Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 4

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 4

(Book 3: Christian Behavior, Chapters 4-6)

Lewis entitles chapter four of Book 3 Morality and Psychoanalysis. Lewis begins by stating that we must do two things at once. Apply, “do as you would want done to you” into all aspects of our society AND try to become the people who would apply it on the inside if we knew how.

Lewis goes on to explain that when a man makes a choice there are two things involved. One is the act of choosing. The second is the psychoanalysis process and the felling and impulses that come to him, which are the raw material of his choice.

In this process, there can be normal feelings or unnatural feelings. It may be normal and consist of the feelings that are common to all man or it might consist of quite unnatural feelings through the things that have gone wrong in his subconscious.

The first would be a fear of something dangerous that keeps you safe.The second would be a fear of cats or spiders.Psychoanalysis seeks to remove those subconscious things that have brought you to those unnatural fears and feelings.

Rarely does it start with that acts and choices itself, the psychoanalytical problem has to be cured, before the moral problem can begin. Because now that someone is cured, they have the choice to make the right moral decisions. Once the raw material is improved the man has the free choice to but himself first or to put others first. And that free choice is the only thing morality is really concerned with. 

Bad psychological material is not a sin, but a disease. It doesn’t need to be repented of, but cured.This is important, because as humans we judge one another by their external appearances, but God judges people by their moral choices.

Take the person who has an unnatural fear of cats and yet sees a cat in distress and helps it down. He may have done more than a typical person with a typical neurological makeup who showed bravery in war.

Flip this around, those of us with a normal heredity and makeup, seem outwardly like pretty nice people, may have used their typical makeup and good upbringing in such a small way, that God would view us in a worse light than those that we consider to be fiends.

Can we have be sure how we would have behaved had we been saddled with the bad psychological outfit and bad upbringing and with the power, say of Himmler?

That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results of man’s choices. But, God does not judge them on the raw material, but what he has done with it.

Most of the man’s psychological make up is due to his body. When he dies, all of that will fall off. And the real central man, the thing that chose, the thing that made the best or worst out of this material will stand naked. All of the good things that we thought we did that were just because of a good upbringing will fall off of us. All of the bad things that someone did that were really just due to a psychological disorder will fall of them. And then we really see for the first time people as they really are.

People often think that God is making a deal. If you keep rules, I will reward you. If you don’t I will give you the other thing. But, think of it more as a central part of you, every time you make a choice, your turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before.  And taking your life as a whole, with all of your innumerable choices, you are slowing turning this thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature. Either into a creature that is harmony with God and other creatures and yourself. Or into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, its fellow creatures and itself.

To be first kind of creature is heaven, joy, peace, knowledge, and power. To be the other is madness, horror, hideous, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. 

Each of is progressing to one state or the other.

Think of someone who murders and then think of someone who yells and spouts off mean words. You would think of course the murderer is worse. Except for, in his case that central part of the man, each time the murder murders and each time the second man rages, it distorts and twists the central part of their beings a little further, So, that each man, in this way is equal and the only thing that can straighten them out is for God to put them right. Each man moves equally far away from God with their rage, even though the outward looks very different.

One last point, the right direction leads not only to peace, but to knowledge. When the man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left within him. As a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less. Think of this, you understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know the nature of good and evil. Bad people know neither.

In Chapter 5, Lewis goes on to talk about sexuality morality and the Christian rule of chastity.

Chastity is not modesty, which is the amount of coverage a woman has in a particular society or a particular time, which can change. Chastity does not change.  An extreme modesty is not necessarily a sign of chastity.

Since this isn’t a firm standard, the elderly should not be so quick to judge the young for their new fashions, etc and the young should not be so quick to call their elders prudes and out of touch.

Chastity is the most unpopular of all of the Christian virtues. There is not getting around it. It’s sex within the confines of marriage and complete fidelity to your partner or complete abstinence.

Lewis asks the question of what has caused the overwhelming lack of respect for sex.Either Christianity has gone wrong or biological sexual desires have gone wrong.

The biological need for food is to give energy. The biological need for sex is to bare children. If we were all to just eat whatever we want, whenever we want, we would all eat too much. But, only to a certain extent, we might eat enough for 2 people, not for 10.

But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined and each escapade produced a baby, in 10 years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.

Think of this, there are large audiences at strip clubs all the time to watch women undress, but imagine if there was a society where you could get a large audience together to put a covered plate on stage and then to uncover it just to see what food was underneath. Wouldn’t you think in that country something had gone wrong in regards to their appetite for food?

Someone visiting us from another planet would probably think there was something equally odd with the sex instinct within our society. Sexually appetite, like our other appetites, grows by indulgence. You find very few people who use food for other things than to eat. Food perversion is rare. The perversion of sex is ramped.

Christianity never said sex in itself is bad. Christianity actually glorifies marriage, lifts up the body  – – Christ came down in a human body; we will have a new body in heaven – – Sex for reproduction and as a form of pleasure is true and Christianity uplifts this.

People say that sex is an instinct just like any other natural instinct like hunger or pain, but that is not true.When people say sex is not to be ashamed of, in the Christian sense of reproduction and pleasure that is true. In the sense of just being a natural instinct to do whatever you want, it is shameful. If people made food take up half of their life, just talking about it all day and looking at pictures of it, that would be quite odd.

Our society has put out the propaganda that sexual unchastity is the norm.There are people who want to keep our sex instincts inflamed in order to make money off of us.

Lewis says (regarding sexual temptation/sin) that God knows our situation and He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.

Chastity is very difficult to achieve and even to desire. Before we can be cured, we must want to be cured. Those who really wish for help will get it; but for many modern people even this wish is difficult. We can say with our lips, “Our Lord make me chaste,” but our hearts say, “but not yet.” (St. Augustine)

Three reasons why it is hard to desire, let alone achieve complete chastity.1 – Our warped nature. All of the temptation  and the contemporary propaganda for lust. It can make you feel that the desires you are trying to resists are natural, so why try to resist them?It has been propaganda that has told us every sexual desire at any time is healthy and natural and normal. But, take heart. There are many things including sexual restraint where we must restrain in order to have a happy, healthy and successful life.

2 – People often think that Christian chastity is impossibleBut that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Just like  a very, very hard question on a test. You don’t leave it blank. You try it and you do your best. Just as you may get some credit for getting certain parts right and certain parts wrong. You will get no credit for not trying at all.   We must ask for God’s help. But after each failure, ask for forgiveness, pick yourself up and try again. Very often what God helps us to first is not the virtue itself, but to always try again. The only failure is to be content with anything less than perfection.

3 – People often misunderstand what psychologists teach about repression. It teaches us that repressed sex is dangerous, but that’s misusing the term suppression for repression. Your suppressing your desire and you are very conscience of your choice. Where, repression is something blocked because it has been so awful (since childhood or something).

While there was a lot to say about sex and Christian morality, it is not the center of Christian morality. The sins of flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all the sins. All worst sins are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting, the pleasure of power, of hatred. 

For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. That is why a cold. Self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course it s better to be neither.

Lewis follows up his chapter on sexual morality with Christian marriage.

Christina doctrine on marriage is based on Christ’s words that a man and a wife are to be regarded as a single organism. That is what the word “one flesh” would be in modern English. He was not given a sentiment, but a fact; just as a lock and a key are one mechanism. And a violin and a bow one instrument.

So, the Christian view is that the pleasure must be coupled within marriage. Just as with food you shouldn’t try to get the taste without digesting it. You don’t chew up your food and spit it out just for the taste.

Some churches won’t allow divorce under any circumstances. Some do very reluctantly under extreme circumstances. What churches agree on and are much  more in agreement with each other than with the outside world is that divorce is not a good thing and that it is more like cutting off a leg than just separating so easily as the world does when any little thing doesn’t go right.

Anyone who is married in a church makes the promise till death do you part, however this is often see as just a mere formality. But, why make the promise then? Who are they trying to trick? Often, it’s the public. They want the formality of a respectable wedding, without intending to pay the price of actually meaning what their marriage vows say. If people do not believe in the permanency of marriage, it would be better for them to live together unmarried, then to become married and make vows they do not intend to keep.

The idea that being in love is the only reason to remain married really leaves no room for marriage as a promise at all. If love the love is the whole thing, than the promise could add nothing. And if it adds nothing, then it should not be made.The promise is not to remain in love. You can’t promise to continue to feel a certain way. The promise is about what you can control, the actions, what you do, regardless of the feeling.

What’s the use of keeping two people together if they are no longer in love? There are several sound social reasons.First, to provide a home for their children.Second, to protect a woman, who has probably sacrificed her own career to get married, from being dropped whenever the man is tired of her.

Being in love is great in one way, no one would deny it is better than common sensuality or complete selfishness.  But the most dangerous thing you can do is take any one impulse of our nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.

Too often we want to say that something is just good or bad. But, there’s good, better, best. There’s bad, worse, worst. And being in love is a good thing, but it’s not the best thing. There are many things below it, but also many above it. It’s noble feeling, but just a feeling. No feeling can last in it’s full intensity or can even be relied on to last at all. Knowledge, principles and habits can last, but feelings come and go.

