Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Sovereignty of God

Because I missed church his morning I decided to get back to a book of Bible studies my aunt gave me. I've started it a couple of times. I never get beyond a couple of pages before something would happen to distract me and I'd never get back to it.Today, I actually got to the fourth day's lesson. They're short lessons and I could have finished the whole thing but as usual something else got in the way. But I think it was a good thing.

The study is called Women of the Bible. The first lesson is about Eve. I found it really interesting but about half way into the second part, I noticed that I was getting something important and I figured I better get a pen and paper. Anytime this happens, I know to just let the writing flow and see what comes out of the pen. My notes initially are brief.

Defining God's purpose for Mankind, Creation, and Eve. The second chapter of Genesis clearly define it in three verses. 

God's Purpose for Mankind: be in God's image
2. to be fruitful and multiply
3 to have dominion over the earth and subdue it

God's Purpose for Creation:
1. To serve mankind
2. To provide sustenance for all life

God's Purpose for Eve:
1. Companionship - to combat loneliness and isolation
2. to share the burdens of life and help in the work of life

At this point I noted an interesting idea that never occurred to me but which I found critical in my own mind. God presented Eve to Adam. She didn't introduce herself. Adam didn't go looking for her. And they didn't need a dating site. God created her and respectfully introduced her to Adam who immediately fell in love with God's choice for him. He trusted God knew this person. Eve must have trusted that God would not introduce her to anyone that would treat her badly. They did nothing to find one another. God did it all. A match made in Heaven, indeed. 

I'm aware that you internet dating type will consider this erroneous and point out that God didn't have internet and the difficulties of a huge population of losers. This is true. That's why trusting God is more important than ever. Moving on.....

At this point in my study something changed. I became aware of another aspect to the story. Eve is more than just the story of the fall. It is the start to a battle that has never ended. Temptation rears it's ugly head and Adam and Eve end up homeless. Sounds like a plot for a really good NaNo novel. I won't use it this time but let me share what I learned.

As I wrote, I remembered the time in my life when I had my own conflict over God's sovereignty. 

The serpent was the most cunning creature on the planet. Once taken over by Lucifer he was literally the most intelligent being on the planet. He was and still is able to twist truth and create confusion with an unmatched finesse. He corrupts the mind and confuses thought. He transformed himself in the garden and based on both old and new testaments he has transformed himself as each age required. As knowledge of man increases, Satan must further transform himself into images that are easily acceptable to humans. 

Why? Because humans have an intrinsic ability to find God and an innate desire to do so. Their initial state was to walk with him every day. Buried deep in our psyche is the desire, no, the craving to return to that state. To walk with the Creator in the cool of the day is the ultimate human longing. Satan must constantly alter his tactics to overcome changing cultures and intellects to keep ahead of man's constant search for meaning, which is actually the search for God. Satan's ultimate goal is misdirection to alter man's course. He does this by challenging God's word on intellectual levels. If he can capture our minds, he can capture our souls.

Man is incapable of understanding the mind of God in its full scope. Satan plays on this by using our own intellect as a measure of God's. We are incapable of comprehending how much we don't know and therefore, we can't possibly be a valid measure of God's intelligence.

He creates doubt in what we hear and know. "Did God really say, "You must not eat from any tree in the garden?" Then, he restates the truth with minute changed to alter its meaning. "You will not certainly die."

Our vanity does the rest, convincing us "we've become as God". We open the door to false information, altered data & outright lies to be inserted into the mind. And we allow someone else to interpret it and tell us that what we heard is not what was meant or that it is a fallacy, or even that we didn't hear it at all. Satan uses misdirection, rephrasing God's statements. Eve was easily duped. Within moments he caused her to think differently about God and his instructions. 

He has caused her to:
1. Doubt God's word
2. Doubt God's motives
3. Suggested that God is keeping good things from her. (By following her God she was actually hurting herself and missing out on something. The suggestion is that everything she needs she can find in herself.)

He never touches her but he immediately altered her thinking. Eve is no longer in control of her thoughts but is listening to a stranger rather than the being that she has been walking and talking with all her life. She never questions what the serpent is saying. She embraced it. 

Once we began to question God's sovereignty and power we are already at risk. Only a strong faith, secure grounding in the Word, and an ability to recognize these deceptions will sustain us. You almost have to be versed in the tactics of a CIA agent to navigate the maze that Satan creates.

The more we measure God by our own intellect, the more our minds will become susceptible to false information. Again, constant vigilance and grounding in the Word and persistent prayer for light and truth is the only defense. These are more powerful than any deception. I can't emphasize enough the need for light and truth. If you pray for nothing else, pray for spiritual light and all truth. 

At all times, even in the most doubt-filled, confused mind one must continue to acknowledge God as sovereign and holy. Regardless of any arguments that come to mind from any source. This must be the paramount response. God is Sovereign. God is Holy. To accept anything other than God's sovereignty will close the trap. We will be forced to chose. There is no middle of the road. Either God is God or he is not. Once we put our own or another's intellect above God's we will be assailed with doubt, confusion, and conflict. 

This internal conflict is the actual battle for the soul. In essence the soul is being ripped apart. When we make any attempt to reconcile our faith and re-install God as King and Priest the conflict will be physically felt. There's a war going on and it hurts.

Once we being to worship our intelligence, the trend it to drift further from God and His Word. The trend will be to accept the wisdom of the world over the wisdom of God. When intellect is brought into subjection, the trend is reversed and the soul is brought back to center. The conflict eases, but may never be resolved. These forces, once they've made inroads, will always be waiting to storm the gates. Anytime anything usurps God as sovereign we can't remain stable. This is the sin of Lucifer. He brought division and imbalance to the universe. The only thing that can give him peace is the total obliteration of any knowledge of God. 

Make no mistake, intellectual study is not a sin. We must be educated and we must examine things with which we do not agree. But we can't fear the things that challenge our faith. We also can't defend ourselves by running away. But we must never, ever put anything above God's sovereignty and his Word. In all things we must acknowledge God as King and Lord. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mixed Up Stuff

I was studying Eve today. It is very interesting to see it from this perspective. I hadn't thought about some of this before.

Well, when you pay attention, you don't miss so much.

That's true.

So, you're going to write about it here?

I'm debating. I've got too many blogs to keep up with and I get confused as to what goes where.

