From the Depths


As he sat in the hospital waiting for the doctor’s word on his son, Ron pondered every conceivable question.  Why is this happening?  What did my son do to deserve this type of treatment?  What is the purpose in all of this?  As questions continued to arise, he placed his tear-filled eyes into his hands and wept like all was lost.  It was then he began to remember happier times.

Six years earlier, Ron and his wife, Barbara, had been surprised by the news that she was pregnant.  Although the child was unplanned by them, they understood God had bigger plans for this child.  They began to adjust their lives anticipating the arrival of their little baby.  Ron worked feverishly to ensure that most of the necessary construction on his house was completed, while Barbara picked out colors and cribs.

After the arrival of their baby boy, things went well for them.  He began to grow as most children do, making up words, playing with their toys and learning to say, “No.”  For the first five years of his life, David appeared to develop normally.  It wasn’t until the elementary school called indicating that David failed a hearing test.

David had experienced ear infections for most of his life.  Sometimes medication didn’t work, sometimes it did.  In all cases, it appeared that he was healed every time.  There were no “red flags’ that entered the mind of Ron or Barbara.  Now their biggest fear became a reality.  David had a tumor that needed to be removed, otherwise he could die.

The doctor called it cholesteatoma tumor, a non-cancerous tumor inside the ear that eats away at bones and cartilage.  Normally, it wasn’t fatal, but in David’s case, they feared that due to the size of the tumor, it would begin to eat at the base of the skull.  It was the worst news they had ever heard.  Never did either of them understand how or why this happened.  The doctor speculated David may have been born with it, while another possibility was one of his earlier infections created the tumor.  In either case, no one knew how or where this tumor came from.

Ron had sat with his son in the waiting room of the hospital.  He watched his son play with various toys as if there was nothing wrong.  The anesthesiologist entered the room with a smile on his face.  He carried a small cup of clear liquid and called David over to him.  David gladly took the drink and within minutes began to feel sleepy.  Ron and Barbara knew the time had come for doctors to attempt to remove the tumor.

Ron dressed in the suit provided by the hospital.  Dressed in white from head to toe, Ron didn’t cry.  In his mind, he didn’t have time for that.  This time was for David.  His son needed him more than ever.  Fully dressed, Ron picked up his son and carried him down the hallway.  As Ron looked back, he could see Barbara place her head on her mother’s shoulder and cry like the world was lost.  Not being able to bear the sight, Ron turned his head and followed the nurse.

They approached a small room, where every electronic contraption could be found.  Large lights were overhead, a heart rate monitor was to his right and the operating table was straight ahead.  Behind the table was where the anesthesiologist stood waiting for David to ensure he was fully asleep.  Looking around, the doctor stood there encouraging Ron with a smile as if to indicate that all would be okay.  Ron doubting the situation wanted to run with his son in his arms, but knew that wouldn’t be the best decision.  David had this foreign tumor and it needed to be removed.

Ron carefully placed David on the table before him.  The doctor placed a mask on David’s face and asked Ron to leave.  Ron leaned over his son, kissed his head and whispered, “Don’t worry, everything will be alright.  Jesus is with you.”  It was then that faith turned into a reality.  Did Ron really believe this?  Was what he read really true?  Was God really with his son through this?  Ron lifted his head, nodded at the doctor to say, “He is in your hands now”, turned and walked away.

The poor nurse assigned to escort Ron back to the waiting area, placed her hand on his back and said, “Everything will be okay.  Your son is in the best hands.”  Not desiring to listen to anyone or hear any words of encouragement, Ron just turned to the nurse and crudely stated, “Please be quiet.  I don’t want to talk with you right now.”  The nurse, having wisdom, just smiled and continued the silent walk back to the waiting area.

After checking on his wife, Ron decided it was time for him to get some air.  He told Barbara that he was going outside.  Barbara didn’t acknowledge Ron, but Ron understood that she heard him but didn’t care because her baby boy was undergoing surgery.  Ron slowly turned toward the door and walked outside picking up his cell phone.

As Ron stood in the sun he decided to call one of his friends, Bobby.  Bobby had helped Ron understand many different situations in life.  Bobby was a temporary pastor at his church and had walked with him through the process, thus far.  Now Ron needed to work through this so Bobby was his best choice.  The phone rang and Ron heard the comforting voice of his dear friend.

“Ron, how are you?  How is everything with David?” asked Bobby.

“He’s in surgery right now”, stated Ron with an exacting voice.

“So then the question is… how are you?”

With tears in his eyes and a fluttering voice Ron shared, “Bobby, I don’t understand.  God gave us this child.  Why did He allow this to happen?  David didn’t do anything to deserve this.  Why is this happening?”

With the wisdom of God on his mind and sympathy in his voice, Bobby said, “I wish I could understand, but I cannot.  Have you cried out to God and ask Him?”

“No.  Right now I am angry with God and don’t want him to be angry with me.”

“Bobby, didn’t Job cry out to God?  Don’t you think he was angry?  He lost everything, his home, his worldly wealth, his health and even all of his children.  Even King David cried out to God in his time in need.  In fact, on the cross, Jesus cried out, ‘Father, why have you forsaken me?’ Cry out to Him.  He will answer”, encouraged Bobby.

Ron thanked him for his time and comfort and agreed that crying out to God directly was the best way to understand the situation.  Although, Ron didn’t feel like talking with God, he understood that was the only way to possibly get answers to his questions.

As he sat in the hospital waiting for the doctor’s word on his son, Ron pondered every conceivable question.  Why is this happening?  What did my son do to deserve this type of treatment?  What is the purpose in all of this?  As questions continued to arise, he placed his tear-filled eyes into his hands and wept like all was lost.  He cried out to God and said, “Why?  Why is this happening?  What has David done to deserve this?  There are so many others out there who have done worse, so why can’t you punish them?”

No answer came.  As Ron continued to cry out to God but over the course of the next few hours, the questions became demands.  “God, why aren’t you answering me?!  I demand an answer.  I can’t handle this situation.  You said you wouldn’t give me anything I can’t handle.  God, where are you?!”

Again, no answer came.  Just as Ron was giving up on his prayers, the doctor came out, still clothed in hospital scrubs.  As she approached, she told them, “Ron, Barbara.  I want to let you know that David is doing okay.  He is currently resting but unfortunately, he will have to do this again in six months.  We attempted to get all of it but we cannot do any more until then.  I know it has been over five hours, but the next surgery shouldn’t be long.  After David wakes up, you can take him home.”

Another surgery?  Ron and Barbara didn’t fully understand why their precious little boy needed anther surgery but trusted the doctor for her experience and knowledge.  Questions flooded Ron’s mind once again.  What was happening?  Why to his little boy?  All he could do is get his son, take him home and give him the care he needed.

Six months later, the second surgery came.  Once again, they found themselves in the waiting room with their son.  Again, the questions flooded Ron’s mind.  As they waited for the doctor, their son was in the play area putting together some puzzles.  Not far from David, was another little boy who appeared to be crying and whimpering in his mother’s arms.  Curious about the situation David approached the little boy and asked, “Why are you crying?”

The boy’s mother replied, “He has to go into surgery.”

Overhearing David’s conversation, Barbara asked the crying boy’s mother, “Oh, what kind of surgery?”

“Tubes.  It’s a pretty long surgery, about an one and a half hours.”

Barbara just smiled and said, “I understand.  Our son needs surgery in his ears too.”

The boy’s mother responded, “Tubes?”

Barbara mustered all of the strength she could find and replied, “No.  I wish it was.  My son is having another surgery to remove a cholesteatoma tumor.”

“Oh I’m sorry.  Here I am crying over this silly procedure, while your son has a more serious situation”, the boy’s mother stated while wiping tears from her eyes.

Barbara responded, “Don’t worry about it.  Our son already had one surgery, so this should be his last.”

“How long is your son’s surgery?” asked the mother.

“The first one was about six hours but this one should only be two or three hours.”

The other mother appeared shocked and the look on her face resembled that of a statue with the expression of shock and disbelief.  Barbara and the boy’s mother continued their conversation when something incredible happened.  David turned toward the boy and said, “Let’s play a game” and took the boy by the hand and led him to the video game console.

“What just happened?” asked the boy’s mother.

Ron realized that something special was happening.  He had seen God work before, but never like this.  God was working through his son in order to bring comfort and compassion.  Before the mother could ask the question a second time, Ron responded, “God is working through my son to reach your son.”

It was about that time that the anesthesiologist came forward and called David’s name.  Once again, David was given a small drink which made him “sleepy”.  Ron then picked up his son and carried him back to the same operating table they had visited six months prior.  He laid his little boy down, kissed him once again and smiled at the doctor to acknowledge his approval of her skills.

