Chapter One “The Days of Peleg”

Timelapse of surf and rocks

 

The Days of Peleg

(Story of how God separated the continents – Plate Tectonics – and divided the lands between the new tribes that resulted from the creation of different languages)

“Two sons were born to Eber:

One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided…” Genesis 10:25

 

Noah, his wife Emzara and what was left of the followers of Creator God continued slogging through the marsh bordering the river. Not far behind them the chariots of Nimrod and his army. Noah felt it somewhat of an indication of Nimrod’s fear of his grandfather that caused him to use such overwhelming force to destroy him. Nimrod’s army had already killed most of Noah’s followers. Those who listened and believed the stories of how Creator had saved mankind in the ark.

Emzara told Noah every chance she could get that Noah’s trip to see the tower Nimrod was building – had led to the confrontation between Grandfather and Grandson and their current dilemma. Noah knew she was right. It was just the constant reminding that tended to get under his skin.

Thankfully, two angels appeared at Noah’s door with a warning to flee. This had saved them. Or, perhaps had just bought them a little more time here on earth. Because, now the remnants of his band of followers were trapped against a river with no way to cross. The trees and bushes of the marsh hid Noah from Nimrod’s men. But, it also kept Noah from seeing how close Nimrod was. He knew it was only a matter of time before Nimrod’s men followed them into the marsh and killed them one by one. Noah remembered the hatred his grandson had for him. Earlier that spring, there in Nimrod’s throne room in the middle of a building those people called a palace. In that ugly, filthy place they were calling a great city. He had gone there to confront the wayward grandson about his reckless and wanton killing of animals for nothing but the joy of killing. He saw it as a symptom of a disease deep in Nimrod’s soul. Noah mistakenly assumed that he could rationalize with the youngster. Instead Nimrod had exploded in a frightening unhuman rage that reminded Noah of the days before the flood. He recognized the presence of the evil spirits Father God had told him about during the long days of constructing the boat. Oh, for those days to return. If only The Creator were with him now, in this stinking muck filled place. He would protect them.

Emzara wouldn’t let him forget how God had abandoned them. How God’s favor no longer rested upon Noah. That Noah’s God must be on the other side of the world. And, the tedious chore of working through the waist deep water, and fighting through brush, vines, and roots, invited Noah to give grudging acknowledgement to the dicey situation But, Noah knew The Creator was watching. He knew that Creator had something planned.

Life – up until now – had been peaceful. God’s blessings were evident in every aspect of life. Noah’s son’s and daughter in law’s had grown huge families. Indeed they occupied small nations now. Everything Noah grew came up from the ground with abundance. Noah knew he was favored by The Creator. The picture of the blessing of his latest grandson’s dedication to the Creator sprang up into his mind. Just a month before – after the visit to the palace of evil – Noah and Emzara presided over young Peleg’s birth and dedication. Oh how they had celebrated. He knew they were celebrating more than just Peleg’s birth. They celebrated the goodness an favor of Creator to bless their land. The goodness of Creator to walk with them and show them how to best talk the crops out of the dirt. Those were the good and peaceful times when The God of All Things walked with men. Somehow Noah could tell that men were again trying His patience. He sensed He might not be patient much longer.

Life began changing when the stories started reaching Noah from the plains below his home in the high mountain meadows. The animals streaming into the meadow for refuge alarmed Noah. They told Noah of the slaughters. Men driving whole herds of antelope over cliffs to their destruction. Only taking trophies and the choicest parts of the animal, then leaving the rest to rot. Where Noah would give thanks for the sacrifices the animals would make for Noah’s family, this man – this monster – would pretend he was a conqueror. He behaved badly.

Now Noah, Emzara, and those of his grandchildren that understood the Love of the Creator. Those that believed the stories of the Creation and the Flood. The few that remained now desperately found themselves waist deep in a marsh. Emzara’s look of panic communicated exactly how Noah felt, but couldn’t express. His children – that is how he saw his followers – needed a leader, needed someone strong at this moment. Panic and fear would only lead to a quicker death. But, he knew something was coming. God had never failed him in the past and wouldn’t do so now. But, how?

Nimrod’s soldiers were in the marsh now and it was only a matter of time.

Noah felt a tug on his leg. Was it a snake? That moment of apprehension rose up. But, then Noah looked down and there floated a young otter floating on it’s back.

“Grandfather Noah, follow me. I will show you how to avoid the noisy ones.” With that the otter began to paddle backwards through the water beckoning Noah to follow. “Come, quickly, there is a way across the river! You don’t have time to hesitate. Follow me!”

Noah looked at Emzara, and then down the line of the children and motioned for everyone to follow. Still the going was slow and the crashing noise of the soldiers, and Nimrod’s raging voice pressed in on the desperation rising up in the hearts of the children. It would only be a matter of minutes before they were upon them. Could they make it to the river in time?

Desperation can be a good thing. Especially, in life and death decisions. Desperation brings decisiveness to decision making, that decision that determines where you place your hope. Where does your hope lie in times like this. As life is weighed in the balance, tipping either towards life or death, desperation brings certainty to the process. Do you choose life or do you choose hopelessness and death? In this case Noah silently cried out with a fervent desperation for the Creator’s presence to once again intervene in life. Noah desperately chose life.

There flowed the river.

The otter turned and kicked powerfully into the fast flowing current motioning for Noah to follow. There running effortlessly in the middle of the river came a number of the largest bears Noah had seen since the Flood. Their fur a light brown almost cinnamon color glistened in the water. Their size and surprising speed combined with the freezing cold water of the fast flowing river, caused Noah to catch his breath. Creator had heard Noah’s prayer and sent help. An army of the most magnificent bears of every species pushed past Noah. The largest of the Cinnamon Bears looked down at Noah with a grim look of determination and said, “He has heard you Grandfather Noah! Our black brothers will carry you to the other side of the river. We will take care of the arrogant ones!” Then the bear crashed into the brush of the marsh with his brothers. An irresistible force of nature, an avalanche of bear crashing down on Nimrod and his soldiers. They were followed by smaller, but still impressive black bears.  They were moving towards Noah and the children. The current flowing around their powerful bodies, did not scare the bears. This was normal for them. Fishing for salmon in the river was a daily exercise and now they could repay the savior of their species.

The first of the black bears pushed through the current to Noah and said, “Get on my back quickly!” And, no sooner had Noah clambered aboard than the bear began swimming for the opposite shore.

The water chilled the bones and washed over the top of the bear’s back and over Noah’s head making it difficult to breathe as the bear’s powerful swimming propelled them forward. Noah looked around him to see a line of bears with the children and Emzara making their way across the river. Noah found himself chuckling at the look on his wife’s face. Her eyes were tightly shut as if to shut out the outrageousness of the situation.  “She may be a pain at times, but she has the courage of 10 men! Thank you Lord for the gift of my wife and companion! Lord bless her. She has followed me into every adventure you lead me into!” Noah felt like singing! The adventure of life with Creator had returned! He didn’t know where Creator was taking them. But, he knew the days of sitting watching the plants grow were gone for now. Now there would be an adventure. For surely Nimrod would find a way across the river and would not stop until they were trophies on the wall of his palace. So Noah knew this was only the beginning.