It was your idea to separate things. 

I know. I still think my personal blog is not really where this stuff goes.

Many people relegate me to other places. They want to acknowledge me but they don't really want me mixing with their real life.


Sorry. You probably should put your shoes back on.

What about the "Holy Ground" thing?

{sigh} Really, my dear, consider it a metaphor. You know what that is?

Yes. Could you watch that other foot, please.

So, you learned something about Eve?

Oh... yes. But I don't know where it goes. Here or on the Ledge.

You're really going to have to figure this out. Personally, Life on the Ledge would, for many people, be much less frightening if they mixed more Rendered Praise into it.

I see what you mean. I'm mixed up but not in a good way.

Probably. But you're a smart girl, thanks to me, and you'll figure it out. At the moment, it isn't important. We'll talk about distractions next time.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Lack of Praise

I don't feel like praising anyone today. 

You don't have to praise anyone. Everything is a choice. You're supposed to but there's no one standing over you with a gun to your head.

It isn't that I don't want to. I'm having so much pain ... for three days now I've had this unending pain in my neck, shoulders, and a migraine headache. I've taken three Imitrex to no avail. Obviously, this is not your typical migraine. I feel tired, dejected, and completely abandoned.

I know that feeling.

I makes everything worthless. I want to stop hurting. I can't enjoy anything when I'm in this much pain. I had such a good day on Saturday. I was a bit tired but I had such a good day. In fact, most of last week was good. I woke up Sunday to this.

So, everyday is not a bad day.

No, but the good ones make the bad ones that much worse because it won't stop. And there seem to be more and more bad ones.

You mean, you can't fix it.


Ah. So, its about you and your inability to control things. I seem to remember that you said praise was not about thankfulness. You said praise was about me and my sovereignty. 

..............Yes. I did.

So, why is this about you and your power?

Psalms 42
1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?[b]

3 My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where is your God?”

4 When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.[c]

6 O my God,[d] my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon,
From the Hill Mizar.

7 Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.

8 The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life.

9 I will say to God my Rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

10 As with a breaking of my bones,
My enemies reproach me,
While they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.

I guess I just forgot. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Price of Admission

I take my salvation for granted a lot. Most Christians do. We think once we get it, we're set for life. In my personal belief system, that isn't true. As long as we are obedient to God's Word we're covered. Although salvation is free, despite what a lot of people think, maintaining it cost something.

 Before anyone goes off on a tangent about faith vs works, I remind you of this verse. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." Romans 12:1 

If you read the whole chapter you will find it takes a lot of work to present your bodies as a living, holy, acceptable sacrifice to God. Paul calls it a "service". I looked that up. I have to tell you, there are a lot of very interesting definitions for "service". Really, go read them. For purposes here, I selected the following: the work performed by one that serves.

Service involves work. Salvation is free, keeping it requires reasonable service and that denotes work. End of discussion.

But that isn't what this blog is about. It is about praise. Like most Christians I take my salvation for granted. Did I tell you that already? Well, it is worth repeating. We do. In addition to thinking because our salvation is free that nothing else is required of us, we also don't spend a lot of time on praise. We deserve out blessings and we're thankful for them but praising God is .... well ... work. And well, salvation isn't based on works. Right?

Not for me. You see, I want to move beyond the gates. I was born again and that gave me access to the throne but between the gates and the throne is a lot of real estate. I'm sadly lacking in so many areas but how can I move forward, across that great plaza? My service will make me a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to God but if you've read your Bible, you know they don't make the sacrifice at the gates. Folks at the gates are just watching what goes on inside the courtyard. The sacrifice is made in there at the altar

"Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name." Psalm 100:4

Thanksgiving gets you through the gates. Praise gets you into the courtyard. Don't confuse the two. They are not the same thing. Praise is not thanking God for the blessings. It is honoring God for who he is, what he is, and why he is. We are not to praise just when the sun is shinning and all is right with the world but also when hell is knocking on our door and we can't move for fear of being consumed. Praise isn't about you and your blessings. It is about God and his sovereignty and holiness.

Praise is the price of admission to the presence of God. It is what is due him for being Him.

"Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name YAH, And rejoice before Him. A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation." Psalm 68:4-5

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Unceasing Conversation

This isn't working out the way I planned. I'm sure people think I'm crazy.

I would say you're right but that's beside the point. Why do you think you're crazy?

Oh, well, I don't think that.... much. But I've always kept these kind of conversations to myself. I never told anyone that we talk this way. When I read it....

It looks crazy.

See, even you see it.


I don't think it is that  funny.

I'm sorry.

There are some people who frown on this kind of conversation with you. For some reason they feel it is inadequate.

What do you think?

Well, it doesn't seem to matter what I think. Apparently, it doesn't count.

Hmmm, hold on a moment while I get my adding machine, math isn't my strong suite. By my reckoning.... we talk a lot... some days you never stop talking.


I wasn't insulting you. 

I know. You're trying to be funny.

How'd I do?

I'm good with it. I don't buy the math thing. What I don't understand is why this is considered inadequate.

Do you think anyone else talks to me this way?


I'll know if you lie.

No. I don't think anyone else does this. That makes me odd.

It makes you wrong. 

Oh. Why do I feel it is somehow not ..... proper?

Because you've allowed the opinions of others to direct your thinking. You talk to your dead husband. 

Yes, and that's crazy.

Not at all. You love him. You miss him. You want to connect with him. You can't, of course, but you feel connected when you talk to him. It feels almost as if he's with you some days.

I do it less now. Almost never, really. And it isn't enough. It is very painful.

I know. Still, I figure that if you're talking to me the same way, it must mean something. You love me. You miss me. You want to connect with me. When you talk to me, as if I was physically in the room with you, you sense that I am. 


I don't think that's crazy at all. 

I talk to you more that I do him. He's moving away, in time and it feels like in space. Although, I suppose time-wise, we're moving closer.

In a manner of speaking.

I can't help talking to you the way I do. It feels normal to me. I've always done it. You know, sometimes I become so engrossed that if I'm in a public place I have to check to see if I said something aloud.

O.k. that's probably crazy.

Very funny. But seriously, I seem to become so involved in the conversation that I forget everything else. I really should stop that. I need to wait until I'm alone.

Why do you think you do talk to me as if you see me?