Ceasing to be in love, does not mean ceasing to love.  IN this sense, love is not merely a feeling, it is a deep unity maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace with which both parents ask for and receive from God. 

They can have this love for each other even in moments when they do not like each other. They can maintain this love, even when if each allowed themselves, they could easily be “in love” with someone else. Being in love first moved them to promise fidelity , this second quieter promise allows them to keep this fidelity . It is on this love that the engine of marriage runs. Being in love was the explosion which started it.

We must learn from our own marriage and those around us what is really true and not from movies and books. We must disentangle this and see what is reality and what is fantasies that have permeated through our brain through fiction.

Think of anything, anything that the first experience or thinking about it is so exciting, but the reality of it does not stay at that peak , but something lasting comes instead.  (this may apply to my teaching).

Often when we settle down and continue in that interest even after the initial excitement is over, we find a thrill in something new, For example, the one who goes off to live in “the perfect place,” the excitement died down, but then found a new thrill in gardening.

Lewis believes this is one of the things Christ meant when he said a man may not truly live until he dies. If all you try to do is live all off of thrills, they would get weaker and weaker. You would end up living as a delusioned person. You must settle into a quieter peace that comes from the ongoing fulfillment and take the new thrills as they come along away.

It’s also by movies, etc that falling in love seems so irresistible that you just can’t help it , but Lewis says that yes you meet someone whose beautiful and clever and witty, And in a certain sense we should love these qualities. But, don’t we have much more choice than we tend to say or believe in whether or not we fall in love with them?

A Christian doctrine on marriage even more unpopular than the permanence is that Christian wives promise to obey their husbands. The man is said to be the head.

The need for some head follows the thought that the marriage is permanent. Typically, the couple should agree, but when there is a real disagreement, what is to happen?Either they must separate and go their own ways or one must have the final decision.

Why should the head be the man?Does the woman really want to be the head of the house? Even a woman who says she wants to be the head of the house, does not see it the same when it’s her neighbor. “Poor Mr. Smith. Why does his wife boss him round like that? That’s just not right.” There must be something unnatural of the rule of wives over husbands because wives themselves are half ashamed of it and despise the husbands whom they rule.

Also, a woman is so focused on her family and fighting for their needs, she finds it hard to be just to those in the outside world when it comes to issues dealing with her family. Where a man tends to be more just to all involved.If your child had hit another child, who would you rather talk to about it? The dad or the mom next door?

Also, wives think of this. Don’t you think one of the failings of your husband is he seems to see the other person’s point of view too much. Is a bit of an appeaser. Doesn’t go all out to defend you and the kids.

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Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 3

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 3 (Book 3 : Christian Behavior, Chapters 1-3)

In chapter 1 of the third book, Lewis begins the by stating that moral rules are directions for running the human machine. Every rule is there to prevent a breakdown or a strain or a friction in the running of that machine. He points out that while perfect behavior is unobtainable, it is a necessary ideal for all men to have when talking about the human machine.

It’s nothing to brag about to say you have high ideals or high morals. It would be the same to say that when you are doing a math problem you are trying to get it right. It would be ridiculous to not try because every mistake you make will cause more troubles later. It’s the same with every moral rule you break. It causes troubles for yourself (and most likely others) along the way.

Lewis observes that morality seems to be concerned with three things. The first is the fair play and harmony between individuals. Secondly, with harmonizing things inside each individual. And thirdly, with a general purpose of a human life as a whole; what man was made for, what cost the whole fleet, and what the the conductor of the band wants to play.

Often people don’t think of morality beyond the first one. To be kind and good toward others. To make sure the things you do don’t harm others. Often it stops with just this first one. However, we have to make sure what’s inside of us is right. Nothing but the courage and selflessness of individuals is ever going to make the way that people interact and society better. People have to be right inside before those social interactions will really be right anyways.

Then, there is the third concern of morality. In which different beliefs about the universe lead to different behaviors. Use a fleet of ships as an example. If someone thinks that honestly all that matters is they don’t harm the other ships, but they can do whatever they want to their own ship. But doesn’t it matter if they believe they own their own ship or if it is owned by the fleet?

Think of yourself. If all your worried about is how you treat others and you are not worried about what you are like on the inside that would greatly depend on whether you own yourself, so to speak. Our bodies are only a tenant, responsible to the real landlord. If someone made me for his own purposes, I would have a lot of duties I would not have if I only belonged to myself.

It is the same thing with our view of eternity; there are lots of things that would not matter if  I was only going to live roughly 70 years. I would not bother about many things, but if I am going to live forever, there are things that become very important that I better take care of.

In the second chapter, Lewis goes on to talk about the Cardinal Virtues. He states that there are seven virtues and four of them are cardinal. The other three are theological. The Cardinal Virtues are recognized by all civilized people, while the theological ones are, as a rule, only recognized by Christians.

Cardinal means the hinge of a door, they are pivotal. They are prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude. Prudence means practical common sense. Taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what will most likely come of it. This virtue is important to Christians because Jesus wants a child’s heart, but a grown ups head. Being a Christian is going to take the whole of you, brains and all.

Temperance means going the right length and no further when it comes to pleasures. Temperance is different than abstinence. There may be times when a Christi an completely obtains from something, because it is something they struggle to not go overboard with or to keep their witness or because they are going to use the money they would have spent on it for the poor, but the mark of a bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting everyone else to give it up. That is not the Christian way.

Temperance is a very difficult virtue and it applies to much more than just alcohol. Someone who devotes all of their time to golf or to their job or to overspending and shopping. Those aren’t as easily seen on the outside as a drunk who falls down in the middle of the road. But, remember God is not easily tricked by outside appearance.

Justice is everything we should call fairness: honesty, give and take, truthfulness, keeping promises and all that side of life.

Fortitude includes both kinds of of courage. The kind that faces danger as well as the kind that sticks with it under pain. Guts is perhaps the nearest modern English.

There is a difference between just occasionally doing cardinal actions and actually having cardinal virtues. It is good to point out doing one, or some sort of just or temperate action and actually being a just or temperate person.

If you think about a tennis player, every now and again, anyone could hit a good shot right down the line. But, a good player is counted on to hit that good shot because they have done it time after time after time and been trained.

A person who becomes just not only does just actions, but they have a certain character about them that makes them a just person that goes beyond just the act now and again. This distinction is important because if it only mattered doing the action we would have some contradictions. 

One, it doesn’t matter why you do it. But, indeed it does. Right actions done for the wrong reason do not help to build the internal quality called virtue. Two, we might think that God simply wanted obedience to a set of rules. Where as he really wants people of a certain sort. Three, we might think that virtues were necessary only for this present life. That in the other world we could stop being just because there is nothing to quarrel about…etc. Without these types of internal qualities (not that you will need to be just or brave in heaven) that person would not be able to have the type of happiness that heaven is meant to bring because they won’t have the quality inside of them to accept it.

In the third chapter, Lewis focuses on Social Morality.  Something to understand about Christian morality, when it comes to man interacting with man, Is that Christ did not come to preach a new morality. He came with the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is something that deep down everyone has known all along.

Really, great moral teachers never do introduce new morality. People new to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed. The real job of a moral teacher is to keep on bringing us back time after time to the old simple principals which we are all so anxious not to see.

Christianity has not and does not profess to have a political system to apply to a particular society in a particular moment with the “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is meant for all men at all moments.

Lewis says that in order for Christianity to make its biggest impact on society it is not tot take over one particular aspect of society, it is rather a director, which will set them all to the right job and a source of an energy that will give them all new life. For example, the human arts and science.

People often ask for a lead from the church. But they mean that they want the clergy to put out a particular political program, which is not what Christianity is. Now, if they mean to lead with the people God gifted in the right way and with the right talents to take on positions within politics and business and then to live out “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” you would quickly have a society changed by Christians.

The New Testament gives us an idea of what the Christian society should look like. Every man should work or they will not eat. Every man should work to produce something good. There should be no showing off or bragging, but everyman doing his best at what he was meant to do. The society would also have obedience and respect to authority, leaders, officials, parents and from wives to husbands. It should also be a cheerful society with joy and signing; regarding anxiety as wrong.

The economic life would seem socialistic and in that way advanced. The family life would seem very old fashioned. Even, somewhat ritualistic. We probably wouldn’t even like all of the parts of it, because we have made our own plan that we say is the way the Christian plan is supposed to be. But, that’s because we have all departed from the Christian machine as it was meant to run. 

In Christianity, everyone is attracted to bits of it and want to leave out the rest.  Borrowing with interest is something the Christians, Jews and ancient Greeks have all spoken out against. Also, the passage that says that everyone must work, is in order that they may give to those in need. Charity is an essential part of the Christian Society. Think of the parable of the sheep and  the goat. I do not think we can settle how much one should give. I think the only safe rule is to give more than one can spare. There ought to be things we would like to do and cannot do because of our charitable giving. We must be careful we don’t try to make Christianity support the belief we already hold or political system we already support, but we must let Christianity speak for itself.