That was when Noah noticed that there were other animals in the river. Hundreds of antelope, deer, raccoons, mice, snakes, rabbits, skunks, in fact every animal that walked and had been with him on the ark – or at least their descendants – were swimming to the other side along with them! What was going on? Were they fleeing the evil of Nimrod, just as he was?

Another glance backwards, there were so many animals in the river it looked like a great Salmon Run, thousands of dark bodies churning the water into a frothy maelstrom. There on the other side Noah saw Nimrod and his men, now out of the swamp, were attempting to run from the army of bears. The only ones making good an escape were on horses or chariots. The speed with which the bears were capable of brought a thrill into his heart.

But, as Noah watched Nimrod and his men escaping he realized that the far bank seemed to be receding faster than possible. They should have made it to the other side by now.

Turning and looking forward there was the shore. The bear was walking now. Rising out of the freezing water with great lumbering strides. He was panting heavily from the exertion of crossing the strong current with someone on his back. But, when Noah looked at the bear, he saw a look of great satisfaction. This was an accomplishment a great victory for the animals! They had repaid a debt! They had saved the one human that they could trust and loved with a legendary love.

Noah stepped up to the bear and placed his hands on the great giant soaking wet head. “Thank you my friend. May Creator bless you and your kind forever. May you remain strong and free where ever you go! I and my kind hopefully will never forget the kindness you have shown us today.”

But, the bear was not looking – not paying attention – to Noah. His attention had settled on the river. It was growing wider. As the last of the animals pulled themselves up on the shore, exhausted from the river crossing, Emzara and the children stood next to their saviors watching as the river began to widen. As it widened the water began to become shallower and shallower. Where it once was deeper than could be safely crossed. It now looked to be only knee deep! What was happening here?

The ground began to shake. It became difficult to stand. Noah grabbed Emzara and the tree they were standing next to to keep from falling. The ground moved in ways that tricked their feet that normally supported them. The very earth they depended upon to be there, the foundation of everything solid, was proving to be anything but. Noah looked out into the river. The larger bears that had fought Nimrod and his men were trying to return, but were floundering in the shallow water, trying to stand and slipping on the slick river stones.

Then they heard it. Coming from downstream a roaring, rumbling noice caught Noah’s attention. Looking downstream Noah saw a wall of water coming up the river!

Turning to Emzara and the children Noah shouted, “Run!”

And they did! Sprinting as best they could with the the ground shifting under their feet, they stumbled and staggered from tree to tree to the higher ground ahead.

The roaring grew louder and louder as the wall of water moved up the river bed. Noah looked over his shoulder as he urged his seven hundred and thirty-year-old legs to move faster. Emzara and the children were outdistancing him! And, the water was there, off to the right moving through the trees and the grass. It was moving faster that his legs could carry him.

But, make it they did. Noah got wet, but made it to where the water could not reach. Then he tasted the water. It was not fresh water! It was salty water! This water came from the ocean that surrounded the land. The water left over from the flood. He had heard that it surrounded the land men lived on. Something unthinkable before the rains came. Of course no one had ever seen rain before the floods either. So now this was another part of the creation that The Lord had not shared with him. No matter, now they were safe.

Noah looked to see what had happened to Nimrod, but realized that the other side of the river was now barely discernable, merely a dark line well over a mile away. The two shores of the river were moving apart rapidly. The land was separating! Dividing! The Creator had saved them again by seperating the lands!

Noah, Emzara, the children and a long caravan of animalsof every kind continued moving farther from the water. The land kept moving, though mostly during the day. Night came and the ground seemed to sleep with them, allowing them to get their rest. Then when the sun came, the movement began again in a great caravan of life.

There were forty five of them. There had been thousands in Noah’s camps. But, now these were the only lives left. The evil had returned and now Noah’s thoughts turned to what Creator would do. He had promised that He would never destroy the earth with water again. Ironicly…Noah realized…God had not used water to destroy this time. The water had only filled in a hole Creator had dug. He is a powerful God. Moving mountains and re-routing rivers. He can change a world as fast as Noah could put on his sandals. He is worthy to be worshiped. That is what puzzled Noah. Why couldn’t Nimrod see that? The answer, Noah knew, was obvious. The evil one had lied to Nimrod, just as he had done with the first Grandfather and Grandmother Adam and Eve. Nimrod may have a powerful body, but a weak mind. He remembered the bullies from before the flood. Satan’s minions inciting the weak and fearful minded to violence and unspeakable evil acts. Now he had done it again. And, again Creator saved Himself a remnant!

Noah prayed as they walked across a small meadow under the shadow of what had been a small hill the evening before, but now was rapidly becoming a large mountain as they walked across the meadow. They had grown somewhat used to the rhythmic movement of the land beneath their feet. Still there had been a number of twisted ankles and bruises from awkward falls. There were no complaints from the children though. They understood the unique nature of their journey and the changes in the land. They understood that Creator was forming a new land and that they were not to fear.

Realization rose up in Noah’s mind. The Creator had saved them from evil as He had done before the flood. Some of the children had asked why Creator didn’t just kill Nimrod and the army that pursued them? Noah told them that Creator still loved Nimrod even though he practiced evil things. Creator knew hope still existed for Nimrod. It had to be that way, or hope would only be a fickle thing. Creator loved completely and unconditionally. His Love never falters or changes and is always there for those whose hearts realize the need for – the existence of – a loving, saving Creator. He told them that Creator never changed. The hearts of men are what prove themselves fickle and transient. The Love of the Father is always there waiting for the Human Soul to come home.

Moonfire

Rewrite & Edit done with new changes.

Truth & Passion

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Turnips the dog snapped at the flies buzzing around his head, circled three times and settled into the straw bed near the shoeing stool. Evening brought the onslaught of skeeters swarming around the water trough and under the weeping willow trees. Light from outside the blacksmith shop was dimming enough that the glow from the brazier seemed brighter by contrast. Turnips sighed a lazy huff and lowered his shaggy head onto his paws.

Around the side of the low ramshackle smithy, two lethargic Clydesdales ambled by, pulling firewood from the foothills into town. October was almost over bringing the first frosty mornings, but the afternoons still suffocated in a summer that refused to go away. The dust from the yard desperately needed a good rainstorm to settle it down.

Turnips lay in filthy contentment in the cooler air closer to the floor. His day had been epic, as far as…

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Resistance is Futile!

blessed

Lately the thought of growing older has occupied more and more of my imagination. I wrote a blog post a couple of months ago about “Acting Your Age”, which came from this ruminating about getting older. This is not a frivolous thing for me. As I have thought about this in light of my relationship with Jesus, I realize that I want to finish well. Sixty years old. If I live to be the same age as my father who is over eighty, then I have just entered the fourth quarter of my life. It is time to finish well.

But, what stands in the way of that?

As the title of this blog suggests…only I stand in the way of finishing well.

One of the lessons learned up to this point in life is about learning to discern His Voice. This is crucial to understanding His Will for my life, His instructions on a day to day basis, and His intimate Presence. But, since this post is about obedience, let me land on that.

The older I have become the easier it has become to obey His commands, suggestions, and nudges. As an example; we have all been given the visual of the layers of an onion as it applies to how God peels off layers of our worldliness to make us more like Jesus. As a young man I struggled with that. I fought The Lord when conviction to change came my way. There were lots of excuses as to why I didn’t want to obey His leading, but eventually I would comply. Unfortunately, compliance sometimes came after years of struggling, procrastinating, excuse making, and flat out disobedience.