Because I need you. I can't cope with all that has happened alone. And you left me alone here. You removed all the supports and expected me to stand. You left me no one to lean on. I was so angry. I think, sometimes I still am. No, I know I am. Sometimes.

I never left you alone. And yes, I know it feels like it. You talk to me so much to remind yourself that I'm still here. You believe.

I can't post this.

Why not?

Because... it is crazy.

Sure it is. I suspect some crazy person will read it and feel much better. Knowing they aren't alone.

Do you know that I don't have a scripture for this? I mean, this is supposed to be about giving you praise.

Really?  "Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops." Matt 10: 27 

Or how about this, "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come." John 16:13 

Oh, this one is even better, "Pray without ceasing,"1 Thessalonians 5:17

I get it. Thank you for listening. Do you know how very much I love you?

Tell me.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pass the Salt

Keepers of Salt

I've been reading this book. It is answering so many questions, some that I didn't even know were questions for me. Things I've been confused about for years. There are so many references to salt that makes so much more sense now! 

Ah, that's a good thing.

It is! And there are stories she tells that hit so close to home for me. I never heard anyone really talk about covenants. Well, I've heard about them but not how intertwined they are into our lives. I never really considered the impact or importance of them in just the way she explains it. I never realized how they affect not only those in covenant, but those connected to them. I didn't know their importance.

You're not unique in that.

I know. I wonder when we stopped teaching about covenants? Why did we stop? Because we have, you know. No one keeps their word any more. Broken promises are the norm rather than the exception. How does this happen? Why is no one teaching this?

Men... and women, no longer value integrity and promises mean nothing to the vast majority of people, whether Christian or not. Keeping promises requires recognition of a system of honor and integrity... of values. The current intellectual stance is there is no fixed set of values, that everything is relative to one's feelings and desires and it isn't necessary to honor anything. "The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant."  Isaiah 24:5

My laws are out of fashion. Covenants are too much like rules for the average person. Once a person's word was all you needed to transact any business. Then, legal documents came about to insure a person kept a bargain so that integrity of character was no longer a factor. They were designed to keep dishonest people honest under the law. It didn't work. Now, even legal documents are suspect and require a team of lawyers to interpret. 

Covenants have to be honored by both parties. The person who breaks a covenant actually brings curses on themselves! So a broken covenant could be responsible for so much that is wrong in our lives. Covenant keeping and breaking are profound and powerful mechanism that would bring balance to the world. If people began to keep the covenants they make the world would immediately feel the effects.

I know.

When I realized the impact of this... the truth of it... my heart broke.

Mine, too.

I haven't even finished the book and I feel so .....



There is a solution.

Broken covenants can't be fixed. I can only make new ones.

.............  "But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them." Psalms 103: 17-18. 

What if I mess up? You know, break the new ones. I mean, the consequences....

Are no worse than what you've been living with and the understanding you are gaining now will help you do better. If you do not try, then what?

I don't want to contemplate that. 

Would that everyone felt that way.

I am so thankful you put this book in my hands. Oh... I just realized... my banner verse: 
"Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God; I will render praises to You, For You have delivered my soul from death." Psalm 56:12-13  It's a covenant!

It is.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Stormy Wind

There was a brief shower tonight at dusk. I stayed on the patio as long as I could but it grew too dark to read and I could feel the rain coming. I didn't want to leave the patio. For half an hour I watched the sky grow dark and the winds twist and bend the trees and rattle the leaves. And I felt you there. Right there. It occurs to me that I most often do find you in the storms.

I have always loved the storms and tonight it occurred to me that maybe that is why I love them. There is a sense of awe that overwhelms me when I'm in the midst of one. I am pulled into the tempest, at least, I feel as if I am and it is an amazing feeling of freedom. For me, sitting there with it all roaring around me is about the only time I actually feel alive. I've been called insane a few times. 

But every storm I've ever lived through, hurricanes, massive thunderstorms, lightening shows that can strike terror even in me - all fill me with the same sense of awe. I am so caught up in it that I have to forcible remind myself that storms are dangerous. There are times I can remember seeking shelter reluctantly, wanting to watch that power unfold but knowing that there was no wisdom in that.

You're there, right in the middle of it and in my mind, I see you dancing on the storm clouds and laughing with each bolt of lightening and turning your face up to the drenching rain. And I want to do that. I want to dance in the storms, feel the wind swirling around me, tugging at my hair and clothes, to see the lightening searing the sky. I want to be soaked to the bone and still running in the rain.

The power that surrounds you is so amazing and so wonderful that only in the storms can I ever come close to seeing it fully. 

Psalms 148:7-8 Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word:

After the storm I'm always left with a longing to see it again.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Unto the King Eternal

When starting such a blog you'd think the author would have a plan and an idea of what they are going to do. I didn't. A few times I've reasoned that it was a bad idea and that without a plan it was likely to fizzle out or fall flat. I think I mentioned in my first post that there probably would not be an every day post. There hasn't been. Not because I don't want to, but I have no clue what I'm doing.

The only purpose here is my overwhelming desire to simply praise God for all the blessings he has bestowed on me and for the constant care that I have received at his hands.   

Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered. Psalms 40:5

I do not understand unbelief. I cannot grasp it. There is this vast universe out there filled to overflowing with the astounding handiwork of God and it defies logic that it just appeared out of nowhere for no reason by accidental chemical reactions. To me it is the same as saying that you were just a chemical reaction and have no value or purpose. You are nothing more than the sum of your atoms with no point to your existence. I do not believe that.

I will praise You, 
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
Marvelous are Your works, 
And that my soul knows very well. 
Psalms 139:14

Earlier today I happened to read over my previous post. When I wrote that post I had no idea what it meant. I actually remember feeling very stupid writing it and considered deleting it because it seemed totally silly and pointless. Still, I've learned as a writer there are times you just write it and forget how it sounds.

Then, today when I reread the post an amusing thing occurred -- I was overwhelmed by it. Really. That post that I thought so stupid stopped me in my tracks. I was in a place where I needed to hear that voice in my heart again and the words I wrote had a greater impact today than they did the day I posted them. 

"Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! 
You shall again be adorned with your tambourines, 
And shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice." 
Jeremiah 31:4

I reread it and my heart skipped a beat as I saw the promise. I miss them most of the time or I forget them. I'm not sure which. But today... today I was physically reminded. I needed to be reminded. 

