Chapter Two: The Story Writes Itself…

Empty Pages of a book

(Derek’s Notes: This is the second chapter of The Lewis List. The characters begin to arrive.)

 

Chapter Two

The Story Writes Itself

Days passed and the book sat next to C.S. Lewis’s bed…undisturbed and actively ignored. Until one day returning from classes at Magdalen College. Lewis, on his way to change out of his formal clothes, noticed the book was balanced on top of the typewriter in the drawing room, and instead of continuing the path to the bedroom turned into the drawing room and picked the book up. It fell open to the front page and now had writing on the first few pages. The front page exhibited the bold words; TITLE! The next page – in the same font and bolding – CHARACTERS:.

“How do I know?” Lewis thought. But, then something seemed to impel him and he sat in the overstuffed reading chair with his pen in hand and settled the book on his lap. Sitting for a moment in the declining light of the early evening, listening to the sounds of Janie and Maureen preparing tea in the kitchen, raised his pen and then hesitated. “Title? What do I call a book I have no idea how to write? This is so preposterous in so many different ways God.” Jack turned the page and stared at the heading CHARACTERS.

The thought came in like a shot from the enemy trenches. “The savage doctor!”

Jack put pen to the page and wrote; The Savage Doctor. “Well then, right! That sounds correct. But, who ever heard of a savage doctor?”

The second thought followed the first with the same sharp dictation of certitude. “Mr. Holmes! And, his Challenger!”

No sooner the thought echoed on its way out of recognition, the words appeared on the pages of the book. Before, even the pen could contact the paper.

Next, “Tecumseh!”, “Mr. Reeves!”, “Shieldbearer Peggy Carter”, “Maid of Orleans!”,”Artur!”.

As each thought shot through Jack’s mind the words appeared on the page until the page was full.

Quietly put the pen back into his pocket and looked out the window. “The story is writing itself,” Jack whispered into the room. “So what do you need me for God if you are going to write the story for me? Am I a first-year student in need of instruction?” Jack chuckled to himself. “Actually, I suppose from your perspective I still have quite a distance to go to achieve first-year status. Who am I to complain? Here I sit grasping a book well beyond anything I could imagine a man could produce. Watching words appear upon the page as a disembodied voice speaks to my mind. I should be amazed. Instead, I sense a very healthy spirit of skepticism, tinged with an equally insistent curiosity.”

The words still hanging on his tongue, and still gazing out the window, he watched as a huge horse appeared on the street at full gallop with a small child on its back. It was pointed towards the garden and in a bound vaulted the hedges and came to a skidding stop in the midst of the Roses.

Jack pushed himself out of the chair and ran to the door in time to see the child dismounting from the Horse. It was a magnificent black stallion covered with the slather of having been ridden extremely hard. Its eyes were wide with excitement and nervously stomped back and forth in the garden barely resisting the urge to continue its flight. The child – barely standing to the horse’s chest – grabbed the reins and was attempting to quiet its nerves. It was now obvious the child was a female and wearing leather armor of an ancient pedigree. Her hair was cut roughly in the form of an unruly child…or perhaps if she were attempting to look like a man. Which became evidently the purpose as the face of the girl…woman…was pretty and petite. But, then she turned and looked at Jack standing there in his professor’s clothes(minus the robes).

She stepped to the side of the horse still holding the reins and then produced a short sword from her belt. “Qui es-tu?” She said with the force of one accustomed to being promptly answered.

“Mon nom est Jack!” Jack reflexively retreated from the sword and the aggressive approach of the diminutive little warrior. “ The thought erupted, “The Maid!” “Es-tu celui qu’ls appellent la Pucelle d’Orleans?” Jack asked.

“Oui!” Joan of Arc answered. Then sensing no danger, but an overwhelming curiosity, she began to look about the garden. And, now at the two wide-eyed women in aprons standing in the doorway of the house. “Ou’ suis-je?” Joan whispered.

 

 

 

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The Lewis List

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Photo By jschroe from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, USA – Lewis’ House, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7304420

(Author’s note: This is the first chapter of a “Fun” Work in Progress (WIP). Thought I would attempt a Mashup Novel. Taking a break from writing on the Grail Fellowship Series)

Rain fell in sheets across the predawn garden and streaked the windows as Clive Staples Lewis watched from his sitting room. The early roses waving in the brisk wind attempting to dodge the drops. Lewis, lost in thought somewhere in Scotland, gently drew on his pipe, enough to keep the coal alive in the bowl. Awake in the sleeping house, ideas demanded his sleepless attention and pointed him towards action. The sound of the teapot whistling drew him back at the speed of interrupted thought to the present.