A couple of hours passed and Ron and Barbara waited patiently for the doctor’s good word.  No one came.  They inquired from the front desk, who called for the doctor, but no response came.  “What’s happening?  Why is it taking it so long?” were questions that raced through their minds.  Another hour passes, no word from the doctor.  After another six hour surgery, the doctor emerged with a smile on her face.

“I’m sorry I didn’t respond earlier, but there were minor complications.  The tumor had grown back so we needed to remove the tumor again and continue with the second stage of surgery.  Your son is resting now but all is well.  I believe we got it totally this time”, said the doctor with confidence.

Ron and Barbara finally felt relief.  Their son had been healed.  Ron still questioned God, but realized that the battle was over.  Their son would completely recover from his ailment.  He may not be able to hear but at least he would live.  Satisfied with the doctor’s results, they took David home and cared for him.

A few years went by and there was no sign of the tumor.  Only the scar behind his ear became the evidence of a prior complication.  One afternoon, Barbara took David to the doctor for a routine checkup.  It was there, the world was turned upside down once again.  The doctor warned, “I am sorry but the tumor grew back.”

Devastated by the news, Barbara asked, “Is it fatal?”

The doctor turned and said, “No.  It is operable, but I recommend a full ear canal wall down.”

Seeing the confused look on Barbara’s face, the doctor continued, “It means that he will no longer have an ear canal.  We will remove it completely, so that if this ever happens in the future, we can take care of it right here.”

This news brought a sense of relief to Barbara, but how would she tell Ron?  He had been questioning God since the last two surgeries.  Would he completely flip out and turn away from God or would he respond by going to God?  This, unfortunately, was a risk she was going to have to take.  No matter the outcome, she would stand by Ron and pray that he would respond properly.

She picked up her cell phone and dialed Ron at work.

“Hello”, said Ron.

“Hi honey”, Barbara stated with hesitancy.

“What’s wrong Barb?”

“David needs another surgery.”

The news was crushing.  It was as if his heart had been ripped out of his chest and placed into a trash compactor.  Everything hurt.  His body, mind and soul ached with pain beyond comparison.  It was then Barbara interrupted his self pity session, “Ron.  It’s operable.  The doctor will remove his ear canal and remove the tumor once again.  Once completed, they will be able to do it in the office so that David doesn’t have to go through this again.”

There was some sense of comfort to that news, even though his life felt crushed.  At least David would only have to go through this one more time.  Ron, however, knew that he needed to carry his little boy once again and place him onto the operating table.  The toughest of tasks he ever encountered was once again upon him.  Would he be able to do it again?  Would he loose his mind?  As he contemplated each of these questions, he remembered his first thought, ‘At least David would only have to go through this one more time.’

Weeks went by as Barbara and Ron prepared David for the final surgery.  Day after day they would answer David’s questions.  “Why is this happening to me?  Is God really there?  What will happen after this surgery?  Will I get sick again from the ‘sleepy medicine’?”  David has a number of significant and relevant questions.  After the first two surgeries, David had gotten very sick and didn’t want to leave the hospital.  Although the doctors and nurses gave him an anti-nausea shot, David’s body continued to react negatively.  Vomiting, stomach cramps, headaches and pain surrounded David after every surgery.  For David, the nightmare was going to continue.  Was this going to ever end?

On one occasion, David asked Ron, “Daddy, is Jesus really with me during my surgery?”

Understanding the fear in David’s mind, Ron responded, “Absolutely.  Jesus is always with you.  He never leaves us alone.”

“How do we know?” asked David.

Holding back the tears, Ron responded, “Jesus told us this in the Bible”.  It was then Ron waited for the response he thought he would get.  However, David was to respond in a different manner.

“Well, Daddy.  If you believe that, then so do I.  I love you, Daddy”.

No longer could Ron hold back his feelings.  Tears began streaming down his cheeks.  He opened his arms and David gladly embraced his father giving comfort and relief.  Attempting to control his composure, Ron looked into David’s eyes and said, “Thank you.  You helped Daddy today.”

“How?” asked David with a curious look.

“You helped me believe what God has told me.”

“What did he tell you?”

“He told me that this wasn’t about me.  It was about you.  God told me He was going to use these problems for your life.  I don’t know exactly what this means, but I do trust Him to complete the work He has started.”

David smiled.  He didn’t quite understand what Ron meant, but he knew if his daddy was happy then so was he.

The day of the final surgery came.  Once again, the anesthesiologist gave David the “sleepy medicine” but this time asked him a question.

“David, now that you are older.  Do you want to walk in on your own or would you like a wheelchair?”

David thought for a moment and looked up at Ron as if to ask for his approval.

“Would you like for me to carry you in again?” asked Ron.

David then looked at the anesthesiologist and with a sense of confidence and said, “I think I will walk in.  Can my daddy come too?”

With a smile on his face the anesthesiologist looked at Ron while bending down to David’s height and said, “Sure.  He can come too.”

David then grabbed Ron’s hand and walked down the hospital corridors to the operating room.  This was the first time David had seen it with his own eyes.  The other two times, David remembered falling asleep while waiting.  Fear began to encompass the young boy’s mind and body.  He knew he couldn’t turn back but he was scared.  David turned to Ron and asked, “Daddy, can you stay with me until I fall asleep?”

Ron smiled and said, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

They entered the operating room and Ron picked up David and placed him on the table.  While the doctors prepared the anesthesia machine, David held Ron’s hand.  Recognizing David’s fear, Ron bent over to kiss David.  He then assisted the doctors in placing the mask over David’s nose and mouth.  Ron then told David, “Remember, Jesus is with you and I’ll be right here when you wake up.”

David continued to hold Ron’s hand, gripping Ron tighter and tighter to let him know that David didn’t want his daddy to leave.  A few seconds later, David’s eyes drew heavy and his hand slowly released Ron’s hand.  Ron then knew it was the doctor’s moment.  Ron turned to the doctor and said, “This is my boy.  Please take care of him.”

The doctor acknowledged Ron and said, “As a parent, you have my word.”

Ron turned around and met the nurse in the hallway who was to assist him in getting back to the waiting area.  As Ron met up with Barbara, he embraced his wife and comforted her once again.  Both knew this was the last surgery, but it still didn’t make it any easier.  Emotions flared from one extreme to the next, from happiness to sadness, from smiling to depression.  Each moment was different from the next.  As they once again waited for the doctor to say she was done, Ron decided to take a walk outside.

Once there, Ron decided it was time to do business with God.  He hated the random thoughts that flooded his mind and wanted help to get them in order.  Standing by the ledge, Ron gripped it with both hands, looked up toward the sky and said, “Lord.  I know you are in control of all things.  You have shown me how faithful you are.  Even when I am not faithful, you are.  Please let me know if this is truly the last surgery.  I know you won’t give your children anything they can’t handle, but I am not sure if Barbara, David or I can go through this again.”

Ron then patiently waited for a response.  Almost immediately, his random thoughts became order.  Where there was disorder in his mind, now had a sense of organization.  As Ron searched his thoughts, he was reminded something Jesus told his disciples.  He remembered that during his final meal with his disciples, after his resurrection, Jesus told them to “baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.  Teaching them everything I command to you.”

Although Ron didn’t believe in trusting his thoughts normally, nor did he believe in numerology, Ron believed that this portion of God’s work was going to be complete.  He thought to himself, “The first surgery was for the Father, the second for the Son and this one for the Holy Spirit.  All of these surgeries were so that each member of the God-head could take part in working in David’s life.  Each one desired to do a work but each work was with one purpose, to bring David closer to God.”

Excited to hear this word from God, Ron immediately shared it with Barbara.  Although they would not have confirmation for years to come, Ron believed that God was done with teaching David this way.  It was God’s special way of reaching out to David and carrying him through the dark times of his life.  It was in their darkest moment, that God revealed Himself to their hurting souls.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. “ – Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)

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The Shadow of Death


He awoke with sudden shock which made his hands shake, his heart race and nausea filled his stomach.  As he tried to gain his composure, his mind raced with possibilities.  Where was he?  What happened?  How did he get here?  With every possible answer, came another question and with every question, fear entered his mind.

In order to attempt composure, he remembered songs that his mother had sung when he was a little boy.  Every night, his mother would sit at his bedside and make up songs about the day.  She sang soft and sweet.  Every song, a lullaby.  Every note, a soothing agent.  No matter how bad or good his day went, she always sang with her gentle, soothing voice.  Even the angriest of animals would be lulled to sleep when she sang.