But, recently – the last 10 years or so – I have come to the understanding of God’s relentless pursuit to nurture excellence in me. Resistance is futile! That well known term taken from Star Trek’s famous Borg episodes. These episodes of course show us that resistance for the crew of the Enterprise was not futile. But, with God, resistance is futile for the believer who truly wants what The Father wants for them. And, the sooner obedience comes the sooner the blessing comes.

Let me use another example from my life. I used to be an avid Online Gamer. I spent a lot of time online playing the various first-person shooters I was addicted to. Mostly the Call of Duty series of games. And, I was very good at it. Good enough – addicted enough – to join an online Christian gamers clan. I rationalized that if I played with other Christians that I could justify the amount of time I spent playing. It was a good thing. We witnessed to the Pre-Believers that came into our server to play and at one point even lead about 30 individuals to Christ. But, I was still addicted.

Eventually, God convicted me about my gaming by enticing me with my writing. I became jealous of a friend of mine. She was excited about her writing career. So when I complained to God, He just challenged the wisdom of my time usage. He asked me what was more important – more profitable – online gaming or my writing.

If He had asked me that when I was in my 20’s or 30’s (maybe even into my 40’s) I would have fought that suggestion vehemently. But, after all the turmoil and lessons from raising a family and a business. All the lessons of a lifetime of prayer, I immediately quit online gaming cold turkey. That was almost 2 years ago. I didn’t struggle or make excuses. I just quit.

Why you ask? Because, I knew the blessing that came from obedience would be so much better than staying where I was. And, it has been. It took almost a year for my imagination to return to normal. Another 6 months before the Holy Spirit and I began to get into a flow collaborating on my stories. But, now the joy and intimacy of my writing sessions with The Holy Spirit are much more valuable and precious to me than the best day of gaming ever was.

This is the lesson.

I realized that I have become hungry for the blessings that come from obedience. I began to understand that I can intentionally look at my life – at the layers of the onion that still exist – and decide to take action to pursue Holiness and Purity. To actively participate in the peeling of the onion on a proactive basis. I decided to let The Lord prompt me when ever He felt the need to.

Here is my current Layer that I am hungry to remove. Vulgarity. I am an ex Coast Guard Officer. I came from the enlisted ranks – where I learned to cuss like a sailor – and went to Officer Candidate School. I served for about 6 years as an Officer. . That was 1980. I still, in moments of pain or frustration, can cuss a blue streak. But, I weary of that. As I strive for Holiness in my life as a prayer leader in my community, I have come to the realization…with a bit of a nudge from The Lord…that this part of me has to go. (and yes, prayer for this is gratefully accepted.)

Become an active participant in the process of Layer Removal. I can guarantee you that the blessing of His Presence and His intimacy becomes much clearer and closer the more layers you remove. When we participate in the process, rather than resist the process, we accelerate our becoming more like Him.

The next time Father convicts your heart and calls you to Holiness and Purity? Run to Him. Do not resist His nudge. Resistance is futile!

Act Your Age!

hourglass

Recently I had an interesting conversation with a good friend who is helping me edit some of my stories. We are working on a children’s story I wrote in the 1990’s. She complimented my ability to write for children. I responded with the following;

“I like writing for kids. Probably, because I never really grew up. If there is anyone you know that resembles a modern day Peter Pan (emotionally anyway) it is probably me.
 
I actually see no point in giving up my childhood. I can function as an adult…have been forced to. But, I refuse to cross that line that society draws in the sand that says, “Act your age”.
 
Sorry I will go to my grave before I cross that line”
 
So, what does it mean to “act your age”?
 
Everyone hears that at some point in their lives. Mostly, when you are a little person. Parents have a tendency to use that one on their children – the reasoning behind that escapes me. I think it has to do with the parent’s perception that the child is not behaving correctly. The more I think about it, I realize how silly it is to make that statement. Did the parent have a manual somewhere that laid out the correct behavioral characteristics of a 13 year old boy or girl? No, that statement comes from a spirit of annoyance with a child as they behave in an immature way. Which we all understand is “Normal” for a child.
 
So how do we deal with this when that phrase is applied to a grown man or woman? Often, it is not spoken out loud. It is implied through relationship and I will leave that question for different blog.
 
Now there is a bit of wisdom in learning to live as an adult.  1st Corinthians 13:11 nails the need for living as a mature adult succinctly.
 
“11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
 
But, then Jesus tells us in Matthew 18: 3 to maintain a “Childlike Spirit”
 
“3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
 
So there is the contrast. Grow up, but do not lose that child like spirit. I have to say that the verse about childlikeness of Matthew 18 seems to be speaking more to maintaining a spirit of humility than one of a childlike nature. Still the sense that Jesus wants us to maintain that sense of humility points to His desire that we remain teachable. Open to His instruction and direction. Children – for the most part – know that they don’t know everything. The curiosity of a child can be cultivated and nurtured to reveal the destiny that God has built into them. I believe that Our Father wants us to maintain that kind of sensitivity, hunger, understanding. When it comes to life, becoming an adult does not mean that you now know all the answers. This comes down to the core of our identity – who do we think we are.
 
Back to the phrase “act your age”. Let’s take a different angle to this. What age? Here are a few that I thought of. Perhaps, you can add to this list.
 
  • Perceived Age
  • Emotional Age (Soul age?)
  • Intellectual Age
  • Chronological Age
  • Observed Age (what others think)
  • Eternal Age

Which one do you identify with. Perceived age? That is the one where when you look in the mirror.  What do you see? Do you still see the 19 year old? Or, is that 60 year old staring back at you the real you? How about emotional age? I started this off with my defiant attitude towards aging. I said, emotionally I feel young and I refuse to let go of that. Chronological age? Again, is there a “How to Book” out there that can tell me exactly how I am supposed to act as a 60 year old Financial Planner? Observed age? To be very honest with you, I don’t give a flying fernertenburger if anyone thinks I’m acting my age. Then it comes to Eternal age.

 
Eternal age. This is what you have when you become the bride of the Christ. We now have been born again into an eternal kingdom. Someday we will sluff off this cocoon and become like HIM. What does that understanding do for your concept of your personal identity? So now how does this argument work when you throw that monkey wrench in the works. If you have eternal life? How the Heck does one act their eternal age? You act like a Child of The Creator of All Things! You are heir to eternity! (HINT: Read your Bible! There actually is a manual for learning to act your Eternal Age) 
 
 But, what if you are not a Child of God?
 
If you have not become a Christ Follower. It is not too late. Reach out to Him and ask Him to give you the Eternal Age. Make Him your King. Surrender your baskets of woe, pain, grief, frustration, and the trappings of a world gone weird and He will change you. He will forgive your sins and make you into a new creation. Then you will have the Eternal Age.
 