One of my favorite verses is in Lamentations. Really. The name of the book means a loud mourning, regret, sorry. Not a joyous book but my one of my most favorite chapters is found in this book. For me, Jeremiah's lament contains some of the most beautiful and comforting words found in the Bible. 

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!” 
Lamentations 3:22-24

For the Lord will not cast off forever.
Though He causes grief,
Yet He will show compassion
According to the multitude of His mercies.
 For He does not afflict willingly,
Nor grieve the children of men
Lamentations 3:31-33

There are times I forget to praise you, Lord. Times, when things are so dark and dismal that I feel you have left me alone to bear it. There are moments when I'm so frightened and feel as if the place I'm in is shrinking and I'm going to be crushed like a can in a vacuum. There are times, when the grief of all I have lost rushes back at me and I am overtaken and buried beneath it. I forget to praise you because I can't speak past my tears. 

The waters flowed over my head;
I said, “I am cut off!”
I called on Your name, O Lord,
From the lowest pit.
You have heard my voice:
“Do not hide Your ear
From my sighing, from my cry for help.”
You drew near on the day I called on You,
And said, “Do not fear!”
Lamentations 3:54-57

I forget to praise you because I forget who you are. I forget who I am.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
Psalms 139:1-6

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, 
be honour and glory for ever and ever. 
Timothy 1:17

Monday, May 6, 2013

Building Bridges

I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. Psalms 9:1

Thank you.

I don't think I do that enough, you know?

Actually, yes, I do. 

Can I ask a question?


Do you ever feel when you tell people something important that they don't hear a word you say?




Um, anyone there?

I'm thinking.

Should I rephrase it?

No, no. I understood you. I'm trying to be tactful.

You don't have to be tactful. I never am.

Yes, I've heard about that.

Seriously, do you ever feel like people just don't hear you? You try and help and all you get is a look, as if you'd suddenly sprouted a third eye.

At least you get a look. 


Sometimes I get an argument. I actually prefer the argument.


It means they heard me. And it means they're thinking about it. Argument is way better than just a look. Most of the time, I don't get much of a response. I'm tempted on occasion to resort to theatrics just to see if they're breathing.


You know, lightening bolts and earthquakes.


Yes. But the earthquakes tend to be attributed to tectonic activity and the lightening to static electricity, both of which I created, by the way. So I don't bother much.

But you keep talking.

Of course. Don't you open the door when your children knock on the door.

They have a key.

So do mine.

I'm sorry I haven't listened very much. I spend a lot of time focusing on the negative.

I'm sorry, too. But you try hard, even when you mess up, you get back up and try again. that's a good thing. Although, I really wish you'd take my hand more often. We've been through too much to just throw it all away. Just keep walking along this road and you'll make it.

I want so much more that this. I don't quite know what or how. I don't really know what lies ahead. I hate that. And it seems like every time I start down this road I hit a chasm I can't cross and have to turn back.

Hmmm, well... instead of turning around, why don't you build a bridge.




Anyone there?

I'm thinking.


"Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it;" Psalms 127:1

Let me know how it turns out. Oh, here's a hammer. "Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! You shall again be adorned with your tambourines, And shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice." Jeremiah 31:4

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Normal Day

Its been an interesting day.

How so?

I can't explain it. I've felt almost normal. 

Every day is normal. You can't judge the day by circumstances.

I have no idea what that means.

So, what's different about today?

Well, I don't have a lot of pain. I mean, virtually none. For a while now. I woke up with mild discomfort but it passed off. I'm thankful for that. It has been cloudy all day and finally rained. We went to Louisville to get my son from the airport. It was actually a good trip, despite heavy cloud cover. I read all the way there and most of the way back. About half way home, we put in a Credence Clearwater Revival cd in. I love CCR. Mike and I sang.

So, isn't that normal?

Not that. I mean how it feels. Except on the way back I felt alone. 

But you weren't alone. Both sons and Sarah were with you.

See, I know this. I looked out over the fields and the forest that lay along the highway and there was just this sense of isolation and emptiness and huge sadness.

Maybe it was just because of the large space. 

I really don't think so. That's never going to stop, is it?

You can't judge your circumstances by one day. Everything changes. That's normal.

This may sound crazy but it is very strange when I actually feel good.

Why is that crazy?

That isn't normal. It should be the other way around. It should be strange when I feel bad. But it isn't. When I feel good, I feel weird. 

Whatsoever a man thinks in his heart, so is he.... Proverbs 23:7

So... I think it feels weird and it becomes weird? 

You've felt bad for so long that you've become convinced that is normal.  If you think something long enough, you'll eventually become it. 

If I think I'm rich .....

Stop that. "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." Philippians 4:8

Yeah, that's what I've been doing. "The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.  I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death. Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord:" Psalms 118: 16-19

It's a start. 

You know, this blog thing . . . I'm not sure I'm doing it right. 


It isn't working the way I intended. 

I know. 

Violets on the Shoulder

Today was a good day.

I'm glad. You didn't focus so much on the things that were wrong. 

I thought that, too. I learned something.

Really? What did you learn?

It's a long story.

I've got time.

I love old things, particularly old furniture. There is very little "new" stuff in my home. I'm not embarrassed by the old sofa that is so comfy.

You covered it up.

Well, maybe only a little. And I did buy a new one but I kept the old one for the room I use as my sanctuary.  It just sleeps so good.

You should use it more.

Yes, but pay attention! There's a lesson here. 

Sorry. I'm listening.

I used to restore old furniture to use in my home. I wasn't looking to sell it. I wanted it functional and to appeal my taste I wanted a "new" finish on it. I've done beds, chest, book cases, and even recovered chairs and sofas. I loved getting a "new" piece of furniture that people would ask about. I've pilfered roadside trash for a set beat up twin beds, paid a dollar for a beautiful lamp base with rusty fittings. I got years of use out of the refinished and refitted items. 

I remember that lamp. Milk glass. You know, I worked with wood, too.

Yes, I know. When you work with old furniture you learn pretty quickly that an antique has lots of blemishes that you'll be tempted to fix. Yet, the true collector would never for a moment, think of stripping the original finish, sanding out the rough spots and scars, and slapping a new coat of varnish on it. To do so would completely eliminate any value the article had and render it unsalable. It might be functional, but the piece would be worthless to those who prize authenticity. Antique connoisseurs have learned to appreciate the scars.