A Christian society is not going to arrive until most of us really want it. And we are not going to want it until we become fully Christian. I may repeat, “do as you would be done by” until I am blue in the face,  but I can not really carry it out until I learn to love my neighbor as myself and can not really love my neighbor as myself unit I learn to God and I cannot really love God except  by learning to obey Him.

So we are driven on to inward matters.

Why Do I Need Jesus, Anyway? & The Joy of Guilt

There are those times when you are reading something (or in my case listening to the audio book) and it put together pieces of something that has been on your mind for so long, but all scrambled, into the right place. God gave me one of those moments lately through CS Lewis and his book “The Problem of Pain” in the form of a two-fold revelation.

 

Why do I Need Jesus, Anyway?

The first revelation I call, “Why do I Need Jesus, Anyway?” It is a very obvious, but also very offensive, part of the Gospel message.  And at this point, in our politically correct times, I think many Christians have come conceded it in order not to offend. And when I am honest with myself, it had started to bother me quite a bit lately, and dare I say even offend me. Yet, as Lewis often does, he puts it in a way that made it make sense to me once more.

This part of the Gospel message is often left out of altar calls or a friend or family member’s attempt to “sell Jesus” on all of the wonderful things He will do if you just “ask him into your heart.” I am talking about the need for salvation based on sin, and quite frankly, the vileness, of every human being.  Lately, I had started to ask, “Why would God hold us accountable for this if we are born with no choice but to sin? It we were screwed because of Adam?

Lewis points out that this is an unanswerable question to fully understand the complexity of man’s first sin. Lewis also indicates that he does not hold the story of Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden as a completely literal story, but simply as a way of introducing the human race’s first sin, which was the pride of thinking his own will superior to God’s. 

More importantly, he goes on to explain there is no need to go around blaming Adam for our individual revolts against God, because we can all see how despicable we are as sinners on our own. Blaming it on Adam and saying he messed it up for the human race is simply to shift the blame from myself and all of the awful things inside of me that clearly demonstrate my being an enemy of God and my desperate need of a savior.

He put it like this. We try to get around this by saying, “Well compared to person X, I am not really so bad.” Of course, we choose someone who had quite a few more hang-ups then us to make ourselves feel good, instead of realizing that our only comparison can be to Christ when we are talking about being right with God on our own merit.

Secondly, he makes the point that when we have our guilty moments, when our mind takes us to the places of our worst deeds, we realize quite fully just how terrible we are. We understand just how corrupt we are. And we know that we would not even want the person sitting next to us or our best friend to be able to see this part of us, let alone the Holy, Living God who created us. And then we are at a point where we can easily admit our need for our savior and fall down on our face in repentance.

It is only when we first understand that our sin separates us from God that the rest of the Gospel message (of a God-Man coming down out of Heaven and living a sinless life, dying on the cross to pay the debt of my sins, and raising from the dead to conquer the grave with the same offer to me) really has any meaning. For when we fall down on our face in the shame of the awfulness inside of our self, we then raise up with the joy of knowing God loved me so much He sent Jesus that we might be forgiven of our wickedness!

 

The Joy of Guilt

If you have already had this moment of conversion to Christianity, you may be thinking the same thing as me, “Well I have acknowledged my guilt to the Lord. I have put my trust in Jesus as the only way for me to be forgiven and have a right relationship with God. And I am trying with the help of the Holy Spirit to live as a disciple of Jesus. But, I’m still not perfect. I still sin. And I still have the sins of my past that seem to keep nagging me.” Well, my friend, this brings me to my second revelation, “The Joy of Guilt.”

Guilt to simply be self-deprecating is definitely not a good thing. However, when I have the full weight of guilt from some past sin weighing me down, this can be a wonderful moment. Instead of trying to ask God to forgive me for the thousandth time (which assuming I have already truly repented, there is no need, for God forgave me the first time I asked), I call out the guilt for what it is.

I realize that due to my awful sin, having guilt in this life is a natural consequence while I live on this Earth. But, I am not going to wallow in this guilt. Instead, I will take this time to allow the guilt to bring me back to a place of realizing my deplorability. And when I sufficiently recognize how deplorable I am, it brings me back to a place of appreciating my need of a Savior. At this point, I have now come full circle and I am praising the Lord for providing that Savior through Jesus’ death and resurrection. And then my joy is complete as I realize that indeed I am one of the blessed who has found that salvation in Christ.

God has turned my guilt into the joy! I am able to feel the pleasure of when I first put my trust in him all over again! Praise You, Lord, for saving a sinner like me!

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 2 (Book 2: What Christians Believe)

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 2  

(Book 2 : What Christians Believe)

Christians believe God created the universe, like a man painting a picture. God made the world, but a great many things have gone wrong in the world. And that God insists quite loudly on our trying to put them right again

There is often the argument (as was Lewis’ when he was an atheist) that the world is just so cruel and unjust, how can there be a good God out there? This question took Lewis back to the thought of moral law. How did he even have the idea of just and unjust? Cruelty and kindness? If it weren’t for God placing that inside of him?

Lewis contends that atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe had no meaning, we should have never found out it has no meaning. Just as if there was no light in the universe and creatures were without eyes, we would never know that there was dark. Dark would be without meaning

Then there is another view that is too simple along with Atheism. That there is a good God in heaven and everything is just all right. In other words, these people make Christianity and religion too simple. They don’t deal with any of the facts of all the wrong in the world and the need for justice and redemption and sin and salvation. They just think that there is a good God in heaven who made the universe. Period.

Not only is reality not simple, it is often quite strange. You would have to be purposefully oblivious to the reality of our world to look around and believe that everything is all right! Human beings walking around the planet understand that there are things that are bad and meaningless.

Christianity explains there was a good world created that has gone terribly wrong. But, there is still a thought and remembrance of how it should be. And we can actually look at the fact that bad things help prove the existence of good. And not only the existence of good, but that good is on a higher level than the bad. Because in order for it to be bad, there must be something good for it to have gone off against.

There is no badness just for the sake of badness. Even the most evil thing is some sort of good perverted.  For example, even people who seem to do cruel things just for the sake of being cruel (sadists), do so because in some way there is a sexual perversion. They get aroused in the cruelty they commit. Which means there had to be a normal sexual standard, which is good, to be perverted, in order for them to have this arousal.

Even someone who seems to be happy when they do bad things…they get pleasure out of the bad things. The pleasure is the goodness and they’ve perverted the way in which they get that pleasure. There is no evil without good. All bad is, is a perversion of something good.

Christianity believes that it’s a civil war. That the evil was created by the good. And that there is now a Civil War going on and we, people, are in the territory occupied by the rebel. We are in enemy occupied territory and the rightful king has landed. And is calling us all on a great campaign of sabotage!

Christianity says that the prince of evil is the one reigning this world for this time. This raises a couple of questions. This would be odd that this would be within the will of a good God. On the other hand, if it’s not within His will, it raises the question, how can something happen outside of a God’s will who has absolute power?

However, anyone who has been in a position of authority can see how something can be BOTH in and out of your will. For example, a mother tells her children I’m not going to be coming up here and making you tidy up the playroom every single night. You must learn to have the responsibility to do that on your own…So, the mother comes up one night and there are toys all over. It was not her will that the room be a mess, however it was in her will that the children have the responsibility to keep the play room clean on her own.

This is what God did when He created humans to have free will. You may ask, why would he go and do such a crazy thing like that? Give free will to a race of people who will use this will to do many terrible and evil things. But, you must thing of the other side of this coin as well. The only true joy and happiness comes is through free will. The love and happiness and joy that God wants for everyone through being united with him is by choosing to be united with Him and to one another.

Of course God knew what would happen if people choose to use their free will the wrong way, but apparently He thought it was worth the risk. Now, you might disagree with God for giving free will. However, the only reason you can disagree with God is because He gave you the reasoning power to disagree with Him. So, it becomes somewhat absurd to disagree with the one who gave you the power to disagree with Him.

Now, the more powerful a creature, the more wonderful it can be when it uses its free will for good and the more terrible it can be when it uses its free will for evil. Which is how we get to Satan.

How did Satan go wrong? We can speculate it was his desire to be God. To put himself at the center and first. This was his sin and this was the sin that he passed onto the human race. Out of this thought that we can be happy apart from our maker. That we can make something of life without God, is where all the tragedy of history has come from: war, poverty, slavery, prostitution. These are all in an attempt to do things outside of the way the maker intended.

You may wonder, “Why can we not have happiness apart from God?” Think of a car. A car is designed to run on gasoline. You can’t put anything else in it to make it run. Well, God designed humans to run on Himself. He is the fuel that we burn. He is what is supposed to fuel our spirits and our souls and without him we don’t run….at least not properly.

God left us conscience, though. The sense of right and wrong. And all through history there have been people, some trying very hard, although not completely succeeding, to obey it.

God has also given, what Lewis calls, “queer dreams.” The stories scattered all throughout heathen religions of a god who dies and comes to life again. And somehow in that is redemption and new life is given to men.

Also, God picked one particular people, the Jewish people, and spent several centuries hammering into their heads what kind of God he was. That there was only One of Him and that he cared about right conduct. This is the Old Testament. It gives an account of the hammering process.