 

A Facebook Story

Ludlow

The Amazing Utility of Facebook

Night in the Mojave requires layering. This becomes extremely important when movement stops. Inserting with the always excellent assistance from the Nightstalkers south of ludlow, a tiny way-station along I-40 in the Mojave Desert. The Stalkers left us in the low foothills along Bagdad Chase road and we walked towards the lights. Zero Dark Thirty looks like this no matter where you are. Cold, lonely, and usually filled with things to stumble over in the dark. Thank goodness for night vision.
NSA intercepted telephone communications which placed nameless faceless terrorists approaching Ludlow from the east. The scenario of Jihadi’s inserting along the U.S. Mexico border – anticipated for years – was now so commonplace Special Activities Division and SoCom assigned a team permanently to the southwest region. So here we are, humping into an afterthought of a place to live to intercept professional “haters” somewhere far from civilization. The thought being that out here, there would be minimal collateral damage.
My name is Captain Terry Gentry, on loan from Seal Team Four. our SOG connection, Master Gunny Devin O’Kirk walked next to me listening to the Commando Solo ELINT Aircraft keeping us updated on the progress the targets were making traveling west on I-40. Quietly pacing measured steps behind Gunny O’Kirk was Sergeant Enrique Llona Falconi. Enrique scared Terry sometimes, but was Devin’s favorite. Born of Ecuadorian ex-patriots living in Fresno California, Enrique served as their point man and navigator. Enrique’s favorite movie was the Adam Sandler version of the classic film Mr. Deeds. Everyone on the team felt that it was spookily appropriate that his favorite character was John Turturro’s character Emilio Lopez. After all he could recite almost all of his lines. But, by far his best imitation was his ability to sneak up on you like Emilio did in the movie. One moment you were alone, the next, there was Enrique, smiling at you saying, “I fear you are underestimating the sneakiness, sir!” It was unanimous that Enrique be point man.
Corporal Sammy Samson – Comms Tech – carrying the team’s iPad and signals jamming equipment, and Staff Sergeant Haliburton James – Burt – team sniper filling in behind made up the rest of the team. Burt standing a full six foot seven, cradling his Socom PSR with TrackingPoint scope, reminded Terry of a very mean Blake Griffin. Sammy didn’t remind Terry of anyone. Sammy was the ghost of the group. Urban ops especially. Sammy looked so generic, Terry swore he could stand in a store window and mimic a manikin and spend all day without being discovered.
Tonight promised to be an interesting exercise in communications cooperation between SOAR, NSA, and the team. As controversial as the news was making it, the communications intercepts value had proven themselves at an increasing rate the more illegal immigrants infiltrated into the desert southwest. Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Southern California were rapidly becoming one gigantic – and deadly – hide and seek playground. So the intercepts rivaled gold in value…in Terry’s opinion. So tonight the relay looked like this; NSA relaying to the Solo, then downlinking to Samson and Gunny O’Kirk. The trick would be getting into Ludlow before the bad guys.

Driving all night from Texas is not an easy task. But, driving at night can make it easier. Less traffic and cooler temperatures. Jim Thibodeau and his daughter Wendy O’Neil – a little road weary – anticipating stopping for sleep in Barstow, pulled into Ludlow looking for gas. The map showed both a Chevron and the Ludlow 76. Hopefully, one of them would be open at close to 1AM. The Advocare convention still fresh in their minds, had occupied much of the conversation since leaving Texas. Jim’s weight loss fired up the enthusiasm in his retired years as well as his daughters incredible energy propelling the entire trip.
Jim faced a little bit of a dilemma with his weight loss. Really it came down to realistic priorities. This thought always caused Jim to chuckle. Jim looked in the rearview mirror to see a thinning mirror image of Santa Claus. A graduate of the International School of Santa’s, his Santa pictures reflected the spirit of Norman Rockwell’s picture of the Jolly One. Never was there a better Santa. But, now health dictated weight loss and daughter Wendy turned dad onto Advocare. The weight fell off quickly and Jim became a disciple.
Wendy, a devoted follower of Jesus and missionary to Ireland, formed the other half of her husband Erin and together they had built a joyful family. Erin and Wendy, both dark haired and handsome young adults looked Irish and had the name to prove it. Their love for the island tinged all of their thoughts of eventually returning to pick up their ministry work. But, this week was father daughter. Wendy, very tired from a days worth of driving urgently looked forward to the gas station’s restroom. It would be her turn to drive the rest of the way into Barstow – hopefully they could find a room.
“There’s the Gas Station Wendy.” Jim sighed with his own sense of relief coming through. “You go while I fill up. Then I will go. You want anything from the Mini-Mart?”
“No Dad, I just want to get going? We still have some of the Gorp if I get hungry I will munch on that.” Wendy yawned.
“Ok.” Jim yawned back. “You sure you don’t want some coffee or something?”
Wendy just stretched, pushing her hands against the ceiling of the car. “Nah, I’m good. I just gotta use the restroom really bad.”
Jim just smiled and pulled into the station, the only car at the pumps.
Wendy, quickly sprinted to the restroom as Jim ran the credit card through the card reader and began to pump gas.

“Weasle One, target leaving I-40.” Squawked the voice in Gunny O’Kirk’s ear piece. “Looks like they are heading for the Chevron Station there on the corner.”
“Roger Stryper One.” Devin replied. “We can see them coming down Cucero. We are in position. There is one other vehicle in the station. Looks like a man and a woman. Is this a go. Potential collateral damage situation here.”
“Wait one Weasle.” came the answer.
The team, hidden in the trees and in the outbuildings across the street at the closed Ludlow Cafe, watched as the target van pulled up to the pumps next to the other vehicle. Terry glanced over at Devin as if to convey his nervousness with the situation.
“Weasle One, Stryper One. Over” The anticipated answer came through the cold desert air. “Prosecute, take down. Capture if you can. But, do not take chances. Targets are considered armed with AK’s and RPG’s.”
Terry and Devin, just motioned go to the team. Shadows separated themselves from the desert flora and converged on the gas station. Terry tapped Burt on the shoulder and the PSR coughed a suppressed bolt of metallic phlegm, into the engine block of the van, disabling it. Gunny O’Kirk sprinted from the back of the Cafe across the street, him M-4 leading the way. Samson and Enrique, advanced from the eastern corner of the intersection from their hide in a stand of trees. Speed and extreme surprising violence would be the key to this take down.

Standing in the cold night air helped clear Jim’s foggy mind. Even here under the lights of the gas station, “I can see so many stars! So amazing what God has made. Just think, there are more stars out there than there are grains of sand in the ocean! If that doesn’t blow your mind nothing will.”
The nozzle on the hose of the pump Jim had ended up with didn’t have a clip to hold the nozzle. So Jim had to stand there holding the nozzle as it filled the tank. The annoyance not enough to interrupt the rapture of the stars Jim held onto. But, standing there he noticed classic white dodge van pull in across the pump island from him. It was being driven by hispanic farm workers, it seemed. But, then Jim noticed the men beginning to file out of the van. They looked different. They looked middle eastern.
BANG!
Jim heard an extremely loud noise come from the van. As if someone had hit the van with a sledgehammer. Things began to move in slow motion from that point. Jim noticed the guns coming out of the van. Those were AK-47’s. He had seen enough movies to recognize their distinctive shape. Standing there holding onto the nozzle Jim saw three of the men drop immediately, blood spurting from multiple gunshot wounds. But, there was no noise. Until, one of the middle easterners managed to get his gun firing. That was when Jim noticed the men running from across the street. Obviously, American special forces warriors, they were firing as they advanced. The difference between the middle easterner firing his AK randomly in desperation and the fast and silent professionalism of the operators readily apparent as Jim’s mind took the entire scene in.
Then one of the middle easterners ran around the front of the van and firing to east towards the two operators maneuvering past a row of short ornamental trees, was backing down towards Jim. And, Jim could see that the operators were not firing, because of Jim standing there.
So Jim took the nozzle out of the car’s fuel intake and smashed the middle easterner in the head gas spewing all over the side of the car and over the now unconscious jihadi. And, as quick as it started the fight was over. Out of six jihadi’s, four died, one was wounded by a carefully placed round from Gunny O’Kirk and the last concussed by Jim “Santa Claus” Thibodeau was alive and being carried to a Black Hawk Helicopter in the middle of the intersection.