Once he was ready to sleep, she would sing her last note and say, “Goodnight my David.  Remember, Jesus never sleeps.”

“Jesus never sleeps”, David thought.  Unfortunately, this gave no consolation to his current predicament.  He knew his eyes were open, but nothing could be seen.  Neither height, nor depth, nor width of his surroundings were known to him.  Darkness enveloped his very being.  All he knew, was when he stretched out his hands, no walls or ceiling were present.  Only the floor was detected, a dirt floor with some small rocks.  Again, the thoughts raced, “Where am I?  How did I get here?  Am I blind?”  The unknown became the messenger of fear.  The more his realization of the unknown, the more he feared.

“Hello!” David cried.  “Is anyone out there?  Help!”

No answer came.  Only the echo of his own voice.  Again David cried out, “HELP!  I can’t see!  Anyone, please help me.”

Frozen with fear, David felt he couldn’t move because he couldn’t see.  If he moved, how would he know where to go?  Would he fall?  What if something attacked him?  How would he defend himself without sight?  His fears became so great that his mind tortured his soul with such force that his body responded with paralysis.

Moments later, he heard a voice, “David.  Are you there?”

David thought to himself, “I must be hearing things.”

The voice came a second time, “David.  Are you there?”

Knowing, beyond doubt, David cried out, “Yes! I’m here!  Help me!”

“Follow my voice.  It’s the only way!”

David thought, “How can I follow a voice?  What if they bring me deeper into this place?  What if this is a trap?”  Gaining some composure, David yelled, “How can I trust you?”

“Follow my voice.  It’s the only way”, the voice said a second time.

“But how can I trust you?”

“Follow my voice.  It’s the only way.”

Although David knew he didn’t have many options, he also understood that following this voice may be the only way to survive.  With extreme caution, David bent down on his hands and knees and began his journey crawling in the direction he thought the voice was coming from.

“That’s it David, crawl toward me”, the voice exclaimed.

While David continued his crawl, he realized the voice had exclaimed something extraordinary.  The voice knew he was crawling.  He couldn’t see anything or anyone, so how did the voice know he was on his hands and knees?  David began to fear again.  What if this voice was leading him away from the exit?  Would there be enough air for him to breathe?  Suddenly, David stopped and sat with his legs crossed, as he didn’t know what was around him.

“Why did you stop, David?”

“How did you know I stopped?”

“David, follow my voice.  It’s the only way.”

David didn’t know what to do.  Was he to continue his journey or sit there and wonder how he would survive this ordeal?  Almost instantaneously, David remembered something else his mother had done with him as a child; she held his hand until he fell asleep.  Every night she sang, his mother would also hold his hand as if to reassure him that everything was going to be okay.   Her tender touch would bring his mind to ease and his heart to calm.

“David, follow my voice.  It’s the only way”, the voice said again and again.  Every few minutes the voice would reach out and call to David to start his journey again.  Over and over, the voice called to him, sometimes loud, sometimes soft.  It was then David began to analyze the voice.  It was a soothing, soft man’s voice.  It was as if the voice understood his feelings and gently called out to David.  The times which were louder, David felt that the voice wanted a response.  The softer times, the voice just wanted to let him know it was still there.

After thinking of his mother, he decided to continue his journey on all fours once again.  David propped himself to the awkward position and began to travel toward the voice once more.  It was then David noticed his hands and knees began to hurt.  Rawness started to encroach on his flesh.  Movement led to pain and pain to fear.  Suddenly, David felt moisture on his hands and knees.  He didn’t hear water so could only assume the crawl had taken a toll on him.  He feared he was starting to bleed.  David didn’t understand why this was happening to him or why.

The voice cried out, “David.  Get up and walk.  It’s the only way.”

David got up as if to say, “I trust you”.  Although attempting to stand bore more pain, a different kind of pain, he knew the voice was right.  From his crawl position, he was able to get to his feet.  After a moment of stretching his muscles into proper position, he started to take his first steps.

Each step was more daunting than the next.  He wasn’t sure how to walk in the dark as like most people, rely on sight to accomplish this task.  With each step he stumbled.  Left in front of right and right in front of left was the mantra he repeated to himself.  Every so often, he would fall from a loose rock or dizziness.  He would then hear the voice and get back up and continue the journey step by step.

Without warning, he saw a white dot in the distance.  What was it?  Could it be?  A sliver of light appeared in front of him.  When he saw the light, it changed his mentality and attitude.  He realized that fear was gone and pain was diminishing.  It was then he heard, “David, continue toward the light.  It’s the only way.”

David wanted to run and even tried.  However, when he ran, he would fall causing pain and fear to reenter into his body, mind and soul.  He decided that walking was the better of choices.  At least he would only stumble occasionally.  With every step, the light grew and when the light grew, so did hope.  David knew the end of his journey was in sight, or so he thought.

Suddenly, David took one wrong step and fell.  His fall was not like the others.  He fell on his back and slid hard and fast.  As he slid, he tried to stop but could not.  Finally, he slowed down and came to a stop.  As he rolled over to prop himself up, he looked around and didn’t see the light.  What had happened?  Did he slide that far back?  Fear and pain began to grow while he felt hope was lost.  He sat down once again and cried.

“David, follow my voice.  It’s the only way”, the voice called out.

Like before, the voice called out over and over again as if to motivate David to continue his journey.  This time, David did not wallow in fear and pain.  He called back, “Okay, I’ll try again.”

The voice said, “When I tell you, reach to your left.”

David didn’t understand what the voice meant, but since the voice brought him to the light, he figured the voice knew something he didn’t.  David continued his slow journey step by step.  This time he didn’t stumble as much.  He barely tripped or fell.  After what seemed like hours, David heard the voice call to him once again, “Reach to your left”.

Trusting the voice, David reached out with this left hand and slowly moved it toward his left, circling up and down attempting to grasp at whatever may have been there.   At that moment, it felt like, something brushed his fingers.  He wasn’t sure, got on his knees and reached out with both hands.  After a few minutes of flailing his arms in front of him, David gripped the object that brushed his hand.  To his surprise, the object felt braided and course.  It was a rope.  He gripped the rope with both hands and raised himself to his feet.

As he held the rope, he looked up and saw the light again.  This time, it was bigger than ever.  It appeared to be almost the size of a full moon on a clear summer night.  David then realized his journey was going to end.  Once again, fear and pain seemed to be swept away by the freedom of hope.

David started to reflect on this journey and realized one question remained, how did he get there to begin with?  He remembered hiking in the woods and pitching his tent.  He remembered the fire he created to keep warn and cook some food.  He remembered falling asleep and waking up to a noise outside of his tent.  He remembered wanting to fall back asleep but kept tossing and turning due to the anxiety he felt from the forest noises.

As he continued to climb, he thought to himself, “Maybe this is a dream?  Maybe this isn’t real.”  He continued to rummage through various thoughts and scenarios in an effort to answer his questions.  However, just as before, no answer came.  It was then David realized that he hadn’t heard the voice in a while.  He stopped climbing to rest and catch his breath.  David then shouted, “Voice, are you still there?”

No answer came.

“Voice”, he said a second time, “Are you still there?”

Again, no answer came.

David mumbled, “I knew you would leave me.  Everyone else has.”  As David wallowed in his state of loneliness, he realized that the light was not only peering but also exposing his surroundings.  David looked around and noticed he was surrounded by dirt and rocks.  David realized he was in a cave.  He also noticed that a small, shallow body of water was within reach.  It was then David realized how thirsty he was.  As the feeling of thirst grew, David willed himself to his feet and began to walk toward the body of water.  Then David heard something strange, it was running water.

Bending down, he dipped his hands into the body of water and took a long drink.  He had hoped the water was not contaminated but without thinking, he drank the water until his thirst was satisfied.  After a few more minutes of rest, David felt that he needed to continue to leave this place, this cave of fear and pain.  He rose from his spot, walked over to the rope and continued his climb.

What seemed like days later, David was able to let go of the rope.  The incline became flat.  David realized his journey was about to end.  He could now see the outside world.  Hope then became belief.  David now knew he was about to leave this cave of fear and pain.  As David reached the opening to the cave, he heard the voice once again, “David.  Welcome to my fields.”

David looked around but didn’t see anyone.  He responded, “Where are you?”

“I am here, but you cannot see me right now”, the voice exclaimed.  “Listen to my words and obey my commands.”

David wasn’t sure if he wanted to listen or obey but decided to respond rather harshly, “You left me!  I was alone in there and you left me.  I cried out to you but you did not respond.  Why?”

The voice responded, “Who was it that led you to the light?  Who was it that led you to the rope?  Who was it that placed you there?  Who was it that subdued your fear and pain?”