Then, the most shocking of all…Jesus comes, claiming to BE God and to give life. Claiming to be the one who will come back to judge at the end of time. And a claim that we often overlook, to forgive sins. Think about this, we can forgive someone for something they do against us, but we can’t forgive someone for something they have done to someone else; i.e. “I forgive you that you hit your sister.”

But, that’s just what Jesus did! Which of course would only make sense if He was indeed God and he was forgiving the sins of the laws that were created by Him. The moral laws of the universe…because He was indeed God!

Christ says He is humble and meek and we believe Him. As do most non-Christians. They don’t argue these claims. Yet, if Christ was not God, humbleness and meekness would be the last characteristics’ we would assign Him….as He goes around forgiving other people’s sins and claiming to be the living God….therefore he is only humble and meek if He is indeed God….

Lewis is arguing against is anyone who says, “I accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but not as God.” If Jesus is not God, he is not a great moral teacher; maybe he tells some good stories, but not a great moral teacher. In fact if Jesus is not God, he is pompous and arrogant and saying things that are absurd for any man to say. (As Lewis so delicately puts it, he would be insane up there on the level with a man who believes himself to be a poached egg).

Jesus is indeed God or He is a lunatic beyond all lunatics or He is the devil of hell. Lewis says, “Either this man was and is the son of God or a mad man or someone worse….You can shut him up for a fool. You can spit at him and kill him as a demon. Or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But, let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about Him being a great human teacher. He has not left that door open to us. He did not intend to.”

The Christian belief is that Jesus is God landing in this enemy occupied territory in human form. And that as important and profound as His teachings are, the most important part of the whole story is Christ’s death and resurrection. Which brings us to the question, “How does Christ’s death on the cross put us right with God?”

Lewis says that before becoming a Christian, he thought you had to believe only one theory of why Jesus died on the cross. That God wanted to punish man for joining with the great rebel and therefore Christ came to take our place, so that God would let us off.

But he goes on to say, “What I’ve come to see is that neither this theory nor any other is the central belief of Christianity. The central belief of Christianity is that Christ’s death somehow put us right with God. It has given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this is another matter. There are many different theories as to how this works. What all Christians agree upon is that it does work.”

We believe that the death of Christ is just that point in history where something absolutely unimaginable from the outside shows through into our own world. And since this is beyond our comprehension, the biblical writers have created different pictures to help us represent and understand what it is like, what Jesus did. But these pictures do not take the place of the actual even that occurred. Just like pictures in math help us to understand a certain formula, but the mathematical formula is in and of itself true, while the pictures merely represent it.

Christ was killed for us. His death has washed out our sins. And by dying he disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up, as to how Christ’s death did all this are quite secondary.

However, there are different theories worth looking at. One is that we are being let off, because Christ bared our punishment for us. On the surface you say, “Well, why did he do that? If God was going to let us off, why punish an innocent person for us, instead of just letting us off?” And this would seem quite absurd if you think of it is another man standing before a judge for you.

However, think of it a little differently. Think of it as a debt. And the person who has the assets to pay for it, paying for it in the place of the person who has no assets.  So exactly what hole had man got himself into to owe this great debt?

He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if it belonged to himself. In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement, he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, realizing you have been on the wrong track and get ready to start life over from the ground floor.

This is what Christians call repentance. To repent is more than just saying you’re sorry, it’s changing who you’ve been this whole time, a selfish person. It means killing part of yourself.

Here’s the problem: Only a bad person needs to repent, but only a good person can truly repent. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person and he would not need it. You cannot go back to God without this repentance, because without repentance you’re asking God to go back, without really going back. The very need for repentance makes us unable to do that repentance.

So, the only way we can do truly repent is if God helps us? But what do we meant that God will help us? It means that God puts a little of Himself into us. We can love and we can reason because God loves and reasons.

But, then there is the problem of the fall. Without the fall, it would be all smooth sailing. But because of the fall, we now needs God’s help to do something, that within His own nature, God never does. To surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. So, the place that we need God’s help the most, God cannot help us because it’s not in his nature.

But suppose, God became man. And this man that now had human nature would be able to help us.  He could surrender His will and then suffer and die because he is man, and he could do so perfectly because He is God.

The only way we can successfully repent is by sharing God’s dying. And the only way God can die is if He becomes a man. That is the sense in which he pays our debt and suffers for us what He needs not suffer at all.

So, one picture of what Jesus did is the atonement. But remember, it is only one more picture, do not mistake it for the actual event, for the thing itself.

The perfect surrender and humiliation were gone through by Christ. Perfect because He was God. Surrender and humiliation because He was man. Christians believe if we somehow share the humiliation and suffering of Christ, we also somehow share the conquest of death and find new life after we die. And in it become perfect and perfectly happy creatures.

There are three things that spread the Christ life to us: baptism, belief and communion. (At least that’s the ordinary methods. Lewis says he is not trying to say there aren’t special cases where it is spread by different methods, but these are the three typical ways). – – Lewis says while this seem quite odd and he doesn’t understand why these three things are a part of new life, if he didn’t know it was true, he would also find it quite odd about the way (our natural) life is brought about in the first place!

Lewis says the reason he believes these three things are true is because Jesus taught them. However, these three things do not take the place of trying to copy Christ in our lives; which must be the main goal of any Christian. And in this way Christianity is different from all other religion. For you are not making it, you are not being good or kind or loving or become a better person on your own; you are only keeping up a life you got from someone else.

In the same way a Christian can lose the Christ life that was put in him. He has to make efforts to keep it. Even the best and most dedicated Christian is not acting on his own steam. He is only keeping up and nourishing a life that he could have never acquired on his own.

This does not mean a Christian is man who never go wrong. But, he is a man who is able to repent, to pick himself up and begin over again.

A Christian does not believe that his good deeds come from himself. “A Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but God will make us good because he loves us.”

Christians believe quite literally that Christ is operating through them. That the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts. We are his fingers and muscles, the cells of his body. We are the body of Christ.

Some might wonder why Christ came in the way he did. Why is Christ not landing in force? Why is God not just taking over? Is He not strong enough to take out the enemy?

Well, Christians believe that He will land in force. We just don’t know when. In the meantime, He is giving us the chance to join his side freely.

People who ask God to invade and take over now, don’t necessarily realize what they’re asking. “When the writer walks on to the stage, the play is over…When God comes back, the world is over…God is going to invade alright, but what is the use in saying you are on his side then, when the whole natural universe is melting away?” Think of it this way. Imagine a soldier has been fighting for one side of the war the whole time, but when he realizes the other side is winning, so he tries to go to change ranks. It is too late then!

When God coms back, fully revealed, it will be so aweing, it will either inspire irresistible love or irresistible horror in each creature. But either way, no one anymore will deny Him. It will be too late then to choose your side. It will not be the time for choosing, it will be the time for discovering which side we have really chosen. 

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 1 (Book 1 : Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe)

So it has been a LONG time since I’ve posted. I am a teacher and summer should allow me a lot more free time, but somehow it seemed to actually get busier this summer! I taught summer school and took two courses for my license renewal. And then I always try to spend extra time with friends and family and….well, somehow summer has already come and gone. But, I am hoping with a more consistent schedule with being back to work full time and the kids back to school; I will get back to blogging a few time a month.

So, I have thought for a while that I would like to give a very clear view of my beliefs and the essentials of Christianity. But, whenever I try to do so, I feel that I am not very clear or I leave something important out. Then, I got to thinking about C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity.” This book was originally a series of radio broadcasts done in the 1940’s by Lewis and then compiled into 3 separate books and finally brought together into one book known as “Mere Christianity,” divided into three sections: Book 1: Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe, Book 2: What Christians Believe, Book 3: Christian Behavior, and Book 4: Beyond Personality: Or the First Steps in Understanding the Trinity.

In this book, Lewis builds block upon block to explain good reason to believe that there is a God, then that that God is the Christian God, what exactly Christians believe and finally how Christians should strive to behave. And knowing that Lewis does a far better job of clearly laying all of this out, I have decided to use my next several blogs to summarize Mere Christianity as best I can.

While I know I am not an expert, I have compiled outline notes on the book and taught it to an adult Sunday School class over a period of almost a year. In addition, I am re-reading (or more accurately re-listening) to the book now as I complete these summaries for the blog. My hope is that these blogs might inspire some who are already Christ-followers to feel more confident in their faith as they see that there is sound reason to believe in the Christian faith and that some who have never made the decision to make Jesus their Lord and Savior would see that it is truly the most reasonable and sound decision you could make when seeking out the truth of what this life and this universe is all about.

So, without any further introduction, I will begin my summary with Book 1.

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 1 (Book 1 : Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe)

I want to begin with one of my favorite quotes from the book. “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.”

How do we get to this place? A place where we are in an enemy camp and God is on the opposite side? And how do we change camps and become right with the Lord?

Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s start with The Law of Human nature. The law of human nature, the law of right and wrong, moral law; this law that all people seem to intrinsically have.     