Wendy opened the door from the restroom to see her father standing with a group of soldiers who seemed to be clapping him on the back like old friends.
“Dad, what’s going on?” Wendy asked.
Jim just turned to his daughter and smiled.
“It’s a guy thing Wendy. Just a guy thing.”
The Team looked at the puzzled look on Wendy’s face and laughed. The tension of another successful operation draining off with the implausible ending to the night.
Jim and Wendy talked well into the night.

The Swasey Drive Fire of 1973

Firefighting

 

 

August 1973 was my third season of fighting fire in the mountains, foothills, and grasslands of Northern California. The California Division of Forestry – as it was known in the seventies – hired lots of high school graduates and college students for the summer fire season. It was what I called a “Primo” summer job and paid well enough to cover most of my costs for college. At the same time, however, it was a difficult job. Beyond the normal understanding that fire fighting is dangerous, the physical demands required substantial endurance conditioning. Each summer after the final semester, my job at CDF Fire Station Fawn Lodge would be waiting for me. But, after nine months of studying – and partying – it took a couple of weeks to get my conditioning back, so I could survive the brutal physical demands of fighting fire in triple digit temperature. 

 

Fawn Lodge sits in a natural bowl in the surrounding mountains of eastern trinity county. It is planted right on highway 299 on the road from Eureka and Redding. For a self-proclaimed wild man who liked to party hard, it was the perfect station.  Situated far enough from headquarters in Redding, Fawn Lodge – and Trinity County mostly – enjoyed a certain amount of isolation. Life slowed down once the conditioning came back and the CDF routine settled in. Still, each summer had its “white knuckle” moments and the summer of 1973, our trucks saw plenty of action.

 

June and July of 1973 came and went with relative ease.  But, by the final week of July and the first two weeks of August, fire conditions reached extreme levels. And, the second week of August –the week of the Swasey Drive fire – turned into a tiring series of sleepless nights and days of sequential fires.

 

In the middle of Wednesday night the larger of our two trucks deployed to a reserve position at headquarters in Redding. A rash of grass and brush fires occupied the Redding trucks requiring us to fill the standby slot. The trip down Buckhorn Summit snakes down towards Whiskeytown lake and normally I would have enjoyed the ride. But, after two and a half seasons of driving on mountain roads on the back of a fire truck, the trip to Redding at o’ dark thirty in the morning barely registered. My sleep interrupted, I determined to not miss any and buckling my self in with both seat belts to the thin foam seat pad, I wedged myself between the bulkheads of the truck and slept like a baby.

 

We never made it to headquarters. Headquarters diverted us to a fire south of Anderson California to help mop up a 500 acre brush fire. The sleep on the back of the truck was the last sleep I would get for the next 3 days.

 

Time passed quickly with us hopping from fire to fire, stopping only long enough to pump water and fuel into the truck, or to eat. Three days passed with little sleep, and when we did sleep it consisted of quick naps on the back of the truck or on tarp on the burnt out ground. Most of our activities consisted mopping up contained fires or watching for flare ups. Making sure that a fire stayed “Put-Out”. Although the night could be peaceful and allowed for a measure of rest at times, the requirement to remain alert eliminated any actual slumber. Night time on a fire forms a kind of alien landscape smelling of burnt grass. A surreal landscape only punctuated by the creeping movement of our truck patrolling the perimeter looking for smoldering embers.

 

The morning of the third day the fire incidents slowed down long enough for us to come into headquarters for showers and sleep. It was lunchtime, we all longed for the joy of a hot meal without the smell of smoke. We almost made it when the alarm on the radio sounded within view of the headquarters building, dashing our hopes of rest.  

 

A major wind-driven forest fire ignited to the south of highway 299 west of Redding in foothills covered with heat dried grasses, stands of manzanita, Live Oak, Valley Oak and Digger Pines.  With winds pushing 20 to 30 miles per hour the fire escalated from a small grass fire to a major fast-moving forest fire jumping from tree to tree. It burnt southwest into an area dotted with expensive homes, small ranches and an elementary school. The dry conditions of the long Northern California summer had created the perfect conditions for an explosive fire. The growth of the fire quickly escalated its status to that of a potential disaster. Fire fighting resources began moving towards the fire with a measured professional urgency. Trucks from all over the county and inmates from the California Department of Corrections raced to the fire. By the time headquarters diverted us, the complexity and speed of the fire caused the decision makers to overlook the fact that our truck had not been replenished with fuel or water since the day before. To be fair, our own sense of immediacy short circuited any practical common sense understanding that our truck would be useless in its current condition. Thus, our exhausted crew and empty truck – sirens on, adrenaline pumping, sleep forgotten – responded as trained.

 

Our Captain Bob Schepe – a consummate professional firefighter – recognized the serious nature of the situation in the level of excitement in the voices of the dispatchers, and by the number and speed of resources being allocated. That excitement contagiously raised the level of excitement in the truck. Driving through the heart of a city sirens blasting is a unique experience. The – “This is what I always wanted to do-ness” – that every boy experiences the first time a bright red fire truck screams past, kicked in for me every time we used the lights and sirens. But, Captain Bob’s stress coping mechanism was chain-smoking and Captain Bob was furiously coping. Each nervous drag creating our own smoke trail down highway 299 on the way to the fire.

 

We arrived on scene and the on scene commander positioned our truck – another asset on the chessboard – in a long line of fire trucks on Lower Springs Road which intersected with Swasey Drive about half a mile ahead. Captain Bob told me to drive. Then, grabbing the backfire torch began backfiring the south side of Lower Springs road, one of the other firefighters following behind with the hose mopping up the fire closest to the road. The dangerously low-level of water in the tank still not evident as we approached the main body of the fire.

 

It never occurred to me what kind of problem one hundred and ten in the shade, the heat from a raging fire, and chain-smoking could create for the human physiology. But, Captain Bob found they are ingredients capable of stopping a strong man in his tracks. Captain Bob swinging the backfire torch made it about a quarter of a mile to the intersection of Lower Springs Road and Swasey Drive before falling unconscious in the road. It would be determined later he had experienced a heat stroke. Before I had time to react a CDF Helicopter descended and carried Captain Bob away to the hospital. This left me temporarily…and apprehensively…in command of the truck. But, within a few minutes an Engineer from another truck jumped on board and took command.