David couldn’t respond.  He lowered his head feeling weakness and shame.  David then recognized, the voice had been with him the entire journey.  While David sulked with shame and disbelief, the voice said, “My son, don’t feel shame or disbelief.  You followed my voice.  You followed my light.  Well done.  Now I have something else for you to do.  Look behind you.”

David lifted his head and slowly turned around.  He saw a torch, some food and a container to hold water on a large boulder.  As he walked toward the items on the boulder, the voice said to him, “Take those items and go back into the cave.  There search the cave and look for others who have heard my voice or seen my light.  Help them on their journey.  Encourage them that the end is near.  Teach them about the rope, how to trust in the voice and light and not to worry about the ‘what if’ thoughts.  Lead them out of the cave and into this field.”

David looked up and asked, “But how will I know who they are?  How many are there?  Why did you place us there?”  Questions ravaged his mind.  He was confused as to what had really happened.

“David”, the voice said, “Do you remember last night when you cried out to me?  When you asked me to help you out of your problems?”

Suddenly, David remembered that just before he fell asleep, he cried out to God asking him for help.  He didn’t want to waste his life and wanted a new direction.  It was then David realized who he was talking to.

“Lord, forgive my doubt”, David responded.

With a sense of compassion, the voice said to David, “Do not worry about how many or why.  All I ask is that you do what I commanded you.  Others need you.  I need you.  Therefore, go and enter the cave.  Help others believe.”

David gripped the items on the boulder.  He approached the opening to the cave and lit the torch.  One last question plagued his mind, “How will I know when my task is done?”

The voice responded, “When you see Me, then you will be finished.”

“When will I see you?” asked David.

“When you are finished”, the voice responded.

David realized every answer had a question, but not every question deserved an answer.              As he entered the mouth of the cave, he saw an inscription on the wall.  The inscription said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.”  David then remembered the words of his mother, “Jesus never sleeps.”  With comfort on his mind and with a sigh of anticipation, David entered the cave and searched for others that were like him.  Those that are afraid.  Those that are hurting.  Those who have no hope.  As David found others, he would tell them about his journey, his struggles and his discoveries.  He would remind them about the voice and show them the light.  David now lived the journey that once overtook him with fear and pain.  Finally, David understood that this life was not about him.  It was about finding and helping others to see the Light and hear the voice of God.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been give to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Jesus Christ.  (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)

God Bless and encourage someone today.

The Mara Tree


It had finally come true.  His dreams were finally happening.  John never expected his dream to own a farm would ever come true, but it was about to become a reality.  Anxiously sitting in the bank, he nervously waited for the banker to come in with the completed paperwork.  As his leg shook incessantly, he looked around, like a child waiting to see their favorite movie character.  After a few minutes, the bank official entered the small office.

“Here we are.  All documents have been finalized and you are now the proud owner of the farmland.  Congratulations John”, said the bank official.

With paperwork in hand, John gleefully walked out of the bank, singing one of his favorite songs.  As he was about to leave the bank, he stopped at the glass door, turned around and yelled, “Thank you!” to the bank official, who was smiling and waving him goodbye.

That was almost 20 years ago.  He couldn’t believe it had been that long.  Sitting in his tractor, tilling the land for planting, John had been reminiscing about times past.  Good times and bad, happy and sad times, times of great harvest and times of famine.  He had been placing himself on the emotional rollercoaster ensuring that he had traveled the right path.

As the tractor came to the last edges of his land, he turned off the engine and just sat there in the quietness.  A gentle breeze massaged his body and mind.  The sun wasn’t as strong as it could be but was warm enough to satisfy any chilled bones.  John took off his hat to wipe the sweat off of his brow.  He reached down for his thermos and poured a cup of hot coffee, black with sugar, and sat with his feet up on the edge of the tractor.

John thought to himself, “This year should be a very good year.”  However, John also knew that what he grew this year was of such significance for the next 7 years as he would start a new harvest during that time.  If the land was on his side, he could harvest enough fruit and vegetables for several thousand families.  The key to success was the crops he would plant.

The next day, John began the process of planting various fruits and vegetables.  Apple trees would take years but the return on his investment would be ten-fold.  Corn, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and other such vegetables, would line the interior of his land.

A few months after planting, he noted that there was a gap in the middle of his farm.  It was as if nothing was planted there.  The center of his farm appeared desolate and lifeless.  John said, “I know I planted vegetables here, so why is nothing growing?”  John didn’t understand what was going on, so he decided to investigate with some professional land surveyors.

Over the next few weeks, John met with different professional land surveyors.  They explained that on his land, if the soil was too acidic, nothing would grow there.  Some thought a mole or rabbit had settled just beneath the surface, while others told him that his seeds were bad in that area.  Unfortunately, none gave John an explanation that he could accept.  All seemed to be guesses or riddles that could not be answered.

As John contemplated the reasons for this phenomenon, a man called from the distance.  He was a slender man with a business hat and a briefcase.  He waved one hand in the air and greeted with a joy that John had never seen before.

“Greetings John.  My name is Mr. Natas and I can give you an answer to your dilemma.”

John curiously looked and remarked, “Oh you can, can you?  I have had several professionals come here only to give me nothing but guesses and stories.”

“I understand John.  This is not the first time someone has doubted me”, claimed Mr. Natas.  “But I will tell you an answer and one that I am sure you will be pleased with.”

John knew he had no choice.  He didn’t have any answers but maybe this Mr. Natas could guide him in the right direction.  “So, Mr. Natas, if I let you help, what is your fee?”

“Nothing”, Mr. Natas responded.

“Nothing?” asked John.

“Nothing.  All I ask is that you pass along whatever I give you to someone else.”

That didn’t sound difficult.  Here was someone who could give John and answer and all John had to do was pass along whatever was given to him by Mr. Natas.  John gladly responded, “I agree.”

Mr. Natas smiled and placed his briefcase on top of picnic table.  His thumbs wound the combination and unlocked the briefcase.  He opened the top and pulled out a small envelope and a piece of paper.  He placed both of the items on the table and said, “Here is a single seed of Mara fruit.  It is one of the most beautiful and best tasting fruit you have every encountered.  It doesn’t take long to harvest, nor does it take several seasons to produce.  Once you plant the seed, it will grow within a month and will produce fruit in less than three months.  All I ask is that you sign here agreeing to the terms of sharing the fruit to your friends and family.  Remember, this fruit is desirable by all once seen.  Sign here please.”

John picked up the pen, which appeared old but distinguished.  He looked into Mr. Natas’ eyes to see if there was anything that would stop him from signing.  As he peered into Mr. Natas’ eyes, John could see innocence and love.  With calmness and ease, John signed the paper and handed it to Mr. Natas.  Both John and Mr. Natas said their goodbyes.  As Mr. Natas walked away, he turned and said, “Remember, you agreed to share this fruit.  Share it well.”

John opened the envelope and saw the small seed.  It was one of the tiniest seeds he had ever seen.  Doubt started to overcome his mind.  What if Mr. Natas was wrong?  What if the seed didn’t grow?  All John knew was that if this didn’t work, his dream of continuing to be a farmer may be in jeopardy.  John cautiously planted the seed in the middle of the desolate land and hoped for the best.

A month passed by and John wanted to see where his new fruit tree was growing.  He ran out to the middle of the farm and came to the spot where he planted the seed Mr. Natas had given him.  He looked around but saw nothing.  All around him was desolation and dust.  Nothing had grown.  He had been lied to, again.

Anger welled up in John.  So much so, that he picked up a rock by his feet and hurled it with all his might toward the other crops while screaming at the top of his lungs.   Why would so many people take advantage of him?  Why would Mr. Natas have the gall to lie to him during his time of desperation?  John never understood why this happens to him.

As John wallowed in his anger and sadness, tears flowed from his eyes and hands.  As he cried wondering what he was going to do next, he noticed something unusual.  Where his tears touch the ground, a small stem grew.  Had that been there before?  Was this the famous Mara tree?  John gained his composure and stared at the tiny stem.  Thinking he just missed it, he began to jump for joy but he couldn’t stop thinking about those who ripped him off.

Days went by and the plant grew more and more.  He remembered that in a few short months he would be able to begin his harvest.  He wondered if the small tree would produce a crop like he had been previously promised by Mr. Natas.

 

Finally, the day of harvesting came.  John and his wife began the process of bringing in all of the fruits and vegetables for their market.  As John’s wife, Ella, came toward the center of the farm, she noticed how the small tree had no fruit.  She had not been pleased with John the day he told her about the tree.  She thought it was odd that someone would simply help them without a standard fee or royalty.  She shouted, “John, come here.  I need to show you something.”