While at first you may say to yourself, I’m not so sure if all people, or even if anyone, has this law inside of them, I believe that there is much reason to show that all humans have the choice to obey or disobey these laws.

Throughout history and different civilizations there seems to be a basic moral law known by all, even if there are some differences in how it seems each civilization puts it into practice.

For example, think of what a completely opposite type of morality would be: a society where people are admired for running away in battle, or for a man who felt proud of double crossing others who showed kindness to him. This is of course almost impossible to imagine, because inside each one of us is the moral law telling us how wrong these things are.

And this law is much more than just herd instinct. Imagine you hear a man cry for help and see him struggling to stay above the water, due to the herd instinct, you will want to help and feel instinctively that you should help. But due to the self-preservation instinct, you’ll want to not help. You will feel the instinct to get away from the danger.

But then you feel a third thing…and this is the human nature. You will feel that it is the right thing to do and you ought to help the person who is crying out and could drown. You see this human nature is judging between the two instincts and deciding which one is right.

It is also something much greater than just morals taught by a teacher or parent. For if it were just this, then all such teachings would have to be looked at as equal. We would not be able to look at Christian morality as any better than Nazi morality. It would be to each his own. However, this is not the case. We feel that one is better than the other. Why? The reason you lean more one way than the other is because there seems to be some ultimate moral law that you are weighing the choices against in the first place.

So, if we can agree that there is a law of nature, it must be pointed out that none of us are really keeping the law of nature. We all fail to practice from time to time the type of behavior we expect from others.

We always have great excuses when we do this: I lost my temper because of the bad day I had at work, when I operate in the not so up and up business it was when we were on really hard times, when I promised to do that it was before I realized all that was involved….But we would not except those excuses from somebody else.

It’s not that we don’t believe in the law of nature. It’s that we believe in it so much that when we don’t meet it we shift the responsibility to someone or something else. Anything to keep from admitting that we didn’t meet it.

However, when we practice the moral law and show kindness or love to others, we pat ourselves on the back and say, “that’s who I really am. Look what I did.” Because again we do believe in human nature and want to show when we follow it.

An important distinction to make is that the law of human nature is different than a scientific law. For example, the law of gravity tells you what a rock ought to do and does every time; if you drop it, the rock will fall. But, the law of human nature tells you what humans ought to do, but don’t do. In the case of the rock and gravity, you just have the facts. You drop the rock it falls. Law of gravity.

In the law of human nature, you have the facts plus something else. The facts of how humans actually behave. And then something else, human nature, how they should behave. For example, if you are getting onto the subway and someone accidentally trips you, you might be mad for a moment, but once you realize it was accident you won’t be mad anymore. Even though it might have hurt….But, if someone sticks out their foot to purposely try to trip you, even if you see it and walk around it, you will be upset. It goes beyond the facts of whether you were tripped or not tripped, hurt or not hurt, it goes to the fact of knowing that there was something right and something wrong.

What does this natural law tell us about the universe we live in?

One view is the Materialist view – pretty much the evolutionary view of how things came to be. This view becomes problematic though. Because in this view you either have to believe that there was some sort of matter that is eternal. Something that has always been existent. That eventually combined with the right something else to start a process that created our universe and eventually developed life. Or you must believe that the something came from nothing. That at one point in time there was absolutely nothing and spontaneously something formed out of that nothing to begin the evolutionary process.

The other view is the Religious view – The universe was created by a higher being, with some purposes unknown and some purposes known. That this higher being wished to create others like Himself, in the sense that they have a mind.

So, we would ask ourselves what is the best way to conclude if this higher being exists. Now simply observing the universe would certainly begin to point us in this direction. To see that there is some sort of master artist or painter behind all that we see. However, this would not shed too much light on who this higher being is. Just as the way an architect could not show himself within the staircase or wall of a house he built.

The beauty of the world the universe does put to the existence of a higher being, but not to what this higher being is like. The only way left for that higher being to show Himself is within ourselves. And that’s exactly what He does through the moral law. Now we must ask the question, “What does the moral law teach us about the character of the higher being?”

From the moral law we find out that the Being behind the universe is intensely interested in fair conduct, right play, unselfishness, courage, good faith, honesty, truthfulness. Therefore we should agree with the account given by Christianity and some other religions that God is good.

Remember, not good in a soft way. Good in a hard as nails way. Because the moral law does not tell us to do the easy, soft thing. It tells us to do the right thing. Even when it’s hard or difficult.

So, on one hand we believe in this good God because we believe in this moral law and the things it says are right and wrong. On the other hand, we want this Higher Being to excuse us personally when we go against this moral. But, deep down we know that unless this higher being does not excuse, but is against all things that are done that are night right, then He truly couldn’t be called good.

It then gets really complicated, because that higher being would hate most of what goes on in this universe because most of what goes on is not good and does not follow the moral law. Without this higher being who is good, our case is hopeless because then the universe is not governed by this overarching goodness and moral law.

But, with this higher being, who is ultimately good, our case is hopeless again because daily we make ourselves more an enemy to this higher being because of the way we behave that does not match up with the goodness of the moral law that He put inside of us.

Christianity only matters after you have realized that there is a moral law and a power behind the moral law and that you’ve broken that law and put yourself wrong with the higher power. After all this, and not a moment sooner, is when Christianity begins to talk.

Christianity does end in comfort. But, starts in the dismay we’ve been describing.  There is no point in going straight to the comfort until at first you go through this dismay that you need to be comforted from.

Pride Comes Before The Twilight Zone

Daniel Foster stood looking out the window. From his corner office on the 50th floor he had an amazing view of downtown Manhattan. All of this, he thought to himself. All of this I have earned from the sweat of my brow. The long evening hours. The Saturdays and Sundays in the office. All of my hard work has really paid off. And of course my incredible negotiating skills and ability to quickly conduct extensive research didn’t hurt either.

Daniel chuckled as he turned away from the window and walked across the office to his desk. He took a seat in his cushy leather chair. It was 8:30 on a Friday night. But there was nothing odd about his being in his office that late. He had worked his way from junior to senior associate in record time at the second largest law firm in NYC. And then last year he had taken that next, huge step. Partner.

But Daniel was different than most partners. Instead of taking a breath and realizing he could finally relax a bit, he continued with the 100 hour work weeks as if he was still a junior associate fresh out of college. And with a merger between two companies each worth billions currently on the line, he new this weekend would be another where he saw very little of his plush apartment overlooking Central Park.

As Daniel got back to work on his laptop, his cell phone began buzzing. He looked down at the number. Really Steven, you have already left me 6 messages, he thought as he reluctantly took the call from his older brother.

“Hey Steve, what’s up?”

“What do you mean what’s up Danny? Didn’t you listen to any of my messages?”

“Yeah, I listened. But is she really that bad? I mean, over the last six weeks you’ve had me come rushing to the hospital four times saying that ‘this was going to be it.’ Then, I get there and it’s a false alarm. I’ve missed out on a ton of billable hours from all of these ‘emergency visits.’”

“Are you serious! Come on Danny. Your billable hours are more important than being by mom’s side when she passes?”

“Of course not,” Daniel answered without much conviction as he continued reading through a document on his computer. “But if it were just more certain when it would actually happen it would make things a lot easier.”

“Well, sorry little brother. My crystal ball is in the shop right now. But she is definitely not doing well. And I really think this could be it. The nurses keep coming in and giving her more pain medication. They say that all they are trying to do now is keep her comfortable until the end comes.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll get there as soon as I can.”

Daniel hung up before his brother could say anything else and went back to his work. I’m sure I have at least a few hours before I need to get over there.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

At 10:00 Daniel rubbed his eyes and decided to check his e-mail. He needed to quit staring at the report he had been pouring over for hours. As he scrolled down past the e-mails from associates trying to show that they were also still hard at work at this late hour and past the obligatory invitation from the partners to join their Sunday golf outing that he never went to, something caught his eye. The sender line said Thomas Foster.

Weird, thought Daniel. That was dad’s name. But, of course since his dad had been dead for over a decade now it was impossible that the e-mail was from his father. But out of curiosity Daniel clicked on the e-mail with the subject line entitled Don’t you remember?

When he opened the e-mail there was a short message: Don’t ask how or try to explain it, but your old man is checking back in with you. Click on the video link. I think there is something you need to see. Love, Dad.

And below the message, sure enough, there was a video link. What in the world? Daniel thought to himself. Is this someone’s idea of a sick joke?

Daniel scrolled the cursor over the delete button. But there was something that just wouldn’t let him do it. Something that compelled him to go down and click on the link. When he did, he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was a home video. He was about 8 years old and he was out in the garden planting flowers with his mom.

But, this was not just weird, it was impossible. His family had not even owned a video camera until he was in his teens. Daniel didn’t know how this was happening, but it was undeniable that it was he and his mother on that computer screen.

“Mom, I’m getting pretty tired. Can we call it a day?”

“Well, honey,” she answered. “It’s up to you. But I know you really want to earn that money to buy yourself a new bike. And if we don’t finish pulling weeds and watering the flowers, then next week you won’t have very pretty flowers to sell in the front yard to earn money to get that bike.”