 

As we turned onto Swasey Drive the full extent of what we were facing became evident – our truck was first in line. There laid out in front of our truck shimmering in the heat roared the largest fire I had ever seen. For a moment it seemed like I was a spectator watching a disaster movie. The road sloped up a gentle hill for perhaps a mile partially hidden by the swirling smoke permeating the air. The fire – for the moment – contained to the east side of the road had jumped from the brush to the tops of the digger pines and was racing towards the giant steel towers of the power lines flowing downhill from Whiskeytown Dam. Overhead, fire suppression air-tankers positioned themselves to drop their loads, while hundreds of inmates shuffled along the side of the road strung out in a long weary line, carrying brush hooks, pulaski’s, and shovels ready to keep the fire from jumping over Swasey Drive. to the west.

 

Our improvised leader responding to the orders of the on scene commander on the radio pulled out of line and gunned the truck up the road. Directed to race ahead of the fire to catch spotfires jumping the road, we raced past the inmates to our right and the fire – now well over a hundred feet high – to our left. The fire, moving faster than the inmates could walk, was escaping the boundaries of the road. 

 

Our truck raced past the head of the fire. The wind now driving it forward faster than a man could run. The sight of the fire only a number of yards from our truck raised the adrenaline – and fear – level on our truck to the maximum. So much so that when we pulled up to the spot fires on the right side of the road – spreading quickly in a rapidly growing circle of burning dry grass – my fingers fumbled to get the fire pump started. The engineer took over and directed me to take the hard-line from the hose reel and attack the spot fire. Jumping the barbed wire fence I ran towards the growing grass fire. Hearing the pump light off I opened the nozzle…no water. The urgency of the day had finally caught up with our truck. And, now the consequences of that urgency were upon us.

 

I looked up from the now useless hose – a desperate question on my face – to see the engineer pointing at the approaching fire on the other side of the road. He was backlit by a fifty foot wall of roaring raging fire! Fear began screaming in my ears sounding like a locomotive racing through a tunnel at full speed. The fire caught up with us faster than we could react. Smoke from the fire shut out the sun creating an eerie noisy and choking twilight in the middle of the day. It pounced on us like a supernatural carnivorous being.

 

“Get back on the Truck!” Screamed the engineer. “Get back here or we are all going to die!” He was attempting to reel the hose back to the truck. 

 

As we jumped back over the barbed wire fence I realized that my uniform shirt was catching fire from the sparks falling from the superheated air. Grabbing the hand hold to climb into the back compartment I noticed the paint on the truck beginning to bubble. Breathing became painful.

 

Once on board, the engineer accelerated through the fire and smoke in a desperate dash to life, dragging the hose behinds us the nozzle bouncing on the road adding its own sparks to those falling from the sky.

 

Within a few minutes we managed to drive to a safe zone, in a temporary fire camp. I sat in the back of the truck watching the activity around me moving in slow motion for what seemed like a long time. An EMT brought us a number of water bottles – I poured one over my head – and checked us out. He told me I was in shock and took me to a tented area to rest.

 

I was given a week off to rest up after that ordeal and during that week decided that there were safer ways to pay for college and resigned the following day.

 

 

 

 

 

The Payback

Image

The Payback

by Derek Hastings

My name is Zachary Tankersly. I’m a habitual practical joker. My wife tells me it’s one of my bad habits and I really need to stop devising and playing practical jokes. However, she still laughs when a particularly well planned scheme comes to its intended conclusion. Still, I know she’s right, because, sometimes the consequences take on an unintended life – an unexpected trajectory – of their own.

Today, however, practical joking is the furthest thing from my mind. I’m standing in the crowd of hopeful workers at the Baltimore Docks hoping and praying to hear my name called for a day’s work. Two years into what the newspapers are calling a depression, finding work mostly means daily frustration and a continual gnawing hunger.

Desperate men standing in the cold dirty air each as hungry as I are crowding the dock…it’s the same every day. Some appear to be almost dead from malnutrition rather than alive. They present a dilemma for the shipping companies and labor unions. If they sign these men to work, will they finish the day? Will they give a full day’s work without dying? I know some of the men waiting for work, having grown up in the same neighborhoods. There, two rows ahead, I spot Jeremy Brooks, the neighborhood bully. The one person I spent the most time figuring out how to avoid on the way to and from school. Bully took on a new shade of black with Jeremy. Forming a phalanx around him stood his current cadre of drinking buddies everyone of them, crude, brutal, and amoral wharf-rats. Off to my left – unsuccessfully trying not to be noticed – stands Tyree Henderson, a gloriously black human being.

Tyree’s father and my father, Gene Tankersly, worked together for years. My father drove a garbage truck for the City of Baltimore. Tyree’s father, Samson Henderson, managed the Can-Handlers for my father’s truck. So Tyree and I grew up around each other. Tyree went to a different school and church than I did, but, on weekends our fathers, and our families, would gather to barbeque and listen to the Orioles game on the radio.

Tyree has a special place in my heart, firmly cemented one cold October afternoon. After high school let out, I had arranged an elaborate prank to catch Tyree unawares. Tyree was difficult to fool. He was strong as two grown men by the time we were seniors in high school, and as difficult to surprise as a wild fox. Not much got past Tyree. So it had become my special challenge to catch Tyree in a glorious prank – and live to tell the story. Unfortunately, Jeremy Brooks fell into the trap. Instead of a good-humored Tyree responding with surprise and laughter, Jeremy’s legendary temper exploded. The first person Jeremy saw was my horrified face. All I could see was a pain-filled future as I prepared myself for the beating of my life.

Frantically looking around, all of my senses were heightened, straining to find the quickest escape route away from the situation. I was trapped with my back to the brick wall of the alley where I had positioned myself to view my masterpiece of a prank. Slowly I sidled out of the alley eyes focused on Jeremy – and by now his gang of bully wannabe’s – and began to back down the street. Jeremy’s face blazed bright red with the embarrassment of being caught in one of the “cockroaches” tricks, the need for revenge written all over his face. But, for some reason Jeremy just stood and glared at me. Then silently Jeremy and his gang backed away and disappeared into the alley I had just vacated.

Puzzled I turned around. There stood Tyree, his father, and his two older brothers.

“I see your pranksterism almost got the better of you this time” Samson smoothly chastised. “Perhaps now you will think twice about your constant scheming. I hate to think what those boys would have done to you if we had not come along when we did Zach. I think it would be a very good idea for you to come along with us the rest of the way to your house.” Mr. Henderson had that way about him. You never argued. And, given the circumstances at that moment, arguing was out of the question. My gratitude towards Tyree and his family was stamped upon my soul that afternoon.

Now I stand watching my friend – both of us grown and with families to feed – worrying and fretting about feeding his wife and kids. The odds of being chosen are less than ten percent with the number of jobs available compared to the number of men standing here on the docks. The odds far worse for a black man on the Irish controlled docks. Tyree is actually the only black man to consistently show up expecting to be chosen. I think it has to do with his pride. It’s Tyree’s way of saying, “I’m the problem that’s never going away! So you best be picking me and get it over with!” Sometimes I visualize Tyree being chosen, and then turning them down, just to make a point. Standing there dancing in place— like everyone else— to stay warm, I realized that that would be a great prank for Tyree to pull over the shipping company.

Still, I know his need for work has become more a matter of survival. There is a new Tyree in the family. Food equals life for the newborn now. Acts of defiance will not feed a family.