That sounds important. 

It is. See, life is a bit like that. For most of us, it is hard to accept the flaws that appear in our life on a daily basis. The little things that rear up in our path and cause us to stumble, balk, or even fall flat on our face seem larger than anything else around us. They're blemishes that we want to eliminate. 

And that's not good?

I don't think so. I spend so much time looking at the imperfections, I don't see the beauty of the item. I'm kind of like a well used antique.

Surely not!

I mean, there's lots of dings, nicks, bruises, and well, damage. Rather than focusing on the scars, you must take a step back and look at the overall finish, allowing the blemishes to blend into the background and become part of the beauty of the piece. You must learn to appreciate the scars while overlooking them.

I know about scars, too. But, what did you learn?

If you can redirect your focus, the things that get on your nerves and create chaos in your life will blend into the background and you may gain a greater appreciation for the overall piece. They won't go away but do it enough and you will learn to appreciate the scars. It isn't up to us to perfect the piece. Just learn to appreciate it's overall beauty. 

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.Psalm 138:8

I have another question. How did you redirect your focus?

That was easy. I listened to you instead of the chaos.


Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 1 Timothy 4:15

So, it worked? 

It worked. All day I listened to messages as I worked. I'm mixing my metaphors a bit but I realized that I've been so busy watching the potholes in the road that I missed the violets along the shoulder.

Ah... I think you found the title.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Blessings in Dark Times

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

Sometimes there seems to be no peace at all. Sometimes it seems as if the whole world is an ever expanding asylum filled with insane and violent people. There are the insane who seek to harm and the insane who seek to blame. Both are equally crazy.

Today, I'm tired and depressed and filled with a longing to go somewhere that these things do not exist. A place where there is no one wanting to destroy as many lives as possible because their own are so empty and meaningless. I'd like a place where people still wave from the porches, hold doors, smile as they pass with no ulterior motives beneath it. I remember a time that if  I broke down beside the road I was not afraid to ask a passing car for help. And they weren't afraid to stop and help. I remember when I knew the phone numbers of all the neighbors, and could call if I thought I had a prowler. Yes, there were bad people but there were more good people than bad.

I am so blessed to have grown up in a nation that these were common things when I was a child. I'm thankful that I remember a time like that. I wish it still existed but I'm thankful I knew it. I'm sad my children have a vague sense that there was a time like that. But I'm sad that my granddaughter will see only violence, hate, and vengeance. How sad that those who are responsible will pass it on to their own children, thus is can't ever end.

I can only give praise to an almighty God for His love and care during dark times. I know that those who are suffering loss will not feel thankful. They will not see light. They will not feel peace. For months and years they will suffer the torment of a loss that can never be replaced. There is no fix for that pain. But the human spirit has a way of clinging to hope. Over time you learn how to step from the darkness into the light. The dark never leaves, it is always beside you. But even in the dark, great darkness, God is there. I am thankful that is He is.

"The Lord said that he would dwell in the thick darkness." 1 Kings 8:12 

"Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne." Ps 97:2

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rain Dance

A storm rolled in today. It was raining and I didn't want to go to work. I wanted to sit in my chair and stare out the window into it. It made me sad to have to leave.

You'll think me crazy but sometimes I want to be in the storm. I want to stand in the rain and hear the thunder explode around me, to watch the lightning set the clouds ablaze. I want to feel the cool of the rain as it washes my skin clean from the dust of the day and to let the elements give vent to all the pent up emotions and stress that threaten to obliterate me. 

Maybe it is because I feel more alive in a thunderstorm than anywhere else. I don't know why. A counselor told me once that I needed to figure out why I felt that way. Since he wouldn't tell me why he thought that, I figured it wasn't important enough for me to waste time on.

I think God likes storms, too. I see him running in the rain and laughing in the thunder. He claps his hands and lightening explodes around him. If I could, I would run with him and I'd laugh, too. Just the thought of it makes me long for it. 

If I were on a ship at sea and a storm struck I don't think I would see a laughing God. I think I'd see an angry one. His face would be twisted in anger and his roar would be thunder and lightning would flash from his eyes. But maybe not. Maybe he'd be dancing on the waves. 

"Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known."Psalm 77:19

Life storms aren't as much fun. We don't often see good in them, much less God. There is very little light in those storms but I know he's always there, in the raging dark that surrounds me, he is there. All I have to do is reach out and catch his hand. Maybe.... maybe... if I did that... he'd clap his hands and take me dancing. 

"...the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet." Nahum 1:3

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Monsters in My Head

I dreaded getting up. I was worn out yesterday and did not go to church at all but I listened to some really good teaching YouTube. I watched a video called Pressing Past Our Fears and I have to say, it was intended for me. I was blessed with the sense that God is listening and is not far off. I sat most of the evening and talked to God about my problems. 

I struggle with fear daily. I don't usually tell people that but I do. I'm afraid of everything. I never thought I was afraid of much until after Jerry died but then the world became this huge chasm yawning at my feet, filled with treacherous routes, dangerous creatures, and unknown perils. At every turn I had to face another fear. Fear over money, my children, my health, my house, my car, my own existance. It gets exhausting over time. When I am sick, it isn't just fear. It becomes terror. There is not one to step in and take the reins so I can recover. 

I was courageous once. At least, for the most part. But it is easy to be courageous with a six foot male beside you. All loads are lighter when shared and fears are much smaller when faced together. I'm like a one legged woman in a sack race. I don't get far before I fall down. 

I spent time telling God this last night. And just telling him has helped. Maybe because it's hard to be afraid with a big God beside you. 

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6

Well...... I can think of a lot of things. In my rational mind.

You have to stop doing that. There are no monsters as big as the ones in your head.

That's not in the Bible.

Yes, I know. But I like it. Don't you think it has a ring to it?

Ummm.... kind of. OK, I get it. I'm so blessed to have another day to get it right. I don't get it right sometimes. Most of the time, it seems.  "To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; For God is my defense, My God of mercy."  Psalm 59:17   

Much better. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Into His Courts With Praise

Welcome. This blog has been a while in coming because I've been resistant to doing it. I started about two years ago to create it. Had it named and set up on my dashboard but never posted to it and never even made it public. It was just a name in my growing list of blogs. I left it that way for awhile but every time I came to my dashboard there it was, taunting me. Finally, out of frustration  annoyance, or just resignation that I'd never get it going, I gave up and actually deleted it from my blogs. That took care of it.