“Okay, mom. You’re right.”

Daniel watched as he and his mom continued to pull weeds from around the flowers, sprinkle fertilizer and pour water. He smiled thinking back to that summer. He had indeed earned the $40 he needed to buy his brand new Schwinn bicycle.

And even now he could still hear mom’s words the first time he rode the bike echo in his mind, “See honey, a little extra time and effort always pays off.”

The video had stopped and his phone buzzed again. It was Steve again, but this time just a text. If you were still planning on coming, don’t bother. The doctor says she has stabilized. He said she has at least a few more days….looks like you can keep racking up those billable hours.

Daniel started to type a reply, but then decided not to. What was the use? There was nothing he could say that would make the situation any better. He logged off his computer and started to pack up his briefcase. That e-mail and video really had him on edge. He needed to go home, fix himself a stiff drink and get some sleep. After all, he planned to be back into the office by 6:00 tomorrow morning.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

As Daniel was driving home, he tried to run through what he hoped to accomplish at the office tomorrow. This was his usual routine for a drive home. Silent car. No music. No phone calls. Just mentally preparing for what lay ahead the next day. But, this evening he was having trouble focusing. His mind kept replaying the video of he and his mom in the garden.

“Delilah, thanks for taking my call.”

Daniel jerked himself forward in his seat. Turned and looked in the passenger seat and the back seats of his car and then realized the voice was coming from his radio. The radio that he hadn’t turned on….

“Sure. Now tell me what’s your name and why you’re calling?”

“This is Gabriel. No last name. Just Gabriel.”

“Well, okay Gabriel,” the hostess chuckled. “I like to just go by Delilah as well.”

“My dedication is to my mom. You see, I’m a very successful corporate lawyer in New York City. I make mergers happen between billion dollar companies.”

“It does sound like you are doing quite well for yourself. And how does mom fit into all of this?”

“Well, Delilah. Back when I was in junior high I was sort of a mis-fit. Tried out for several sports teams and didn’t make them. Even went out for band and was actually asked not to come back because I couldn’t hit the right notes on my trumpet.”

“Wow! Sounds like a rough go for an adolescent.”

Daniel didn’t know what in the world was going on. But so far this Gabriel guy was giving a play by play of Daniel’s junior high experience to everyone listening to Soft Rock 104.5.

“Yeah Delilah, it was pretty rough. But then, one day when my mom was cleaning up some papers I had left lying around from school she saw one that caught her eye. It was for the debate team. And she called me over to her and said, ‘Gabe, I think this would be perfect for you. Why don’t you give it a try?’ I was hesitant at first, but eventually I agreed. I figured what have I got to lose? Well, turns out I was pretty good at it. And as I continued into high school I kept getting better. Anytime I had a debate meet coming up, mom would practice with me ahead of time. She would research the opposing view and debate me at home with my dad serving as judge.”

No! This can’t be happening. Daniel didn’t know how, but he knew for sure now that Gabriel was not telling his own story; he was telling Daniel’s!

What an amazing mom! And how were her debating skills?”

“Let me tell you. I never faced a harder debate opponent than mom. Abd since she would do such a thorough job arguing the other side, I was always so prepared for my meets, I never lost! In fact, my senior year of high school I was the state champion at the most prestigious meet in the state of New York.”

“And I bet those skills of persuasion you learned through debate sure do come in handy at the negotiating table.”

“Exactly Delilah, exactly.”

“Well thanks for calling in Gabriel and I have the perfect song for your mom.”

As Boyz II Men began to soulfully sing A Song for Momma Daniel stared straight ahead. If he hadn’t just heard it for himself he wouldn’t believe it. But, a man had just called in and just precisely described his life as an adolescent. He pushed the accelerator down a little further as the thought of that drink was becoming more and more appealing.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Daniel unlocked the door and walked into his apartment. He tossed his briefcase on the couch and immediately went over and poured his drink. He gulped it straight down like he used to do in his college days and poured a second. Usually he had only one drink and he slowly sipped it while watching a little ESPN to unwind. But tonight he had finished his second drink and he still hadn’t even taken off his shoes. He put down a third and could feel himself begin to loosen up and relax. He skipped the ESPN and went to the shower.

After a quick shower, Daniel slid in under to his silk sheets. I just need to get some sleep. My head will be clear in the morning and I can think this all through. I’m sure it will make more sense in the morning.

As he always did, Daniel fell asleep quickly. He worked hard and slept little. But when he did sleep, it was a deep sleep. From the moment his head hit the pillow until the moment his phone alarm rang at 4:30 the next morning, he was dead to the world in a deep and dreamless sleep.

Tonight, though, tonight would be different for Daniel. For as Daniel slept, he had the most vivid dream of his life. If a dream is what it could be called, for Daniel would always insist it was no more a dream than the unexplainable video on his computer or the unsolicited call-in request on the radio.

It began with Daniel standing by himself on a street corner at an intersection. He could see the street signs above hime: Senate Avenue and Campus Lane. He was back at his old stomping grounds at the university he attended for graduate school. And he was even wearing a sweatshirt with his school mascot, the Kicking Coyotes, on it.

As he stood there, a man Daniel did not recognized, dressed in all white, came up and extended his hand. Daniel shook hands with the man.

The man in white smiled a large smile and spoke first, “Hi my names Lucifer, but all my friends call me Lou. Why don’t you come and take a walk with me. I have something to show you here at your old stomping ground.”

Daniel answered, “I think I’d rather not.” But just as he had no choice in what played in the video on his computer or what was said on the radio call-in, he also seemed to have no choice but to follow Lou.

He followed Lou down Campus Lane and then they took a left onto Valley Drive where the library was located. It seemed that Lou was talking the whole time, but that Daniel could not make out his words. However, as if unable to control his own will, he just nodded and smiled walking just a few steps behind his eager guide.

As they got to library, Daniel and Lou entered and went to a table near the back of the library. “Now just sit down and watch,” Lou said as he took a seat on a bench in the corner. Daniel sat down next to him. “You will be able to see and hear everything that goes on. But, no one will be able to see or hear us.”

Just then, Daniel spotted himself, only 20 years younger, walking over to a corner table with a huge stack of books. His younger self sat down and immediately put his head down on the  table.

“That’s me.” Daniel said to Lou. “I was working on my final term paper to complete my graduate degree and I was completely stuck. It was due in just a couple of days and even though I had been working on it for weeks I was no where close to being finished.”

“Yes, I know,” Lou said with a nostalgic smile. “I really thought this would be the end of your dream to become a lawyer.” Then Lou’s smile turned into a scowl. “Until she had to show up.”

In walked Daniel’s mom. She was carrying a paper bag and travel mug. She sat down in the seat across from college-aged Daniel and he lifted his head. “Mom! What are are you doing here?”

“Well, son. I know you too well. And when we talked last night and you were saying all that stuff about being almost done with your paper and how it had turned out to be easier than you thought….I knew you were lying. So this morning I just got in the car and drove over. Now have some milk and cookies to cheer you up and then let’s get started.”

“Lou, I still remember that day so well. She told me that all that research she had done as my debate partner had taught her some shortcuts. She showed me some speed reading strategies and a great way of synthesizing information from multiple sources and in no time I was back on track. By the time she left that evening I was pretty much just putting the finishing touches on it. I still can’t believe I ended up with an B+ on a paper that I had barely even started before mom showed up.”

“I know, I know,” Lou said sulkily. “Don’t rub it in. Now, you remember this night and don’t ever let anyone tell you I never do any good deeds.” Lou got up and started to walk toward the library exit. But before he went out the door he added, “Now, on the other hand, if you choose to ignore my visit, you will have a LONG time to get to know my other side.”

Daniel sat straight up in bed. He was soaked in sweat and breathing heavy. And when he looked down, instead of his plaid pajamas he saw none other a kicking coyote on his shirt. He looked at his phone. 4:29. He quickly turned off the alarm before it could begin its intolerable chiming. He laid his head back down on his pillow. And for the first time in months slept in.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

When he awoke again and looked at his phone the time read 8:15. He couldn’t believe how good he felt. Who knew a few extra hours could  rejuvenate you so quickly?

Daniel ate a bowl of oatmeal and drank his morning coffee. He got dressed. But instead of a three piece suit, he put on a pair of jeans and a sweater. And instead of heading north toward his downtown office, he headed south.

He parked in the Metro General Hospital parking garage and made his way up the 5th floor.  He went into room 512 where his mother lay. No one else was in there. Daniel was sure Steve would be there soon, but he was glad he had made it there first. He sat down next to the bed and took his sleeping mother’s hand. She looked so frail. Her hand felt so bony. As a few tears began to run down his cheeks, she opened her eyes.

“Steve is that you?” she asked softly.

“No, mom. It’s your baby boy. It’s Danny.”

With that she seemed to perk up and opened her eyes a little wider.

“Danny. I’m so glad you came. I’ve missed you.” Her voice was beginning to sound a little stronger.

“I’m glad I’m here too mom. I’m sorry it’s been so long. I brought you a little treat.” He set a cream stick and a cup of coffee on the tray next to her. “From Don’s Donut Shack. Your favorite.”