Tea in cup, Lewis strode into the drawing room where the typewriter sat, and as he set his cup down, there came a knock on the front door. A deep sigh escaped with a puff from the pipe, and a longing look at the cup. “Who could be at the door at this time of the morning? I’ve a mind to ignore their uncivilized approach when most good people should be asleep.”

Opening the door enough to see and not let the rain in, Lewis looked at the figure standing before him. A young man stood in the rain five feet away holding a small oilskin-wrapped package. Tall and muscular, his hair was long and red. His face beamed with expectation and the passion of an Irishman. His eyes burned with the same jovial curiosity that climbed into Lewis’s mind. The rain was falling in torrents now, but the man was dry as if the sun was out. The water seemed to part above the man’s head and refuse to drench him. His cheeks were ruddy and the eyebrows were the same color as his hair, and his smile was brilliant like a lighthouse in the midst of a north sea storm.

Lewis looked behind the man to see what kind of vehicle had transported the man to his doorstep, only to find there was not a car or bicycle to be seen. He looked back at the man, who stepped forward and held his hand out and in a deep Belfast brogue said, “Mr. Lewis, such a pleasure, I have wanted to physically meet you for so long.” He stepped up into Lewis’s face as he extended his hand in response leaning down to within a breaths distance and placing his hand on the door he gently pushed it open, and said, “May I come in out of this bonny weather?” The last word said as he stepped past Lewis, turned and shut the door.

“Hello there!” Lewis exclaimed as his sense of propriety flooded back at the realization that a total stranger had just pushed his way into his privacy. “What business do you have that requires such an early invasion of my privacy sir!”

“Business? Why the answer to your prayers of late. That’s my business, Jackie! And, my name is Aloysius, but you can call me Fred. Much simpler in these days of simplicity. Don’t you think Professor? Like I said, we don’t get out very often. At least not in any physical sense. Let alone to hobnob with our charges. Excited you should be, my good human. Can’t you feel it?” Fred leaned over and sniffed the cup of tea as he settled into the overstuffed chair.

“Feel it?” Lewis said as he shuffled over to his cup and leaned against the typewriter table. “I’m sorry Fred, I have no idea what you’re rambling on about. But, I think that you should tell me right now exactly why you are here, as your beginning to make absolutely complete nonsense about hob-nobbing and charging about and such. Especially at this unconventional time of the morning, that I normally reserve for myself for my writing. So if you don’t mind, I would appreciate your immediate getting to the point.”

Fred looked up at the perplexed Professor Lewis and smiled his electric torch smile, and held out the package. “There is a matter of utmost importance, been assigned to yourself, Professor. Your prayers for this world, the colors, the stories, the history of people and creatures have arrived in the halls of Heaven. Your love for Him has resulted in this. Just remember one thing, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, to search out a matter is the glory of Kings”. The story has to be written and your imagination is not your own…as you so well understand. Remember, His heart is for you and ultimately for the world. It’s why He came and why He died. But, it’s always been about the heart of man. In this case, Professor your heart and imagination have been chosen to finish the story. And, with that, I will beg your leave my young charge.”

With a blink of brilliant light Fred disappeared, leaving the package in Lewis’s hands.

C.S.Lewis stood as still as a gravestone. Slowly he reached down, picked up the tea and placed the pipe on the pipe holder. He didn’t move again until the tea was gone. Thought after thought cascading through the mind and heart of a man confronted with a first-hand encounter with the extraordinary intrusion of the supernatural into the comfortable but mundane reality of life. Minutes passed before he opened the package. The reluctance to proceed due to an attempt to hang on to the moment of time spent in the presence of what – or who – was obviously one of God’s angels.

Quietly Lewis found his penknife and cut through the string that tied the package, and unwrapped the oilskin. There next to the now empty teacup sat a red leather notebook. Embroidered with Celtic Cable work and embossed with a quite stylized Clive Staples Lewis across the front. The book was ten inches high by eight inches wide and at least five inches deep. A good sized book this was and Lewis expected a heft to it. But, as he picked up the book it was as light as a feather.

Opening the book Lewis saw the pages were empty. Each was luxurious to the touch as silk and yet as thick as lamb parchment. He held the open book under the light of the lamp to look closer at the composition of the tome. The workmanship was beyond the current science of bookmaking. No indication was found of the binding of the leather – or whatever that was – to the pages. Each page was supple and yet unyielding. They seemed to give off a faint luminescence. But, when placed next to his hand there was no light shining on the skin.