So I began praying a desperate prayer, “Jesus, pick Tyree! Convict their hearts to pick Tyree, Lord. The man is stronger than any three of us standing here right now! How can they not see this? How can you, Lord, let this injustice go on!”

My indignation over the unfairness of the situation causing my prayer to take the form of a challenge to The God I had heard could do miracles. Over the shuffling and grumbling of the crowd a quiet voice began speaking, “Ok, challenge accepted. I will use your prayer…and I will use you! Listen and believe!”

Not a second went by, before I heard a different voice calling my name. The Boss-Man was calling my name!

Realizing what The Lord had meant about using me, I push forward and grabbing my work chit, I turn to find Tyree. He is turning to leave. Head down, dejected, Tyree begins to shuffle slowly away from the Dock Yard. Running to him I grab his arm and pull him down to my level whispering, “You once saved my bacon when I least deserved it or expected it. Now I get to pay you back!” Shoving the chit into Tyree’s hand, and ignoring the look of shock on the big man’s face, I turn to go before he can refuse me. But, Tyree snags my collar in his grappling hook hands and starts to mumble something about not being able to accept the chit. About how I needed it as much as he did. Looking him right in the eyes I threaten him, “You take that chit! Or, I promise I will make your life miserable with the pranks I will foist on you!!”

The threat birthed a smile on the strong man I knew and he laughed at me, “I’d like to see you try…but, it’s a deal white boy!” Reaching out Tyree shakes my hand and gets in the line of workers heading through the gate. None of the other workers in line daring to challenge the big black man.

That was Tyree’s first day of continual work. He proved himself so capable that he earned a permanent position on the docks and eventually Tyree leveraged me onto his crew. We both stayed employed throughout the remainder of the depression. Sometimes it pays to challenge The Creator of the Universe.

Where are the Hero’s?

Robin_Hood

I tend to divide history into periods of time. It’s somewhat of an unconscious thing. I believe everyone does this. Probably, because our minds naturally do the same thing intuitively. Similar to how your operating system on your computer is programed to “logically” store bits of information in an orderly way. I have almost no idea of the actual process. I just know that it works.

But, in some ways we do this consciously, in order to keep track of the things that are important to us. Things that we like or dislike. We put the things in life that we like close at hand. And, the things we don’t like, we either dispose of them – a bonafide method of categorization – or put them somewhere out of the way.

When I think of human history, one of the somewhat unconscious dividers or markers I use are famous people. Heroes or villains. People that made a difference in the world they lived in at that time, whether that was for the good of humanity or to the detriment.

I saw a blog post a couple of days ago that made a point about the need for heroes. That when life becomes difficult, heroes arise. That an historical revival – a move of God – is close at hand.

Heroes with the largest impact on the world – greatest catalyst for good – were those that brought the kingdom of God in a way that transformed society into times of peace and productivity. Times of unity and diverse collaboration that produced exponential advances in Art and Science. The greatest advances in the history of mankind came with the advent of humble Spirit filled men and women with the courage to put everything at risk for righteousness.

I know, you thought I was going to talk about the military kind of heroes. In some ways I am. Many of those that brought change to society did so after violent military conflict. Evil has a tendency to not want to go quietly. Sometimes that is what is needed and it seems, it will always be that way.

Arrogant and maladjusted individuals – Nimrod, Nero, Qin Shi HUang, Herod, Attila, Stalin, Hitler – some who achieved great building projects and forced their nations forward at the expense of humanity are viewed by some as heroes. But, one of the greatest genocides to ravage earth occurred over the 500 years the western hemisphere was colonized. Much of this under the guise of “the name of God”. And, that cannot be attributed to any one individual from any one European nation. Rather that should be placed under the heading, man’s inhumanity towards man. Eugenic’s induced continental cleansing birthed by a deceived sense of superiority. This is the history of the America’s and it is viewed – still – by the victorious, as fulfillment of “Manifest Destiny”.

There are enlightened leaders that brought about longer lasting and more productive change without tyranny. Particularly here in the United States. But, even as great as the American Experiment has been. It could have been better. The ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population of the western hemisphere did not need to happen. There were examples from the very beginnings of productive collaboration and cohabitation between Europeans and Native Americans – the Natick People for one, the Cherokee Nation of the early 1800’s another.

Again, evil in the form of fear, greed, and ignorance eventually ended these kind of successes. Still the American experiment is better than the rest of what is out there. And, the genesis of this experiment is undeniably God Breathed. Regardless of how badly our ancestors mucked it up. There were men and women of all races and tribes that rose up and catalyzed their worlds, exhorted and inspired men and women through word and deed. Created light in times of darkness. Saved whole cities from anarchy. Saved whole cultures from blight and plague. Saved races from slavery. Freed continents from racial madmen.

So where are the heroes for today?

I heard a statement (not sure of the truth of it) attributed to our current President. That he believes that the Christian Foundations of our Nation are outdated and obsolete. That those that hang onto those concepts are to be treated as domestic terrorists for maintaining such fanatical beliefs. If this statement is truly his stance, there is no heroism in it.

So again, where are the heroes that will stand and fight for righteousness? Who will stand for moral purity, black and white understanding of truth versus falsehood and the consequences of a relative understanding of those concepts. True heroism that humbly brings in the presence of a Holy God that created all things. The historical Creator Father that taught our ancient grandfathers about the land He was giving them. The Holy Provider that calls us precious and gave His Son so that we can escape the prison of time and live in the eternal with Him.

Where are those that walk in understanding, discernment and wisdom? Where are those with the vision to lead a world steeped in selfishness into life filled with compassion and sacrifice? Where are those that would lay down their lives for truth and love?

When those people rise up, then transformation of our society will come. When the heroes come the people will follow. It has always been this way.

God, raise up the heroes. Those that look like Jesus and walk in His Power. Our world is tired of the false hope that does not save. The world is desperate for You. Desperate for the real power that exists only in You.

Could it be that you and I are the heroes? If not us then who? We who are filled with the Third Person of the Trinity?

Christianity is not designed for merely a “Self-Help” mechanism. It is a ticking time bomb of radical power unleashed to wipe the tears of a lost world away. It is passionate heart filled heavenly perspective that brings Truth into every aspect of culture, refining thought and producing wonders for the benefit of all. It is a never ending stream of inspiration and blessing just waiting to be tapped and given away.

Do you believe? Is this understanding woven into the core of your identity?

Angel at the Bus

HISTORICAL PABT PHOTOS AND CONSTRUCTION

I wrote this a number of years ago for a book on angels by Jerry Orthner, “Angels: Friends in High Places”

January 5, 1980, dawned cold and cloudy, snow gently falling on the empty street. Only a few days earlier I had publicly acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. And today I was to catch a city bus that would take me to the Port Authority in New York City and on to coast guard training in Yorktown. Nancy and I moved slowly, trying not to think of the four months we would be apart.

Finally, with my duffel bag, a carry-on and my new Bible in the car, we headed for the bus station. About five minutes before the bus was scheduled to arrive, I realized I had left my uniform hat back at the house. Nancy jumped in the car and drove back to get it, leaving me to wait for the bus. By the time she returned, I had missed the bus that would have allowed me to make connections in New York.