John stopped his work and ran to his wife.  “What is it darling?”

“Look at this stupid tree.  What do you see?”

John looked up at the small tree and said, “I see a small tree with leaves.”

“Exactly”, she exclaimed, “No fruit.  I told you this was a bad investment.  Now what will we do?  How will we survive?  We needed this fruit to survive?”

Frustration and bitterness welled up in John’s spirit.  They had argued over this small tree for days.  Over and over again, they argued over what to do and how to do it.  Ella wanted him to build another barn in the center as it would make harvesting easier.  But John knew that if his crops didn’t produce enough this year, they might lose the farm.  Not knowing how to answer, John ignored her comments and walked away.

Suddenly, Ella turned and saw something magical.  A small piece of purple fruit hung in between the branches.  She knew it wasn’t there before.  How did it get there?  She picked the purple fruit and thought, “This looks amazing.  I wonder how it tastes?”  She knew John didn’t know about it but wanted to taste it more and more.  As she held the fruit, she could feel a sense of desire like she never felt before.  It was as if the fruit called to her.  She brought the fruit to her mouth and took a large bite.  Juices flowed from the fruit and the sides of her mouth.  The taste was unlike anything she had ever had.  Sweet, yet tangy or maybe sour.  Whatever it was, it was the most appetizing fruit she had ever tasted.  She quickly wiped off her mouth, dropped what was left and continued to harvest the crops.

 

A week later, John and Ella continued to fight over the tree and many other things.  The work on the house, the chores in the barn and even the color of paint to use inside the living room was what they argued about.  After their yelling and screaming match, they would storm out of the house and continue the harvest.

Every basket had something in it.  Vegetables and fruits came in droves.  Their stand continued to be full but not as many people stopped by to purchase goods.  It became so bad that their fruit and vegetables started to turn rancid.  It was then they started to argue about that as well.

One morning, John walked the fields trying to understand what was happening to him and Ella.  As he walked he entered the center of his farm and noted the large amount of harvestable fruit on the Mara tree.  It was then he decided to harvest the tree and give away the fruit as he had promised Mr. Natas.

He walked to all of his neighbors and even into town to give away the fruit.  As he was told, many people wanted the fruit.  They saw how desirable it was and even tried to give John money toward the fruit.  John said, “No thank you.  I promised I would give it away.  But if you would like, I have other fruits and vegetables to sell.”

No one appeared interested.  They only wanted the Mara fruit.  As Ella experienced, it was juicy with a sweet and sour taste.  As they ate more, they desired more.  John was able to give away all of the fruit he harvested.  Some began to ask for more, but when John explained that he had no more, the people began to yell and curse.  How could he tempt them with such desire?

Toward the end of the harvest season, John noticed something that made him curious.  More Mara trees had grown but not just in the center of the farm but around the rest of the crops as well.  All had fruit and all were ripe.

When John brought this observation to Ella, both Ella and John wondered how this happened.  John began to monitor the situation to see if any more trees began to sprout.  Over the next few days, John noticed that he no longer had a harvest of corn, tomatoes or other fruits or vegetables.  He only had a harvest of Mara fruit.

John decided to look at a copy of his agreement to see if he was able to sell the Mara fruit.  He dug through some papers and came across his contract.  As he read it, fear overcame his whole being.  His contract stated that the fruit had to be given away and never sold.  But what about his other crops?  Wherever the Mara trees grew, his other crops suffered and died.  How was he supposed to make a living giving away Mara fruit?

As John stood and pondered his situation, he looked up and saw a mirror.  He saw an image of a man he had never seen before.  This man was old and tired.  A man who appeared to be hungry and hopeless.  It was then he realized he was looking at himself.  He held the contract up in disbelief and spoke into the mirror, “How could you have done this?  How could you be so stupid?”  As John continued to beat himself up he suddenly noticed something in the mirror.  The signature of Mr. Natas appeared to read something else.  The “N” had a long arrow pointing down and the “S” formed the image of a serpent hissing.  What intrigued him more was the spelling of Mr. Natas’ name.  In the mirror the contract signature read, “sataN”.

It was then John realized, he had given root to Satan.  He allowed his desires to cloud his judgment.  John had allowed Satan to opportunity to destroy his goals and dreams.  He ran out of his house, screaming with ax in hand.  One after the other he chopped down every Mara tree on the farm, hoping to save his other crops.  No matter how hard he tried, more and more trees sprung out of the ground bearing the Mara fruit.

Day and night John fought with the land.  He continued to chop down tree after tree.  Pulling up saplings that looked like the Mara tree.  When the sun rose the next day, John looked over the land and noticed every crop had been uprooted except that of the Mara trees.  It was then John realized that every bitter thought and every angry action caused a Mara tree to grow.  He also realized that giving away the fruit caused more pain and suffering to him and Ella.

No more did John live his dream.  No more could John and Ella survive on the farm.  They abandoned all hopes and dreams and rode to the city in the hope of one day returning to the farm.  For now they needed to understand and learn that when the root of bitterness enters a life, it ruins not just the one person, but also others surrounding them.

 

God bless and encourage someone today.

Upon the Sacred Sand


The waves gently crashed against the shore.  White caps caressed the sand.  As the water progressed along the sand, Allen knew not all was well.

He had just received word that his life was to be shortened.  Not fully understanding the circumstances, he walked at the edge, where the water meets the sand.  What was this about?  Why him and not someone else?

Doctors had warned him earlier in life that his lifestyle was harmful.  As a teenager, he had been subject to the wars of the streets.  His parents divorced.  His mother an alcoholic. His father absent.  It wasn’t until he met Rolo that Allen understood what acceptance was about.

Rolo was the leader of a local gang that ruled the streets.  He led a group of hoodlums and reprobates.  But one thing Rolo understood, if someone needed to feel accepted, he was the guy.

Rolo was the one who raised Allen during his formidable years.  He showed Allen how most rejected him, but only a few accepted him.  In order for Allen to feel accepted, all he needed to do is sell some “pharmaceutical” products to other teens.  Allen believed Rolo and thus began his journey down a funnel cloud of destruction.

Over the next few years, Allen would eventually get hooked on the drugs he sold.  Getting high and crashing became the norm.  In the morning, he would get high in order to handle his day.  As evening came, he would begin to crash but would intervene with another dose of drugs.

Regularly, he would wake up with blurred vision of lights and white suited people surrounding him.  The nurses and doctors would strap his hands and feet to subdue his temper while regaining true consciousnesses.  Several times, he remembered how the warning shots fired over his mind and body.  He had been told his life was on the line and several times almost lost the battle.

One time as he left the hospital, a homeless man stopped him and asked for help.  At first, Allen thought to himself, “Whatever!  I need help too.”  Instead of responding to the homeless man’s request, Allen just rolled his eyes and kept on walking.  The homeless man persisted, “Please help me.  I haven’t eaten and need food.”  Allen ignored the man and continued to walk, crossing the busy city street.

As Allen entered the busy intersection, he continued to hear the homeless man cry out for help.  Allen turned to acknowledge the man’s cries with a response of hatred and fear.  He lifted his head, opened his mouth and shouted, “Leave me alone!  You’re not the only one who needs help, you homeless…”

Allen was not given the opportunity to finish his sentence when he noticed the frail homeless man entered the intersection.  Suddenly and without warning, a taxi broadsided the homeless man separating his body and soul.  It was then Allen realized life was too short to continue down a path of destruction.

As Allen walked the beach, also he remembered how he met his wife.  Ruth was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.  He had seen her from a distance in the deli for several months, but never had the nerve to approach her.  Once while he was sitting and staring at her, she turned, tilted her head, winked and smiled the most comforting smile.  A few minutes later it was Ruth who approached him.

Not long after they met, Ruth and Allen got married.  Unfortunately, like his parents, his marriage didn’t last long.  He had begun to drink again and ended up in an angry stupor night after night.  Fight after fight both Ruth and Allen flung insults and negativity.  After six months of marriage, Ruth walked out never to return.

Now five years later, a pain had entered his stomach.  At first, he thought it was simply a diet problem but as it intensified day after day, he decided to go to the hospital to see if they had a solution to his problem.  After several days of tests, the doctors found a mass near the outside of his stomach.  Within 24 hours, Allen finally knew what ailed him, stage four cancer.

When he inquired how this was possible, the doctors told him that years of abuse lead to days til death.  No matter what they wanted to try, it would never extend the weeks he had left.  Knowing this he opted to leave the hospital.