Lewis straightened up and looked at the ceiling. “A mystery is what you bring me, Lord? The presence of an angel and now a mystery to lay on top of it? And, what – may I ask – am I supposed to do with such a book as this? And, what story?” The silence settled on the last words of the question. And, then the sunrise exploded through the window and bounced around the room and settled on the book causing the pages to shine with a brilliance of burnished bronze, causing Lewis to set the book down on the tea table as if it were a hot iron.

Fred’s soft disembodied voice drifted into the room from far far away. “Only you can write the story, Jackie. Only you can find the characters. Only you can write the destiny. The story will lead you to Him. You are His cypher. Do not fear, you were created for this.”

At the last word, Lewis’s last thought was interrupted by his brother Warnie. “Who are you talking to Clive? I heard voices and came down here to see what the commotion was.”

Lewis turned to see his brother standing in the doorway still in his bedclothes.

“Well, how do I explain something like this? Or, is this just best left to the secret worlds of creation?” Jackie asked himself…

 

Changing of the Guard…or saving the Prayer Orphans.

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This will be a quick post. But, hopefully it will motivate us all to be more diligent with our prayer lives.

This weekend the Holy Spirit sparked a new story in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday. It was a struggle for me to get up and write down the ideas He was giving me, but I managed to get it done. I do keep a journal next to my bed for just that purpose.

So later that morning I sat at the keyboard and began to type. The story is intended to be a short one. But, the content could be expanded into a novel. But, as I was typing the story led me to a point where a guardian angel is describing his “assigned family” to the main character (which at this point is myself). The angel is sad because there is not much he can do for the family – a typical loving American family – as there is no one praying for them.

It seems that the older generation of grandparents and parents that had been praying and blessing the young family had passed away. And, now there was no one praying for the family. This was greatly hindering the angel’s ability to protect and to minister to them. About the only thing he could do was observe.

As the writer, I am also an intercessor. I believe one of my giftings has been as a prayer person. But, as a writer I came to a screeching halt with my story. The idea of a family not having anyone to pray for them hurt.

So over the last few days it has occurred to me that every day that passes we are losing more and more of the old-time prayer warriors that have populated our prayer meetings. At the last monthly prayer time for our city, ninety percent of the people there were over fifty years old. There was a preponderance of grey hair. In fact I believe there were only two or three people under forty years old. We are losing the diligent and faithful Grandfathers and Grandmothers of prayer.

There needs to be a changing of the guard. Which – of course – requires there to be an understanding of the impact prayer has had on our families as we grew them. But, also an understanding that many families will never know Jesus, because there is no one to pray for them. Pray for those that have never heard the gospel. They are right there in your neighborhood. Ask the Holy Spirit which of your neighbors are prayer orphans.

I am probably off in my theology about the angels grieving because no one is praying. But, I don’t think so.

Where are all the young prayer warriors?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Evidence of His Presence

This morning I had a dream that was – in my opinion – from God. It had to do with prayers we raised up last night in a prayer group that I am a part of. Sometimes you just know when He is inserting something into your dream life. And, just like any other moment in time, when He steps into your day, there is a certain amount of thrill that comes along with that. It has a tendency to increase my level of faith.

But, this morning after I woke up and pondered the meaning of the dream, I turned on the light, and started my breakfast, fed the dogs, and…the same old same old started again.

Before too long I had forgotten about the dream and its potential meaning for my life and a low level of anxiety began to creep into my heart. Anxiety about what the day would bring. Would I find success? Would I find a mess?

Let me step back for a moment here and clarify something. One of my more persistent prayers has been that The Holy Spirit would allow me to see the “Evidence of His Presence”. Similar to praying for Miracles, Signs, and Wonders. I guess you could say I am addicted to seeing Jesus move in my life. The little blessings. The naturally occurring supernatural/divine moments that sneak up on you and catch your breath away. I have found that The Father loves to surprise His Beloved. And, I so look forward to those special moments. I considered the dream this morning to be one of those surprises.

There have been a number of those special moments lately. (ask me to tell you the story of Champ the dog), and they seem to be increasing in frequency.

You have probably figured out the point of my blog by now…

He has been answering my prayer to see the “Evidence of His Presence” in my life. So if He is present, why was I allowing the anxiety to set up shop in my heart? I just sat there – I was putting my shoes on when I came to this conclusion – and chuckled to myself and began to worship him with thanksgiving for all these special moments that showed He is there throughout my day.

And, at that moment The Holy Spirit brought to mind the idea of the Hebrews in the desert. They had seen The Lord do “Over the Top” Signs, Wonders, and Miracles in bringing them out of Egypt. And, yet, they still were a bunch of ungrateful, forgetful, unsatisfied, pains in the tookus; that eventually ended up dead in the desert. And, I realized that I had been going in the same direction myself by allowing these special moments to become “Mundane – same old same old” events.