I thought.

Last week I took two days off because for over a month I had been very sick and was getting worse. I had to take off for a couple of days to get to a doctor and find out what was happening to me. Apparently, on top of everthing else I have, I have the Epstein Barr virus. I'd never heard of it. Didn't know what it was or what it would do to me. So, I was sick and scared and so very tired. 

During my time off I simply sat in a chair and listened to some YouTube videos and read some inspirational books. And I prayed because I don't know what else to do when I'm sick, and afraid, and alone. There is no one to hold my hand or wrap their arms around me.

I wish I could report I had this huge infusion of faith and was instantly healed and all my problems solved. I can't. I wish I could tell you I felt immensely better and didn't feel frightened anymore. I can't. I wish I could tell you that I knew everything was going to be all right. I could tell you all that. But I'd be lying. None of that happened.

Something else did.

I realized that no matter how bad it is, no matter how frightened I am, no matter how sick, frustrated, or tired I always want to be thankful and to render to God the praise He deserves despite life knocking me down and trampling all over me. So, I prayed and cried and listened.

During my attempt at rest a conversation ensued, in my head anyway.

"You need to start a blog called Rendered Praise." 


"I can't."

"Rendered Praise. You know... you had that started and just let it go."

"Because I didn't know what to put on it. I couldn't come up with anything to write about."

"You can now."

Pause. Shake of the head. "I don't think I can. I'm not very thankful for what is happening to me."

"Didn't say thankful."


"Well, I think I still have the blog out there on my list."

"No. You deleted it."

Oh. "Are you sure?"

I looked. Yes, deleted. Why did I do that?

"Doesn't matter. You can recreate it."

Sigh. Nods head. "Yes.... I guess so."

"Good.  Get started."

So, this week I recreated the blog and started thinking about what I'd post here. Just as I thought... I had no idea. Not a glimmer of one. Then, on Monday night around one a.m., after I went to bed exhausted from a night of trials, a glimmer of something came to me and I got up and jotted down a few notes. I knew it'd be gone in the morning and I'd need something to prompt me. In the morning, it wasn't gone and I knew I had the start of my first real post for this blog.

"I still don't know what to put on here."

"It'll come to you. Over time, maybe not every day or even every week. But over time, you'll get better at it. I mean, look at that, you've already started."

"It doesn't seem like much."

"I don't know. I like it."

"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Psalm 100:4. 

"See I told you, thanksgiving. Right there in black and white. And I still don't feel thankful."

"Will you get over it! Remember all those morning drives... for years now? Take my word for it, you're thankful...uh, maybe not so much for the bad stuff. But you're thankful. Besides, you're beyond the gates. You're in the courts."

Oh. Right. "So now what?"

"It's a surprise."

"Great. Just what I need."

"And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord." Psalm 27:6

I smiled. "Good one."

"I thought so."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Ignorance is Bliss

He lived in palaces, had the best food to eat, a loving family, his choice of any woman in the kingdom, and a job waiting for him when he grew up. Surely Solomon needed nothing to make life better for him. And yet, he wanted to be more than just a king. Solomon wanted to be the wisest king who ever lived. So began a journey that would take him down many paths, some joyful and good, some sad and wrong.

One result of Solomon’s search for wisdom is the Book of Proverbs. If you read it, you may find yourself surprised at the kinds of things he addressed. He frowned on a good many things your mama told you were bad for you. He advised on everything from gossip to immoral women. In the book of Proverbs you can probably find a maxim for any situation that arises in your life . . . if you look.

How did Solomon get to know all this stuff? Did he just sit down and pen all these proverbs off the top of his head? Did his mama advise him, too? Or did God dictate the words to him? Having personal experience in the area of writing, I know that the answer to all but the first question is probably no. Good writing does not come easily. 

Solomon might have been able to dash off perfect prose but most writers can’t. And while God has often given me things to write, it is never easy to get it right. The things that come from Him are the hardest to put into words.

As for God dictating the words, well, the Bible said “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” not by dictation. For those who don’t know, dictation is where someone literally speaks to you and you write down their exact words with omissions. Inspiration, on the other hand, occurs when you see, hear, or experience something that stimulates you to action, it motivates you. All writing is “inspired” by something – good or bad.

Take this one step further, in 2 Peter the Bible says, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Holy men of God, motivated or inspired by the Holy Ghost, wrote the Scriptures and prophesied.

Something motivated Solomon to write as he did. An old, little used definition for the word inspire means “to breathe on” or “to inhale.” God “breathed on” all writers of the Bible and they “inhaled” that “breath”. What does that feel like? As a writer I can tell you that there is something insideme struggling, always struggling, to get out, to be said. That is what moves me to write. When I am able to put it on paper, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Today there are those who say because of this “inspirational” type of writing the Scriptures can’t be completely true because human bias is involved. It is accurate to say that human bias is evident in all writing. In the Gospels themselves, you can see this. You can tell something about the personality of the writer of one Gospel by the way he describes an event that is also described in another Gospel by another writer. The event did not change, just the way it is perceived changed.

However, I can tell you that when God is the motivator a writer will often write things he or she doesn’t want to write but which a driving urgency demands that he write. I suspect the same thing occurs in preachers. They choose the words they will use to convey a particular thought. However, the though is not their own but rather the direction of the Spirit. And two preachers may have the same thought but use different words to convey that thought.

Solomon knew what was required to succeed in life. He knew positive actions bring positive results, and associating with the wrong people will get you in trouble. He knew that there is a point beyond which it is unwise to go. Solomon had wisdom.

Wisdom is “an understanding of what is true, right, or lasting.” It is not “just knowing”. You may know something but not understand it. Wisdom is common sense, and it is gained from either experience or observation. Solomon experienced or observed the things he spoke about in Proverbs and he understood the truth of those things. Sadly, some of the things he experienced were not nice.

Proverbs is filled with positive instruction. You will find advice on how to live a happy, healthy, prosperous, and productive life. It portrays a father instructing his son with all he knows about life. This is a loving teacher, not the “Preacher” of Ecclesiastes. Proverbs contains none of the bitterness and the “all is vanity” of Ecclesiastes.