I finally boarded the next “86” and arrived at the Port Authority precisely at 10:30. I jumped off in a panic, my mind swimming with images of showing up late for Officer Candidate School.

Once inside, I found the ticket area, got in line and bought my ticket. My bus, they said, was leaving from Gate 36. I ran the full length of the building before I saw a sign that indicated that Gate 36 was downstairs and all the way back at the other end.

I glanced down at my watch. It was 10:45 and there were no people waiting in line! I crashed into the metal door with all the weight of my body and luggage. There sat the bus, engine idling.

Is this the bus to Baltimore?” I asked breathlessly as the driver opened the door.

Yes, it is,” he replied.

The man climbed down from his seat and proceeded to the cargo compartment to stow my bag. He was a big man, over six feet tall with broad shoulders, a big smile and white hair. As I turned to climb into the bus, he asked, “What’s that book you have there?”

It’s my new Bible,” I replied. “I just bought it last weekend.”

The driver smiled.

Read Psalm 91:11 and you will see why I waited for you.”

What?” I exclaimed, exhausted from the excitement.

Read Psalm 91:11 and you will see why I waited for you.”

I climbed on board, found a seat on the let side about halfway back near the window and opened my Bible. “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

I looked up. The driver was watching me in the large rearview mirror.

Beautiful, isn’t it?” he said as our eyes met.

Sometime later, in Baltimore, I watched as the bus pulled out of the station and stopped at a traffic signal a short distance down the road. The driver turned, locked eyes with me and, with another big smile, waved. Amazed, I waved back.

When I finally reached the motel, I called Nancy and told her about the incident on the bus.

Maybe the man was your guardian angel,” she suggested.

As first such a thing was difficult to believe, but when I thought about it, I realized that I had not pre-purchased my tickets and no one knew I was coming. Although I arrived almost fifteen minutes past the departure time, the driver said he had specifically waited just for me! And, what’s more, he had waited because God had commanded His angel to guard me along my way.

Throughout the years I have held on to this memory as a very personal and special gift from my Heavenly Father. I believe the Lord sent His angel to establish in my heart whose child I had become.

The Redeemed Imagination

The Presence

When I was young – not sure exactly how young – my mother told me that I can be anything put my mind to. To a certain extent that has been true. At almost 60 years old now, the list of jobs I have held in my life point to that belief that I could do just about anything I could imagine or desire. Of course life’s triage process and a general lack of physical time, limited those choices. But, I have been a janitor, ditch digger, bar tender, clown, roofer, receptionist, grounds maintenance person, waiter, bill collector, US Coast Guard Officer, and a Certified Financial Planner. It only required a confident sense of determination, desperation, and the ability to visualize myself doing those things to attain the employment.

There is also the underlying current of God’s Grace and Provision in every one of those situations.

My imagination is a powerful gift from The Creator. It seems to live right in the middle of the heart of who I am. When I imagine, that imagining is central to my thoughts and colored by everything I have become.

There are numerous books on the thought life, both good and bad. And, I suppose I could talk a bit about how important it is to control that part of your life. But, this isn’t about that battleground. This is more about The Gift of Imagination Creator gave us.

The Creator of all things, has the most powerful imagination out there. After all, it was His Vision, His Imagination that birthed the universe. I have heard from different places that when God created creation, he didn’t merely speak it into existence, He sang it into existence. His Heart overflows with passionate love and that love inspires a boundless creative imagination which resulted in you and me and everything you see. So when He created you and I in His image, that template carries an eternal human potential.

In Second Corinthians 5:17, Paul explains that we are a New Creation in Jesus Christ. We have been redeemed from death and made new. How does this apply to the imagination? It has everything to do with how you see yourself …or how you imagine yourself. If you are a new creation, redeemed and restored to your inheritance in The Kingdom. Then there are certain benefits that come with that restoration.

In John 14:12, Jesus bluntly states that the miracles the disciples witnessed are a template for how they will interact with creation. He tells them that they are going to do those same miracles, only they will do more. The New Creation functions differently than the old creation. That is unless someone – the father of lies – can convince The Newly Created that nothing has changed. And, there are numerous examples of Christian Saints that understood their newness and interacted with life in a manner consistent with their identity. Simply they walked in Signs and Wonders. I suggest to you that signs and wonders are the naturally supernatural realm of the redeemed.

So if that is true – and I believe it is – then the redeemed imagination should be a key to the impossible. In Christ the word impossible does not exist. Paul seems to understand this when he writes his letter to the Philippians.  Philippians 4:8  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Again, recognizing the battle ground of the mind, I understand it is not easy to think of oneself as having a redeemed imagination. Especially, with the flood of images that bombard our minds everyday.

All of this is important because what you imagine has everything to do with what you do. So let’s apply this to the realm of Art.

I am a writer. All my life my imagination would produce fun ideas – stories – that I would diligently write down. The hard part for me was finishing a story. Eventually, I found myself with a box of unfinished stories. Part of me still considered myself a writer. But, most of my time was spent playing online games. Online games captured my imagination. Specifically, Call of Duty in all of it’s various iterations. Actually, I started in the 1990’s with Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Duke Nukem, Medal of Honor, and then Call of Duty. I was an avid gamer for over 15 years. But one day, about two years ago, a friend described meeting with a publisher about the potential of her book. Her excitement was infectious. I got jealous. So I complained to The Lord about it, “why can’t I do that Lord?” He just answered me with a question. “What is more important to you? Playing Games or Writing?”

I went cold turkey that very day (you gamers out there will understand that one …or, maybe not.)

It took my mind almost 9 months before I stopped seeing the images of the game when I closed my eyes. It was almost a year and a half before the desire to write came back. I forced myself to write. I worked at healing my imagination. It was hard. It was frustrating. The images from the gaming had cauterized my imagination.

But, I persisted and worked at it.

Within the last couple of months – during my normal Saturday afternoon writing time – my desire to write exploded into a passion. I like to listen to music while I write. That afternoon as I sat at my computer The Holy Spirit’s Presence overwhelmed me, injecting a passionate excitement into the entire afternoon. The sense of energetic, creativity, mingled with a profound intoxicating peace, and I just closed my eyes and let my fingers fly. I understood that I was functioning on a level of intimacy with my Creator that defined my heavenly identity. As powerful of a feeling I was experiencing, I knew intuitively that this was intended to be normal for the redeemed. Functioning as part of The Body of Christ, wielding the Mind of Christ, and Creating Spirit inspired Beauty. I experienced a joy I have only felt a few very special times before.

I attended a writers conference this weekend. One of the speakers coined the term, “Presence based Art”. When she said that, I realized that was what was happening with me. Presence based art. Collaboration between The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and Their Human Instrument.

Presence based art will bring about the next Spirit Inspired Renaissance.

Be careful what you put into your mind. The old saying G.I.G.O. – Garbage In, Garbage Out – is so brutally true. Guard your heart and mind, nurture that which He has redeemed. (And, if you don’t know Him or that joyous redemption. Ask Him and He will be there.)

You are an instrument of The Creator of all things. You carry a template of The Holy in your Spirit and your Soul. Write, Paint, Sing, Dance, Sculpt, and invite the Presence to collaborate with you. It will be the best Father Son or Father Daughter project you ever do.