He walked and walked, not returning home, but instead entered the beach.  Now as he walked remembering both the good and bad, he looked toward the sunny blue sky and cried, “Lord, why me?  Why now?”

As the words left his mouth he felt a hand on his shoulder and a whisper in his ear, “Is everything alright?”  Allen slowly turned and saw a man walking with him.  With tears in his eyes, Allen responded, “I’m dying.”

The man softly said, “Are you sure?”

Allen whimpered a simple, “Yes.”

The man and Allen spoke for several hours, mostly talking about Allen’s past but laughing occasionally from some funny stories.  Allen felt comforted by the man’s words.  The man spoke words of encouragement and truth.  He told Allen about another man who died for his enemies.  A man who felt that all people were important.  He explained that if acceptance was to be realized, Allen had to let go of his life.  Allen didn’t fully understand what he meant, but it felt good.

As he started to feel better, Allen turned to the man and asked, “What is your name?”

The man had disappeared.  Allen desperately turned in circles looking as far as the eye could see.  There was no one around.  Was it the cancer?  Was he so distraught that his mind began to hallucinate?  Was he going insane?

In an instant, he realized what had just happened.  The mysterious unnamed man was speaking of himself.  Could it really be him?  Could the man really been the famous Jesus Christ?  Allen looked back to the sky while the ocean caressed his feet and cried, “I believe.  Please don’t leave me.”

There was no answer.  He cried and cried, “Please don’t leave me.”  Again no answer.  After a few minutes of tears and despair, Allen realized the man would not return.  He fell to his knees, covered his face and quietly wept.

As his head began to fill with guilt from past sins, he raised his hands toward heaven and said, “Lord. I believe.”  At that very moment, he felt a sense of joy and peace.  It was a feeling he never had before.  He knew that even if he didn’t continue this life, there was another life that he could look forward to.

Suddenly, a distant figure appeared.  Allen raised his head and saw the outline of a person.  He jumped to his feet and began to run shouting, “You came back.  You came back!”

As he approached the figure, he realized the person he saw was different than the mysterious man.  This person had long hair and curves that were of no man.  Disappointed, Allen stopped running and once again fell to his knees.

The distant person then began to jog toward him.  In a matter of seconds, Allen could hear the cries of the person.  “Allen, honey.  I did come back.”  It was Ruth.  Allen then raised himself to his feet, held out his arms and hugged Ruth with such love and peace.  They kissed for a few moments and spoke of how they both met a mysterious man.  It was at that moment they realized, God had visited them both.  Allen then knew he was standing upon sacred sand.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Serpula – Chapter 2


Here is the latest installment of Serpula.  Comments are always welcome…

The air was the cleanest it had been for some time.  Since the Serpula had shown mankind the atmospheric purification process, people no longer needed protective suits and breathing apparatus to walk around the City of Ruins or its surroundings.  The only radiation present was that from the sun and even that was no longer a burden on mankind.  The atmospheric purification process had allows humans to live longer than ever before.  Even in the City of Ruins, one could live a hundred years and still feel youthful and energetic.

      However, there were still necessities in this lost, decrepit city.  The necessary supplies for the day were all that was required; food and water and protection for security.  Food and water were necessary from the outside.  As there were no legitimate inhabitants, none of the electricity from the main land, was sent.  Therefore, the city became the nomad land of generations past.  One for self and none for all.  This was the main reason security was necessary.  Unfortunately, no one wanted to be a security officer in the abandoned city and the Serpula felt the city was not worth their time.  If not for a weapon and his skill with hand to hand combat, the wanderers and vagabonds would ransack his camp, beat him and leave him for dead.

      As Peter hiked down what was once the main thoroughfare, called Broadway, he noted the various and sometimes comical signs on the buildings.  An old toy store called Tim’s Toys and Such.  A coffee shop called Corner Coffee, and many convenience stores all with old rusted signs that squeaked in the gentle cool breeze.  Broken display windows exposed the mannequins and antiquated electronics.  Most of the clothing stores had been ransacked by the hidden, mysterious and violent inhabitants of the city.  Store by store, Peter wrote down the natural and unnatural deterioration of the city’s architecture in an effort to put together a story of ancient times.  As a historian that was his primary goal.  As an amateur archeological enthusiast, the digging was to be done at another time.

      Peter looked down at his watch which displayed the time, date and weather.  Weather was the most important as you never knew when an approaching storm was coming.  Even thought the atmosphere was clean, storms had grown in strength and severity over the past half century.  Hurricanes had become a yearly phenomenon.  Although this wasn’t the season for hurricanes, it was the season for surprise rain storms.  If you didn’t seek protection from the elements, you may become ill and unprotected from nature, wanderers or criminals.

      As he studied his watch, he realized he was slightly behind schedule.  He thought to himself, “If I cannot finish today, I will have to make this trek tomorrow as well.”  The thought of camping out overnight crossed his mind, but his safety would have been at risk.  As he pondered his options, he felt it best to get to the study sight, work for a couple of hours and then make the hike back toward his safe haven.  At least he would have food, water and electricity based on a small solar generator he made during his university days.  At least, he wouldn’t have to worry about stories of the old city rummaging through his mind at rapid pace.

      Everyone had been told and believed that the City of Ruins “citizens” were ruthless, violent and desperate.  A small population of men and women who claimed the Serpula were the enemy were the main inhabitants.  They felt that the laws of peace and prosperity were immoral, unethical and against the laws of an ancient mystical god.  Peter thought they were mostly insane, but the Serpula felt it important to have them banned from society.

      Stories had been told to him as a child about an archaeologist who after exploring the midtown area, was surrounded, beaten and left for dead.  It had been so horrible that his own family couldn’t identify his body once it was discovered floating in the river between the City of Ruins and coast of Eastern Kingdom.  That was why protection was so important.  At least Peter would have a chance to protect himself in the sight of danger.  Peter knew he had to finish what he started today.

      After an hour and a half of walking, he arrived at the study sight.  The shorter buildings and abandoned eateries told him this area was more residential than it was business.  Tables and chairs were rusted, missing portions of legs so that they were either leaning or toppled.  Awnings were torn and graffiti dressed walls.

      The graffiti were indications of who was there.  The markings were an old design of a skull with a cross on top of its head.  This design was the mark of the Psychotics, a group of people who thought they saw and heard things that weren’t really there.  Due to their psychosis, they were the most violent and most desperate.  He had encountered them when he first arrived at another location north of where he was staying.  Once, when he was documenting his observances of the sight, a man came out running toward him shouting, “Take heed of the dogs.  Take heed of the dogs.”

      Without hesitation, Peter had used his hand to hand combat skills to take him down.  He didn’t want to harm him, but as this Psychotic attacked him, he felt the need to protect himself.  As Peter locked the stranger in a classic choke hold, he heard the man whisper, “Take heed of the dogs.  They are like the donkey of old.”  With that, Peter let go as to not kill him but simply render him immobile.  Peter then understood the necessity of a weapon other than his hands.

      For years, Peter had studied the ancient martial art form, Akido.  As far back as he could remember, he would study under his master, Toshiharu Nagasaki.  An older but gentle man, Toshiharu pushed Peter to excel at whatever he put his mind to.  At first, Peter felt Toshiharu was too demanding, but he learned over time that the demands of the art were specific, humbleness, control and discipline.  If it wasn’t for Akido, Peter would never have learned to succeed in life.  Peter knew he couldn’t stay for long but one building caught his eye.

      Although its walls appeared to be crumbing, the architecture told him it was built around the early 1900s.  Nearly eight hundred years had passed since the building had its first inhabitants.  The distinguished lines, the castle style top and the crumbling plaster enticed Peter’s imagination.  What was it like?  How did people live in these conditions?  As he thought about these things, a noise from within the building captured his attention.

      “Hello?” Peter asked, “Is anyone there?”

      No answer came, yet the noise happened again.

      “Hello?  Is anyone there?  I don’t want to hurt you,” Peter asked a second time.

      Once again, no answer came.  The noise sounded like a deer that had been wounded and was crying for help.  Disobeying his instincts, Peter began to approach the building with his weapon of choice in hand, an old samurai sword.  Light and well crafted, Peter had the ability to wield this sword and use it appropriately.  In order for him to accept the position by the government, he had to prove that he was able to protect himself as no military personnel were allowed to enter the city.

      The city had become a prison island of sorts.  The military was allowed to drop criminals off, but no residence could be taken other than that of historic or archaeological in nature.  And even that was done at one’s own risk.  Convict and drop off.  Nothing else, nothing more.  Sometimes, the military would simply throw the convicts overboard and told them to swim to the island and make bets to see who would survive.  On occasion, the captain would turn away and the soldiers would take bets on how many they could pick off before they reached shore.  Most times, the convicts would drown as they never learned how to swim.  Either way, the world had gotten rid of the criminals.  Understanding this, Peter still felt the need to write a true story based on the historical discoveries of this old city.