What happened to Solomon between Proverbs and Ecclesiastes? It almost seems that these books were written by two different people and yet, their subject matter is nearly identical. It is the outlook that changed dramatically and the tone of voice.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon is old. He has lost his joy for living and his view of life has become cynical, bleak, harsh and unforgiving. The loving father and teacher are absent. In his place, is an embittered, disillusioned old man focusing on his own past failures. He focused so much on failure that he could no longer see life as a gift. It was all vanity. All a man might seek to accomplish in life was vanity, no matter how good.

Solomon had succeeded in his quest for wisdom, but instead of letting it enrich him, he had allowed it to rob him. A journey began in the fire of youth had ended in ashes. He lost sight of all that was important in his search. Never mind all he had done for Israel and for God. He even saw the search as vanity. Solomon’s wisdom told him that once gained, his riches meant nothing, and once understood, life was a waste and death was preferable. “Therefore I hated life: . .” (Eccl. 2:17)

His wisdom told him that God was the giver of all good things, but it didn’t seem to matter because the gifts themselves were also vanity. He learned to recognize folly in his own search for wisdom and knowledge.

Solomon began his journey to find wisdom and knowledge and to recognize folly. During the journey he became wealthy beyond imagination and wise beyond his years. At the end of the journey he was bitter beyond endurance. “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” Eccl. 1:18.

We should not take this to mean we should not desire wisdom or knowledge. We should pray for this gift. In fact, it is wisdom and knowledge that make life and it’s hardships easier to understand and thereby, easier to bear. If you notice, those who have the most difficult time in trials are those who don’t understand the purpose of trails.

At no time should we seek these gifts for their own sake but to give us discernment and better equip us to serve God. When attainmentis the goal, the value of the item is diminished.

Solomon took life by the horns, hopped on its back, and rode it to death.

Spit in the Devil’s Eye

Jesse sat on the flat, knee-high ledge surrounding  the roof of the apartment building.  He cautiously leaned over and looked ten floors down . . . so very far. He didn't know why he’d come here.  The yellow police tape across the roof doors had gone to the dump a week ago. Nothing remained of tragedy except Jesse’s memory of Lance’s body hurtling toward the hard, cracked, concrete alley below.

Life on the streets was rotten,so death didn't seem so bad to Jesse or his friends. He certainly never thought about what came after death.   Once, some crazy folks came to their door and invited him and his mom to church services at a mission a few blocks away.  They talked about how a better life waited for folks who knew someone named Jesus.  His mother had gone all quiet and funny-looking when they started to tell her about how this Jesus guy had died for her.  Jesse just thought what a sap this guy was to die for people he didn't know.  He said as much and his mother had shushed him.

One of the women had looked sadly at Jesse and said, “He died for everyone Jesse, so you could have eternal life.  He loves you and wants to make life better for you.”

“So what’s he want me to sell and what’s my take?”  They left, leaving a card with his mother and a promise to pray for both of them.

Today was different. Death was someone Jesse had met and didn't like.  He quickly moved back from the ledge and rubbed his sweating palms on his ragged, dirty jeans.  A cold crept over Jesse that even the 90-degree roof temperature could not warm; he began to shake. Lance died and he lived.  The shame of it nearly made Jesse run away again.  What had happened to them?  What had brought them to this deserted, gravely roof and the ledge?  What led Lance to jump and Jesse to freeze?

They grew up in the same city, in the same apartment house.  Their mothers worked at the same factory, and once found they were dating the same married man.  It had been a joke around the neighborhood that, given their mothers’ choice in men,  Lance and Jesse might actually be brothers. Lance and Jesse believed they were brothers under the skin.

The boys attended and quit the same school together.  They belonged to the same gang.  They shared booze, drugs, and girls. They robbed and brutalized together.  Everything that mattered to them, they shared . . . until two weeks ago.  Jesse had been unable to share death with Lance.

Jesse allowed his body to sag to the roof and he sat Indian fashion, hands hanging limp from his knees, eyes staring across the rooftops of a strangely quiet city.  But Jesse wasn't seeing rooftops.  Instead, memories replayed before his eyes like old movies.  His body jerked and his heart pounded with each rapidly changing scene.

Midnight, two weeks ago, Lance hammered on the door to Jesse’s apartment.   A dazed Jesse staggered from the sofa, where he’d passed out hours earlier from the drugs.  As he opened the door, Lance nearly tumbled to the floor. One look at his eyes and Jesse knew Lance was high on something.

“Hide me, man,  he’s after me.  Please, hide me,” he begged, clutching Jesse by the arms.  He was shaking like the windows in their tenement during a storm.

Confused, Jesse could barely stand under Lance’s clinging weight.  It took several minutes before he could answer and by then, Lance was nervously pacing between the door and window. He would press his ear to the door for a few minutes and then peer cautiously between the faded drapes Jesse’s mother had found in someone’s trash.

“What’s goin’ on, Lance,” Jesse asked, looking out the window over Lance’s shoulder.  “Who’s after you?”

“That dude, the one I got the dope from last week,” he said.  “Tonight I was supposed to pay him for the stuff I sold that week but I don’t have the money.”

Jesse stared at his friend.  “What do you mean you don’t have the money?  You sold the stuff, didn't you?”

Lance moved back to the center of the room.  He rocked side to side on his feet, shaking his hands and rubbing them on his jeans.  Sweat glistened on his face and he brushed his runny nose with the sleeve of his leather Bulls jacket.  Lance was terrified and the terror was taking hold of Jesse, too.

“Yeah, I sold a half a kilo but, man, I needed some of the money.  So I borrowed a little of it.  I ain't got it, Jesse.  What am I gonna do?” Then his look lightened and he said, “Jesse, you got some cash?”

“How much?”

“I need $600.”

“Aw, Lance, you know nobody in this neighborhood has that kind of cash.  That jacket you got on cost that much.  Why don’t you pawn it?”

Lance looked shocked at the idea.  “You crazy?  I saved for six months for this rag.  I had to sell twice as much as usual to get it.  I ain't pawning my coat.  Ain't nothing worth that.”

Jesse contemplated his friend for a moment then said, “Lance, he’s gonna kill you.  That coat is gonna be covered with blood and brains.  Ain't nobody gonna give you a nickel for it then.”

For several minutes Lance said nothing.  Then he grinned and pulled off his jacket and tossed it onto a chair.  “Here, buddy, you keep it somewhere safe for me.”


