on that cross; that’s a mother’s love and devotion toward a son she didn’t quit understand but would. Let that sink in, Mary stood there and watched the promised son die a cruel death at the hands of the Romans and by the authority of the Jewish leadership. She stood there and cried terrible bitter tears at the fate of her son. She stood there as any mother would and wept for her one of her children. She watched as He was speared by a Roman soldier and watched as her son bleed out blood and water. The emotional impact on her was terrible. This was suppose to be the Messiah she had been told she was to bring into the world; must or could have been one of her inner thoughts? From the cross her son saw her and spoke to her; compassion was His last act toward the woman who helped bring Him into the world that would led to this moment in His life. Did she go with the other women and few men to His tomb? Did she visit His tomb before His resurrection? Where was Mary of Nazareth during those three days? What private grief did she go through? Did she question what God had done to her son or herself? Maybe even her second oldest, James, was with her? Did any of the disciples try to find her; maybe she was with the Apostle John as Jesus had give over her care to him at the cross. But one thing is for sure as recorded in the Book of Acts, “And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James, the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.” (Acts 1:13-14). (The Upper Room  mentioned might have been the same room where He and the disciples spent the last Passover together in). Apparently she believed in her son’s resurrection; and noted at least two of His brother’s did as it’s written in the plural and probably of course means James, Judas). She was part of the early Church history of Pentecost; she would have been there. She was there for the early stories of the acts of Peter and John and the other events recorded by Luke in his story of the growth of the church. She would have been in Jerusalem during the stoning of Stephen and the persecution by the then Saul of Tarsus. She was probably at the Jerusalem meeting when the Apostle Peter returned from his preaching in Samaria and then his preaching to the Roman Centurion Cornelius and retold what occurred. Mary was part of the early church and shouldn’t be forgotten as being part of the church and it’s growing history. When did she leave Jerusalem as there is strong evidence that she left with the Apostle John to Ephesus after the death of James, her second oldest, or before the fall of Jerusalem by the Roman legions under Titus. It is said she died in Ephesus with the Apostle John looking after her as Jesus had told John to do. She remained faithful to the end and served her God and Messiah to the end of her days a true handmaiden of the Lord.

REFERENCES/RECOMMENDATIONS

Bible. (KJV).

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

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

The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Acts 1-12. By. John MacArthur.

Mathew: Evangelist And Teacher: New Testament Profiles. By. R. T. France.

Mathew: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. By. R. T. France.

Acts: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. By. I. Howard Marshall.

The Message Of Acts. By. John R. W. Stott.

John, Son Of Thunder. By. Ellen Gunderson Traylor. (Novel).

Mark:Eyewitness. By. Ellen Gunderson Traylor. (Novel).

Mary Magdalene. By. Ellen Gunderson Traylor. (Novel).