With Danny’s help she sat up and began to enjoy her life’s one vice. “I never could resist,” she chuckled. “How are you honey? How is work? I’m surprised you’re not there now.”

“I’m doing fine mom. And work is good. Working on a huge merger. But, I’ve actually decided to cut back on my hours a bit. You know, spend some time doing some other things.”

Mom sighed. “That would be nice Danny. But I’ve heard that one before.”

“I really mean it this time. I’m gonna start coming in to see you more. And get back to exercising. And maybe even get in a round or two of golf.”

At that his mom let out roaring laugh.

“Okay, well maybe not so much with the golf. But, really mom. I mean it this time. And mom…”

“Yes, Danny?”

“I want to thank you. Thank you for making me into the attorney, and the man, I am today. I know if it weren’t for you I would never have made it.”

“Nonsense, dear. Your hard work and long hours have paid off.”

“Yes, I know mom. You don’t want any credit. That was one trait I didn’t pick up from you…humility.”

Daniel continued to chat with his mom as she enjoyed her not so healthy breakfast. When she began to get sleepy and nod off, Daniel kissed her on the forehead and promised he would be back to visit again that evening and then headed into the office.

At the office he set an alarm on his phone for 3:00. And when it went off, he got up and went to his apartment, put on some sweats and headed out for a jog.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

And Daniel did go back and visit his mother that evening. In fact, Daniel continued to go back to visit with his mom every evening around 6:00 when he left work.

About a week later, Daniel felt his phone vibrating. It was Steve. This is really it buddy. Mom’s asking for you.

Daniel stood up from the negotiating table that seated the heads of the two companies and their lawyers that would make his firm millions of dollars as soon as this deal was finalized and said, “I’m sorry gentlemen. I’m going to have to excuse myself. A family matter has just arisen that I have to attend to immediately.”

Not more than an hour later Daniel’s mother passed away peacefully with each of her two sons seated at her bedside holding her hands.

He Didn’t Watch Me Snow Blow

I wrote this a couple of years ago and came across it the other day when I was looking through some documents on my computer. I thought it would be an appropriate time to post it as my son will turn 7 this month!!

He Didn’t Watch Me Snow Blow 

It’s kinda funny, ya know

I have three kids

And I love each dearly

None more than another

But there is just something about my guy

Something that makes me realize how fast time is going by

You see, my oldest daughter, adopted at 8

Just turned 13

A young woman now, no longer a little girl

Yet for this monumental moment, no sadness did I feel

A bit of, oh my gosh, can it really be?

But no despair for days gone by

Then, there’s my baby girl… my precious baby girl!

The one who flails her arms  and calls “Dada”

before I’m even through the door

Just a month away from turning 1

My wife asked me, party is coming up, will you cry?

I don’t think so, I told her, but I’m not sure why.

Yet, my little guy, my little man

He does something to my heart

Any random night, it doesn’t take much

Just a little over tired and watching as he sleeps

I don’t want them to come

But yet the tears, they start

I don’t know what it is

What makes it seem so different

What makes it so hard to watch him grow

Could be that he’s the only boy?

Or that when I look at him,

I see myself 25 years ago

Whatever it is I realized today

That my little guy is getting older

My 4 year old little man is much different

Than my three year old Big Boy Helper or

My 2 year old Baby Victor

My little guy is changing by the day

It’s strange what made me realize it

It’s not that preschool is half complete

With Kindergarten around the corner

Not even seeing the change

from baby face to handsome boy

in the pictures I revisit much too often

It’s not that now he puts his straw

into the juice box himself

That I’ve watched the Mickey faze

turn to Cat in the Hat 

and on to Superheroes and now

currently standing firm at WildKratts

No, today what hit me like a ton of bricks

was that as I cleared the snow,

he wasn’t at the window

watching me as I snow blow

To tell the truth, I know this for sure

because I checked quite frequently

See my 2 year old guy,

he would watch the entire time

Daddy was his entire world

Whatever I was doing was the greatest thing around

Would rather watch daddy blow the snow

Than play with toys or even watch a show

Three year old V

would alternate between the window

and his imaginary play

And if I looked up twice from the snow to the window,

at least one of those times

his eyes and mine would mean meet

But my 4 year old guy

has other things to do

No longer am I the center of his universe

No longer is all I do to be worshipped

You see ,I know my guys I growing up

Because today, he didn’t watch me blow the snow

Stand if You Would Get Shot for Jesus

A year or so ago I shared this writing with my adult Sunday School class the week after my pastor preached a sermon and gave a challenge that will be explained below. It brought about great thought-provoking conversation and I hope it will cause you to stop and think as well.

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Our pastor was concluding his sermon. It was both a thought provoking and emotion-educing sermon. A call to live your life in a way that matters; big in the eternal perspective. He was wrapping it up with a headline drawn from the recent news; College students in Oregon willing to be shot in order to pronounce their allegiance to Jesus Christ. These students are now spiritual heroes. In their last moments on Earth, they have taken a stand that will echo for all eternity. I am awed by their commitment. I am deep in inner-reflection as I consider just how deep my allegiance to the Lord really is. Then he drops the bomb, “If a gun was in your face and you would still say, “I’m a Christian,” I want you to stand up.”

My emotional instincts are screaming at me to get on my feet. But, my mind is telling me, Be honest, you can not, with any certainty or  sincerity stand up right now.

I pick my head up to look around. I figure there must be dozens of people throughout the sanctuary grappling with these same feelings, wrestling with this sobering challenge pastor has just laid before us. But, wait…..

WHAT! SERIOUSLY! As I scan of the sanctuary, it seems as if I am literally the only person still seated.


______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

I would just like to take a few minutes to share why it concerns me that I was the only person seated in the sanctuary that day. And this comes from no place of judgment, as this has been a rough week this week, and I believe it was in large part due to the fact that I have not stopped struggling with the fact that I couldn’t stand. That in my heart of hearts, I know I should be ready and willing to live and die for Jesus, but that I don’t know that I’m there yet. So, if every other person in the sanctuary was certain of what they would do with a gun in their face, I guess you could say my words come from judgement, but from envy.

However, my gut tells me that there might have been more than a few who had some of the same thoughts and feelings as me. And if so,  this is for you. Or, maybe for some who popped up without fully thinking about the reality of that promise; I hope that these words might spur you on to contemplate what that stand meant.

 

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As I said, as far as I could see all those in the sanctuary where standing, including the teens. After each sermon I typically ask my teenage daughter about what she learned and how it applies to her life. So, after this sermon I asked her about how she felt about the challenge pastor had given at the end of service.

Keep in mind, my daughter did stand up, but she told me, “I didn’t want to stand up. I mean, I knew what I would want to do, but in that situation I don’t know what I would really do.”

My 13-year old daughter had just processed an emotional moment at church and articulated her true thoughts and feeling. I was very proud to say the least. She had also just stated precisely my first layer of thinking when I chose to stay seated last week. Pastor did not just ask if I’d like to have the courage to stand with a gun in my face (to which I could have answered yes adamantly), but in essence, would I commit to doing so. And in that situation, do I really know what I would do? Does anyone really know? And how does standing amongst this of this sea of people who are all standing make my commitment any more real?

 

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

Let me share some of the reasons for doubting that I truly know what I would do in that situation. First of all, it is a panic situation. One full of feelings, emotions, stress and terror that I have never experienced. It’s really unfair to say I am certain of how I would handle it.

I do know that in situations where great consequences are sure to come from the choices made, the best and worst in people tends to brought out; in some, the most extreme courage to do what is right no matter what the cost, and in others, the greatest of cowardliness to save their own butt regardless of what will happen to anyone else. Now I know which group I want to fall into, but I cannot say for certain  in which actuality I would.

I do know my track record in panic situations and it is not too hot. You can ask my wife about  time I cut my hand while trying to pry apart frozen tacos with a knife. (I know, brilliant…) The cut was just bad enough to maybe need a stitch or two. However, as I sat on the floor holding a towel on my hand and trying to stop the bleeding, I kept telling her over and over how bad it hurt and that I thought I was going to pass out from the pain. Or ask one of my former students how well I do in pressure filled moments. At recess, she hit what we thought at the time was inside her eye (but thank God, turned out to be just above her eye)on a piece of metal fencing.  The wound was gushing blood. I told another teacher to call 911 (the only good thing I did) then promptly took her into the building and sat her right in the doorway of my classroom….. A spot that every other 5th grader entering the building from recess had to walk by and had a great view of her as the puddle of blood formed below her as they walked by.

 

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

As I sat in my seat in the sanctuary last week, eyes closed, hoping that if it looked enough like I was in deep prayer not too many of those around me would judge me for not standing, the even scarier thought popped in my head of what would happen if the gun was to my face and I was actually thinking clearly.

If I was thinking clearly, would thoughts of Jesus have been what was running through my head? I like to believe he would be, but I can’t help but think of some of the other possibilities as I lay on the floor with the dead bodies of those brave enough to stand for their faith just feet from me.