      The noise sounded for a third time.  This time it was louder than before.  Peter slowly released his sword from its sheath, readying himself for any possible attack.  As he cautiously opened the door, he peered around the room.  He saw the layers of dust and dirt indicating centuries of neglect.  A single wooden desk still stood while the old style office chair had two wheels missing.  Above the desk was a mirror that had clouded with time.  To the left a window with broken glass.  To the right, a closet door.  He entered the room and shone a flashlight with the intent to continue on this quest.

      Again the noise became louder.  Peter knew he was walking in the right direction.  As he walked toward the back of the room, he noted another door with frosted glass and what appeared to be a light moving back and forth behind it.  Peter turned off his light, gripped his sword with both hands and tapped on the door.

      “Hello,” Peter shouted.  “Is anybody there?”

      No answer came from behind the door.  The light continued to move back and forth.  Peter thought, “Maybe it’s nothing.  Maybe it’s an optical illusion.”  His instincts told him to leave, but his curiosity got the better of him.  What or who was behind the door?  How were they getting light when no electricity flowed through this place?  Whatever or whomever it was, Peter knew he was in for a possible fight.

      As he approached the door, reached for the handle and silently turned it.  As the door opened, it creaked loudly as a cry for help.  He looked around to discover the origin of the horrific sound.  As he looked around, he saw an old non-working light swinging, swinging and a hole in the wall that led to the outside.  Suddenly, a bird swooped down and hit the old light making it swing.  “That’s all it was.  A clumsy bird”, Peter thought smiling, while giving a sigh of relief.

      Again the noise became louder and more frequent.  This time, Peter knew the noise was with him in the room.  As he looked around, he saw a closet with the door hanging half off.  The top hinge had rusted and disintegrated by the rain, while the bottom hinge was nearly gone as well.   He heard the noise and knew it was coming from inside there.

      Peter approached the closet and placed his sword in front of him, ready to protect himself from whatever or whomever may appear.  “Last warning”, Peter exclaimed.  When Peter was in striking range, he kicked the door into the closet.  He cleared the door with one hand and what he saw was not so shocking.  Two cats.  Two simple alley cats.  They had gotten through the hole in the wall and were in the process of doing what cats do during certain seasons, mating.

      Peter began to laugh.  How ridiculous could he have been?  The thoughts of someone hurting and left for dead had raced through his mind.  Yet in all of this, all it was were cats.  Simply cats.  As he continued to laugh his hearty laugh, his phone rang.

      Peter opened his pack and took out a flat thin touchscreen device.  The device rang with vigor.  He had equipped his device with Serpula technology called, Everlasting Sight, a method of taking a voice pattern and making it a three dimensional projection.  They had given mankind this technology soon after their first arrival.  They wanted to make a positive impact on mankind and show they were peaceful beings, overseeing mankind’s evolution.  He swiped his finger from left to right and an image immediately appeared just above the screen in three dimensions.

      “Peter, honey, it’s mom”, said the female image.

      “Hi mom.  How are things?”

      Peter’s mother was a distinguished short grey haired woman.  Prior to her business days, she was a stay at home mother.  However, no matter what she did or where she was, she always had a smile and appeared to be the most distinguished person in the room.  Well dressed and a face that looked younger than her hair, she could make a chaotic room, orderly simply by entering the room.  Her presence commanded respect and order.

      “Things are fine here.  I was just calling to find out when you’re coming home, honey”, she voiced intently.

      “By the end of the week, I hope.  It depends on how much I can get done over the next couple of days”, Peter answered.

      “The end of the week?  You told me that last week and the week before.  Are you sure this time?  Your father and I miss you and are concerned about your safety with the upcoming winter.”

      “Yes mom.  I am sure this time.”

      “How are you getting off that retched island?”

      “Military convoy.  They should dock this week.  My boss has requested that I take some time off to recoup.”

      “Recoup?  From what?  What happened?  Are you hurt?  Did one of those criminals attack you?”  Peter’s mother asked with worry.

      “Stay calm mom.  I’m not hurt and no one has attacked me.  It’s just that I’ve been here for five years and my boss feels that some vacation is in order.  That’s all.”

      “Oh, okay honey”, his mother said with calmness.  In the background a door was opened and another voice was heard.  His mother quickly turned and said, “I’m in here, dear.  Peter, your father’s home.  Did you want to speak with him?”

      “I can’t mom.  I have to go.  I only have another hour before, I start to lose daylight.  I have to be sure to get back to my apartment before then and it took me an hour and a half to get here.”

      “Okay honey.  Well finish up and get back there in a hurry.  I love you and please be safe.”

      “I love you too mom.”

      “Promise me that you will be home by the end of the week, no exceptions.”

      “I promise mom.  So long as the transport is there, I will be home on Friday.  Bye.”

      “Bye, Peter.”

      As both hung up the phone, Peter thought, “I’d better start heading back to write my report.”  Peter put away his sword, picked up his bag and started to head back to his apartment.  Another day, another discovery even if it only was a couple of felines.  At least when he arrived at his apartment, there was food ratios and a cold sponge bath waiting.  He quickly turned around and started his journey back.  In a few days, he would be home eating a home cooked meal.  That was definitely something he was looking forward to.

From the Darkness…


Coldness surrounded her without compassion.  As she opened her eyes, darkness surrounded her, like a cloth smothering life itself.  Why she felt the pressure of fear and terror, she couldn’t understand.

Around her felt cold and wet.  Sounds that placed fear in the souls of men overwhelmed her ears.  Creaking, stepping and scratching could be heard all around.  It was as if nails were carving out the walls as if trying to escape the horror.

“Why is it so dark and cold?” she asked herself.  She didn’t understand where she was or why she was there.

Her surroundings started to feel tight.  Walls closing in at a slow pace and without escape.  The floor and ceiling started to collapse around her.  Fear and terror overcame her emotions.

“Why is this happening to me?” she cried out.  “Help! Someone help me!”

The pressure from above, below and sides crushed not only her mind and soul but her body as well.  If that wasn’t bad enough, drips of water collided with her head.  One by one they smashed her head as if mocking her, torturing her, beating her into submission.

“Help”, she again cried with vigor and fear.  “Someone help me!”

Hours felt like months, days like years and yet her situation never changed.  Darkness, coldness, wetness and terror spent adequate time with her.  She fought and fought, but the more she struggled, the less she could move.  Tighter and tighter her surroundings became.  What was she to do?  How was she to escape?

“Help me, please”, she cried with less vigor and hopelessness.  “Please someone, anyone!”  However, no one ever came.  No one ever heard.

She could feel something move by her feet.  “What was that?!” she cried.  It was as if something or someone else was there, beneath her.  Back and forth, she could feel the thing moving.  “Stop it and leave me alone!”, she exclaimed.  However, the thing continued.  Creeping under her, torturing her mind, tormenting her soul.  Why wouldn’t it leave her alone?

Time passed.  How much, she could not be sure of.  It could have been days, weeks or months but she would never know.  Every moment she stood, never laying down to rest.  Sleep was being deprived by the constant dripping of water on her head.  Even if she tried, she couldn’t sleep.  Not even a short rest was possible.

Then she heard the thing again.  This time it was beside her.  Scratching past her while it passed, the thing never said a word.  “What is it you want?  Why won’t you leave me alone?”, she yelled out.  Crying and struggling to catch her breath, she wept, “Please someone, please help me.”  But no help ever came and no one heard her voice.

One day, she heard a voice say, “Now it is time…” but the rest of the words seemed to be hidden.  “Now it is time?”, she questioned in her mind.  What time?  What did the voice mean?

A few moments later she heard, “Come on out and…” but the rest of the words she couldn’t understand.  She thought to herself, “How can I come out when I cannot move?”  She struggled with the hope and anticipation of hearing the voice speak.  Suddenly, movement surrounded her.  Fear overtook her once again.  It was then she decided to act upon the voice’s words.

She began to move.  Pain took over.  Her body started to fall apart.  The more she moved, the more she felt like something tearing her apart.  Her legs ached, her arms numb.  Now what was she supposed to do?

Suddenly, the dripping water changed.  This time, the drips became a stream.  The small stream was refreshing.  As it poured down her face, she stuck out her tongue to gain some refreshment.  She drank and drank all she could.

Within a few minutes, the refreshing fluids stopped and she could instantly feel strength capture her once again.  She moved her arms and legs once again, except this time with vigor and hope.