“Cause if the Man kills me, I want to be buried in that coat,” he grinned, “I’ll be a great looking corpse.  I got me a nice pair of Nikes I ripped off from Branson’s department store to go with it.”

A sound from the stairwell wiped the grin from Lance’s face.  He hurried to the door and pressed his ear to it.  The pale, shiny face became deathly white.  He turned back to Jesse.

“Look, is the roof door locked?”

Jesse shook his head as if he were just waking from a long sleep.  “No, but what good will that do you?”

“Maybe I can hide up there till the heat’s off.”  He twitched his shoulders, shook his hands and added, “ C’mon up with me and keep me company for a while.”

“I don’t know, Lance.  Maybe it’d be better if you talked to him.  Maybe you can work out a deal.”

“Jesse, he don’t do deals.  I got to get out of town as soon as I can.  Besides, I don’t want to be working off that money the rest of my life.  I want to live, to go places, be somebody.  I can’t do that here, too much competition.  I been thinking about moving to one of them small towns and start my own business.  I hear that’s where the action is moving, small towns.  This could be my big break.”

Jesse would remember forever his next thought.  Yeah, he thought, this could be your big break.  You could end up with a broken neck.

Lance opened the door and peeked into the hallway.  The dim light of the bulb at the other end of the hall barely illuminated the area in front of Jesse’s apartment.  Clutching Jesse’s arm, Lance moved out on tiptoe and turned toward the stairs going up toward the next floor and the roof.

No one came out of their apartment.  Apart from a furious knocking on one of the other floors, followed by angry voices and a door slamming, no one even seemed to be awake.  Someone was knocking on each apartment door, and they were moving pretty fast. Even as he and Lance started up the roof stairs, Jesse could hear feet coming up the stairs to his floor.  As he closed the roof door behind them, he could hear the pounding begin again.  Jesse picked up a discard pipe someone had left behind years ago, and jammed it beneath the doorknob.

Jesse studied his friend.  Lance  was again shaking his arms and hands, as if to loosen them from something.  His feet couldn't seem to stay still.  His eyes frantically scanned the roof for possible hiding places.  Finding none, he turned a desperate look toward Jesse.

“Lance, I told you this was a bad idea.  Talk to ‘em.”

“No!  I can’t.  I . . . “  Lance fell silent and stared past Jesse, across the roof, to the next building.  He moved to the knee-high ledge and looked down.  “Jesse, how far you think it is to that building across the alley?”

Jesse could only stare in disbelief at Lance.

Lance looked back at Jesse.  “Well?”

“Farther than you can jump.  You must have a death-wish, Lance.”

“If I don’t jump, I’m dead anyway.  This is as good a way to die as any.  Besides, I bet I can do it.  It can’t be more than ten feet across that alley.”  He moved back to the middle of the roof and crouched into a runner’s stance.

Jesse rushed to him, catching his friend’s arm.  “NO!  You can’t do this.  You’ll never make it.  Look Lance, I’ll tell them I’ll help you get the money.  I know a place I can steal $300 of it.”

Lance grinned and playfully hit Jesse in the shoulder.  “Come on, Jesse.  We've done this kind of thing before.  Let’s do it together, man.  Jump with me.”

Jesse looked in horror at Lance.  “But we only jumped buildings a few feet apart.  We ain't never jumped a gap like that.  We can’t make it.”

“Sure we can.  And even if we don’t, well, what we got to look forward to anyway.  Look around you, Jesse.  Where you gonna be in five years?  Listen, we've done it all, man, together.  Drugs, booze, stealing, killing, girls.  Everything together.  Now, across that alley, we got a chance to get free and start over.”

“But Lance,” Jesse asked, “what if we don’t make it?”

Lance threw back his head and laughed, his eyes glittering wildly. “Then we get to spit in the devil’s eye and take over hell, Jesse.”

It took several seconds for Jesse to understand what Lance was asking of him.  His mind couldn't comprehend that his life-long friend wanted him to risk his life.  For what?  $600? Jesse wasn't sure.

It was then Jesse remembered the church people who’d visited months ago.  They’d talked about a man who died for everyone, so they wouldn't have to die.  He hadn't  really understood. Jesse thought anyone who’d die for a person he didn't know was crazy.  Now, his best friend was asking him to do nearly to the same thing.  Again, Jesse asked himself, for what?

Somehow, he knew that what that Jesus guy had done and what Lance was asking was not the same at all. Jesse suddenly wanted to know why Jesus had done it.

The next several minutes things happened so fast, Jesse struggled to remember the sequence.  Someone began to bang at the roof door.  Lance panicked and grabbed Jesse’s arm.

“Come on, Jesse.  Let’s do it.  NOW!”  He began to run, dragging Jesse along with him.  For a minute, Jesse simply followed because he had always followed Lance’s lead.  But, the moment Jesse’s feet hit the ledge, he couldn't move.  It was as if something locked onto his feet and wouldn't let go.

The roof door slammed back and two dark figures tumbled through.  They stopped when they saw Jesse and Lance on the ledge.

Lance paused, looked back at the men, and then gazed for a brief moment at his friend.  “Let’s go, Jesse.  Together, like always.”

For a moment, Jesse looked into eyes he didn't know and was afraid.

Then he jumped, hard, fast and with a wild whoop.  And Jesse stood on the ledge and watched him sail out, toward the building opposite. Then, Lance’s body turned, falling, slowly it seemed, over and over, and his whoop became a scream, until he hit the cracked, concrete pavement below.

For a long time the night was as silent as a tomb.  Not until the sound of sirens broke the stillness did Jesse realize he was alone.  The men who’d followed them to the roof had disappeared, and Jesse wondered if those dark forms had really been there at all.

He stepped down from the ledge, whatever had held him gone.  Reluctantly, he went  downstairs and picked up the Bulls jacket.  Carrying it across his arm, he went down to meet the police and say good-by to his friend.

The memories faded, just like old movies. Jesse brought his thoughts back from that terrible night and pushed himself up onto his feet.  It was time to leave. He had an appointment in half an hour.  If he left now, there was just enough time to walk the distance to the Mission of Jesus just off Maple Street.  He heard that every Sunday they had a service at 10:00 a.m.  Today was Sunday and today . . . Jesse was free.