I am sure that many of you have those special moments that you hang on to. Some of you even journal them and go back and read them to remind yourself of His amazing goodness. I exhort you – and myself – to celebrate those moments on a daily basis. Cherish them, tell them to your children and friends. And, keep your eyes – spiritual senses – open for your visitations.

He is a Good Father. He is there. He loves to surprise us and give us good gifts.

Resistance is Futile!

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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!

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 Payback

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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.

“…not what ships are built for.”

lipan_04

This morning a very good friend of mine sent me a quote that set my mind to thinking.

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”
–Grace Murray Hopper,
U.S. Navy officer and computer scientist

At first the above quote is one of those proverbial “No Kidding!?!” statements. Then you realize that Admiral Hopper was trying to get a different point across. Ships are not built to live a life of comfort and safety, they are meant to go into harms way and fulfill the destiny their designers calculated on their drafting tables.

Before I get any further with this I suggest you go on Wikipedia and look up Rear Admiral Grace Hopper and read about her. What an amazing life. I owe a lot to her, as I sit and type on this computer.

But, back to the quote. The purpose of a Naval ship is to project power in the interests of the nation it was created for. It will carry Commissioned and Non-Commissioned Officers of that nation’s military on the high seas – international waters – to carry out diplomatic, humanitarian, and national security roles. Those are the action items of a US Navy or US Coast Guard Ship. There are many other things that listed in the job description of a Ship of the Line or a Naval Officer’s career, but those will do to get across this point. Sitting in port – or sitting on your can – are not what define the destiny of a naval force. Port time and maintenance are important. But, the projection of the will of the leadership of a nation is where destiny is activated.

This same understanding of the activation of destiny can be applied to a Christian as well. I told my friend Bob this morning, that the saying could look something like this. “A Christian in Church is safe, but that’s not what Christians were made for.” Actually, this can be said of any person that desires their life to make a difference in the world. But, for a believer in Jesus Christ, this is an essential understanding. That our lives have been redeemed from the grave is a joyful thing. But, that redemption is a costly one and carries a destiny attached to it.

This destiny is defined by in the 2nd Chapter of James verses 14 – 26

“14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[a]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[b] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

So destiny is defined by action taken. It would be ludicrous for a nation to construct a warship, place it at the pier, assign sailors to man it, fill it with supplies, and then just leave it there. What a waste! I propose to you that is what happens when a person believes in Christ and then lives their life as if nothing had changed.

A Warship is designed to be used in a naval fleet. It’s destiny is to take it’s place amongst a diverse group of other Naval Vessels that will be directed by trained naval officers in a rational and effective way both in times of peace and in times of war.

The same is true of The Body of Christ. I am sure many of you have heard prophetic words or visions that illustrate the Body of Christ as a Fleet of Ships. Nothing is new under the sun. But, it’s also still very true. And, like the Admiral’s quote, so obvious to a believer that it is ignored. Yes, we often ignore our destiny’s. Father God interrupts our lives – injects Himself into our day – in hopes of exciting us with His Vision of each of our unique individual destiny’s. This has been described as that “still small voice”.

This is where the battle occurs. The Father is passionately calling you into a glorious destiny that will change your world. Satan is desperately trying to convince you that what God is telling you is all a lie. Who are you going to believe? Are you going to believe the Creator of all things? Or, are you going to allow the Father of Lies to use your circumstances to convince you otherwise?

We were created for a destiny of epic proportions. We are meant to go forth and “Project the Heavenly Interests of The God of Eternity”. We are the Warships of Heaven. If we stay in port we are useless for anything other than taking up space.

So as Gods’ redeemed, our destiny in Him is tied to our Faith in His ability to manifest His Desires as we go into harms way. Our heavenly destiny is tied to taking action on the faith He has placed in us. In essence your destiny is activated by stepping out in Faith. You were built for the Epic Adventure.

Oh and for those that are curious about the ship at the top of the page. That is the US Coast Guard Medium Endurance Cutter Lipan which I served on from 1982 through 1984. We set a worlds record (I was told) back then for the most drug busts in the shortest period of time at sea. (4 busts in 52/56 hours – something like that). Lipan was an old World War II sea going tug (Indian Class) that the Navy loaned the Coast Guard for Drug Patrols. Great ship.

I encourage all you folks in the fourth quarter of life. Be like the Cutter Lipan, and finish well. Forget about the word retirement. Take yourself out of mothballs and step into your destiny. It is not too late to bust some dopers.