In a single moment, she realized she could move both her legs and arms without hindrance.  She began to claw her way.  She felt the walls.  They were soft and moist.  She started to rip away at the walls.  When she realized more room was available, she decided to reach for the ceiling.  It was then she realized it was moist and soft, like the walls.  Hope turned into strength as she pounded her way through the ceiling.

Suddenly, a light peered through the ceiling, like a laser beam steadily pointing in a single direction.  “I’m almost free!”, she exclaimed.  As the light became larger, her struggle became lessened.  It was then she could feel the warmth.  It felt good.  Blanketing her, hugging her entire being.  It was then her strength turned to peace.

Finally, after days of digging and struggle, she felt a wetness overcome her.  Pounding her, beating her as if to push her back into captivity, she struggled all the more.  She refused to go back.  She refused to succumb to the pressure of the water.  “I will not go back!”, she exclaimed with anger.  Her resolve continued as the water pounded.  The warmth of the light continued while the water pushed but she would not give up.

The water stopped its beating and the light continued to nourish and provide warmth.  She enjoyed where she was but realized there was still more to do.  She began to once again to dig her way out.  She planted her feet firmly on the ground, and moved her arms once again to free herself from her confinement.

As she pushed the last of the ceiling away, she could see the source of the light.  It was a big round object in the sky.  Then the voice said, “You see, I have given you life.”

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I am your Creator.  You will give pleasure to the one whom I have given you.”, the voice said.

As she reached for the object creating the light, she tried to free her legs, however she could not.  The more she struggled, the more it took hold of her.  She cried out, “I am not free yet.  Please help me get free.”

The voice then said, “But my dear, you are free.  Your legs are to stay where they are as they will help you in your quest.  Only until you are fully grown will your legs be no longer needed.”

What did the voice mean?  She then looked around her.  It was then she noticed her arms were green.  She felt her face and it was soft.  She asked, “What am I, voice?”

The voice responded, “Your name is Rose.  You will give pleasure to the one who picks you.  Your fragrance will please the hearts and minds of men.”

She thought and thought.  Then why the struggle, why the torture?  She asked, “Why did I feel trapped and afraid?”

The voice said, “Oh Rose.  You weren’t trapped or tortured.  I placed you there.  I gave you water to help you grow.  Although you felt scared and afraid, I was watching over you, caring for you, giving you exactly what you need.”

It was then Rose felt contentment.  She understood the pain was the only way for her to experience the benefits she now had.  Warmth from the sun and nourishment from the water were the only things she needed.  The voice had given her everything she needed, even though it hurt.

Like the rose, we struggle to get out of our pains and hurts.  We cry out and no one answers.  We dig but cannot move.  Remember the Voice knows and will supply everything we need.  It is only through the struggle do we realize our worth in the arms of God.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Among the Thorns…


The sun shone in the heat of the day.  The temperature rose to a limit that desert animals couldn’t bear.  From the heads of men, sweat vaporized into eternity.  Hydration was key in surviving the current day.

In the house, was a young boy who dreamed of spending insanely amounts of time with his father.  He peered out the window to the land which his father sowed and harvested.  He imagined a cooler day with a breeze to satisfy the soul.  He daydreamed about his father trying to find him among the outer rim of trees and forest.  In his mind, when his father found him, he tackled him and tickled him incessantly, until the very breath he bore could no longer be found.  Joy overfilled and overwhelmed the thoughts of the young boy’s mind.

He asked his mother, “Can I go meet father in the field?”

Mother responded, “Not today.  It is too hot for you.”

The boy replied, “But mother, I want to spend time with father.”

Mother said, “When the sun starts to set and father is in the barn, then you may go out and meet him.”

The seconds felt like hours.  Minutes felt like years.  Hours felt like an eternity.  The boys mind wandered from one thought to the next.  Never did the boy have the same thought, but imagined different ways to spend time with his father.

Around midday, Father came into the house to nourish his mind, body and soul.  Mother placed a pitcher of freshly made, ice cold, iced tea, next to a plate filled with a sandwich and Father’s favorite chips.  As Father ate, the young boy sat and stared at his father wondering if they were having the same thoughts.

“What is on your mind, son?” asked Father.

“Spending time with you”, said the young boy.

“You’re spending time with me now”, responded Father.

“Yes.  But I want to play with you”, stated the smiling young boy.

“When the sun goes down and I am in the barn, then come out to see me.  Then we will play a game”, Father told the young boy.

“What kind of game?” asked the boy.

“A game you will love”, responded Father with a smile and a keen look.

Father finished his meal, sighed a deep breath to signal he was satisfied with what Mother prepared.  After a few minutes, Father got up, placed his dishes in the sink and left to go back into the field.

As the sun continued it’s harassment on the earth and water was nothing more than an after-thought, the boy became impatient.  His yearning to spend time with his father took over any sensible thoughts.  The young boy decided to disobey what Mother and Father told him and run out into the field to meet his Father.

The boy carefully and slothfully, made his way to the back door.  He cautiously looked around in order to ensure he was not caught.  His hand placed on the handle, slowly turned it ensuring that no noise was made to signal his disobedience.  The door crept, the boy turned and closed the door with extreme care.

He could feel the heat and decided that even the sun could not stop his eagerness to spend time with his father.  The stairs made no sound as the boy jumped from the top step to the grassy area at the bottom.  Many times before, in many days past, the young boy would jump from the top step and bypass the other three to feel the soft grass on the bottom of his soles.

His legs could take it no more and so the young boy ran as if it were a race for a prize.  A smile on his face was brighter than the sun.  Every stride was one closer to his father.  As he ran, he could see the small distorted image of a man.  He knew it was his father, so the boy ran faster.

As the boy approached his working father, he heard in a cry of terror, “STOP!  NOW SON STOP!!!!”

Excitement took over and the ears stopped working.

“SON, I SAID STOP.  NOW!!!  DON’T COME ANY FURTHER!” cried Father.

Suddenly, sense came back to the boy’s mind which then he realized, his father was serious.  The boy stopped his pursuit and stood in complete shock.  He didn’t understand. Why would his father tell him not to come any further?  Why would his father not want to spend time with him?  He knew he had disobeyed, but also knew his father’s love was greater than his actions, but why was Father screaming so loudly?

“Son, whatever you do, do not move”, said Father with a shaky, scared voice.

“But Father, why?”  asked the young boy.

“Son, do exactly what I say and do no more or less”, Father instructed.

“But Father, why?” asked the young boy a second time.

“Take one full step backward”, Father stated with a look of care and fear.

The boy took the backward step as his father instructed.

“Now son, take two steps to your right.  Large ones.  Not small ones.” said Father with a crooked smile.

The boy did exactly as his father told him to do.

The boy asked, “Can I come to you now Father?”

“Not yet.  Now take three more large steps backwards”, Father said.

Again, the boy did everything his father instructed.

“Son, when I tell you, run into my arms.” said Father with a sense of fear.

“Okay Father”, the excited boy said.

In a matter of a moment, the boy could see his Father bend down, taking some actions in the brush and said, “Run to me son!”

The boy ran as fast as he could.  His father had his arms opened wide.  As the boy and his father bonded, the boy could feel his father’s arms securing him as tightly as they could go without crushing the young boy.

Father cried and cried.  Tears flowed from his face and onto the shirt of the young boy.

“Why are you crying Father?”

“I almost lost you, son.  You almost died”

A confused look distorted the boys face.  Almost died?  It didn’t feel like he almost died and besides, what did death feel like anyway?  As the boy’s mind continued to process the information, Father said with tears in his eyes, “Let me show you why I was so upset.”

Both approached the place where the boy stood before the confusing turmoil.  Father continued to hold the boy and expressed how he didn’t want to let go.  As they approached the place, Father slowed down and said, “Look among the thorns, son.”

The boy leaned over his father’s arms, turned his head toward the ground and peered into the thorny brush.  A noise came from the thorns.  It sounded like a toy, similar to his baby sister’s rattle.

“What is that noise father?”

Father took a long branch and poked into the brush.  A hissing sound was heard as the thorns moved.  Suddenly, the brush stopped movement and several heads peaked out.  It was a family of rattlesnakes.

Father told the young boy, “Had you not stopped when I told you, your foot would have stepped into the brush.  If that had happened, the snakes would have bitten you and you would have died.”

The boy then realized the danger that lurked among the thorns and was glad he was in his father’s arms because the boy understood, it is better to be in the Father’s arms, safe and secure than in the den of snakes and vipers.

Stay in the safe arms of our Father and Savior.

God Bless and encourage someone today.