I get a clear image of wife in my mind, then my teenage daughter,  my 5-year old son and my baby girl barely 2 years old. If I stand, I am not going home to them tonight. If I just stay put on the ground I will tuck my three children into bed and hold my wife as I fall asleep.

 

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

And then there is another possibility. Might my fears of what is to come if I do stand and take the bullet rush to my mind. I mean, I believe that after death I will spend eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven.  If I didn’t, I would live a very different life. I believe, with all my faults and sins; my life and the choices I make demonstrate my trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and point me towards life everlasting.

However, although it is a matter of much prayer and much pleading, when it comes down to it, eternity scares me. First off, no matter what is going to take place forever, the very thought of forever brings me fear. Secondly, there is the thought that of, what if I’ve been wrong about the whole Christianity thing? That thought that when I die, that’s it…….terrifies me. I guess when it comes down to it, I am scared of the unknown. Because no matter what we say or think about eternity, what takes place after we breathe our last is unknown, until, well…..until we actually breathe our last. So, I wonder, with all of my fears of eternity, would I still stand?

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

And then I get to maybe the most rational thought of all. We all believe that Jesus shows us the extent of God’s forgiveness with stories like the Prodigal Son. With his promise of paradise to the thief who hung next to him on the cross. I’d venture to say that we all believe someone in that situation in Oregon who did not stand; yet genuinely repented at a later time, would be forgiven.

So, if as I ways lying there with gunshots still ringing in my ears, and my mind happened to be clear enough to think all of that through, to tell myself that I can save my life and still be forgiven by Jesus; I am afraid I might not have stood.

 

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

As I continued to try to process the question asked by pastor this week.  As I wrestled with the haunting thought of would I be willing to be martyred for Christ; I seemed to keep coming back to the a slightly different question: Will I daily take up my cross? I hope that being asked about whether or not we would make the ultimate sacrifice theoretically does not in any way keep us from making daily sacrifices in reality. Might we face physical persecution or even death for our faith? Yes. But we will certainly daily be granted opportunities to live a BIG life that require us to sacrifice by not making the easy choice. YES!

How often do I fail to sacrifice my fear in order to share Christ with co-workers? How often do I fail to sacrifice my selfishness in order to spend more time with my family? How often do I fail to sacrifice my laziness in order to take a shortcut at work? And the list of questions that hit a little too close to home could go on and on.

And so my challenge to myself, and to anyone else who left last week burdened by pastor’s question, is that we might share, first with God, and then with another human being who will hold us accountable, something that we know we must begin doing, stop doing, or do more consistently, in order to truly daily sacrifice for the sake of Christ, and to live a life of eternal significance. And once, with the help of the Lord and our accountability partner, we start to find ourselves achieving sacrifice in that area, we move on to the next and the next and the next.

And for me, maybe, just maybe, if I were truly in a situation where my faith was going to cost me my physical life, I would be so used to my daily sacrifices for Christ, that the final and ultimate sacrifice would come a little more naturally.  
______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

The Day Jesus Came to Youth Group (Part 2)

As Courtney passed into a deeper stage of sleep she began to have a dream. She was standing on the top of a very tall building in the center of town.. But as she looked around she could not see downtown or the neighborhoods. In each direction was a scene from earlier in her day. All of the scenes were static and it seemed she was the only one who could move in the dream.

When she looked down from the building in front of her she could see the entrance to her school. Donald was holding open the door with a hopeful, but cautious smile and she and Ashley were in mid stride walking through it and giving him a cold stare. When she turned to her left she could see herself sitting with Derek at the cafeteria table glaring in the direction of Bo who had sympathetic expression as he walked next to a distressed looking Cassie. Behind her she saw Mr. Becket’s Biology class. She and Ashley were laughing while Allison sat crying. And to her right, she and Derek were in his bedroom, more undressed than dressed. As she focused in she could see that her eyes looked hollow, while Derek’s expression conveyed an animal like lust.

She spun around again and again hoping something would change, but to her dismay it all remained the same. Frozen images from her day. Except, she didn’t remember those facial expressions. Or had just not been able to see them? When she finally stopped spinning, on the roof, next to her, was her mom. Peacefully sleeping on the couch, just as she had found her when she returned home that night.

Courtney couldn’t take it anymore. Why was she the only one in here dream who seemed to be aware of what was happening?  “Is anyone else here?!” she screamed.

A calm voice that seemed to come out of nowhere answered, “I’m here.”

As she turned around once more she saw, well, me, Jesus.  I didn’t look to her how she remembered in the Sunday School illustrations. I was much darker skinned, much more rugged, but somehow, she new it was Me.

“Jesus, I can’t believe…what are you doing here?”

“Well, Cass. I think we need to have a little talk.”

“Sure Jesus, what about?”

“Cass, you know that I love you unconditionally. So, it is because I love you that I say this… You chide your friend for saying a cuss word, but you use your words to belittle those who are already beaten down at your school. You judge the motives of others, while lying to your mother with impure intentions. You call others slut and whore, while engaging in activities that are only less than sex in the technical sense.”

“Get the sexual immorality out of your own life so that you can see why Cassie allows herself to be objectified by the football players. Remove the unkindness from your heart so you can truly understand why Allison wears that mask. Stop pretending to be someone you are night so you can perceive the reality behind Bo’s affection for you. Quit being deceitful so you will grasp the pain that causes Donald’s awkwardness. Your judgment and lack of love has blinded you, Cassie! Let the scales fall off that you may truly see.”

“But, Jesus,” Courtney rebutted. “Aren’t your judgments of me kind of harsh. It is hard to be a Christian at a public high school. I mean, I am just trying to fit in while still doing this God thing.”

As Jesus replied, his words dripped with love and compassion, “Courtney, my beloved, you are not being a Christian at a public high school, you are being a Pharisee. When you awake, tomorrow will be today once more and you will find out that you are not the only one who has many reasons for the behaving the way they do.”

 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Courtney awoke the next morning and sat up in bed. She was happy it was Saturday. She was excited to eat breakfast with her mom, even thought she would never admit it. And she was very excited to be done with that dream from the night before.

“Courtney, what are you doing up there, honey? You are going to be late to school!”

What the…Courtney thought to herself. She grabbed her cell phone and checked the date. Friday, October 14th. That’s impossible!

As Courtney quickly got dressed, she told herself there had to be some sort of reasonable explanation. But, as she walked down the stairs, she had to stop and sit down. She was startled by the many voices speaking, just like the ones that had woke her last night. But this time the voices did not stay jumbled, they slowly cleared until Courtney could hear Donald, Bo, Cassie and Allison’ say one at a time, “Please help me!”

 

_________________________________

 

Courtney was visibly disturbed as she made her way to the kitchen.

“What’s wrong Courtney,” her mom asked?

“I’m just feeling kind of out of it, mom. Everything’s fine.”

“Okay. Are you going to have some pancakes with your brother and sister?”

“No, I will just grab a granola bar and a banana. Have to get to school early for a study session in Mr. Jones’ class.”

“Alright, but wait…”

“I know mom. Wait till I get there to eat. You don’t like when I try to eat and drive.”

Her mom smiled, “Love you Courtney, have a good day.”

“You too, mom.”

As Courtney was about to walk out the door, she stopped. Turned around and went over gave her mom a kiss on the cheek. “You really are a wonderful mom. Love you.”

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

While Courtney drove to school she replayed the words that Jesus had said in her dream, When you awake, tomorrow will be today once more and you will find out that you are not the only one who has many reasons for the behaving the way they do. But that was just a dream, right? Was she still dreaming? I mean, reliving the same day, that’s impossible. And then there where the voices in her head… Courtney felt like she was stuck in a movie on the SciFi channel.

As Courtney parked her car in the student parking lot she saw her friend Ashley pulling up. She waited for her to park and the two girls walked in together.

“Mr. Jones is just ridiculous,” complained Ashley as the two girls walked toward the building. “All this, ‘I’m just trying to prepare you for college’ crap. Give me a break. His wife left him last year and now he is bitter and has way too much time on his hand. A bad combination.”

Courtney was trying to focus on what Ashley was saying, but was starting to hear the barrage of voices in her mind again. “Yeah, I know,” was the only response she could muster.

“You okay,” Ashley asked, surprised her bestie had not joined in her tirade against Mr. Jones.

“I’m fine. Just didn’t sleep well last night.”

As the two girls continued toward the building, all of the voices scrambled up in Courtney’s head cleared away and she was left with only one, Donald’s. She turned around and saw him hustling away from a beaten down pickup that his mom had driven him to school in. She looked at first to see if he was speaking, but realized that somehow she must be hearing his thoughts.

I can’t believe I am here this morning. All A’s through my first two and a half years of high school, and now I have an 89% in Mr. Jones’ class. Would it be that terrible if I got one ‘B?’ But, of course mom has to remind me of how we have no money since dad decided to take off with his secretary and all we had to live on is her salary as a waitress. And if I want to get out of this town and go to college it is going to have to be on scholarships.

As the girls neared the door, Donald came racing past them and opened the door. “Let me get that for you,” he said, clearly nervous and almost dropping the large pile of books he now tried to balance in one hand while opening the door with the other. “Two lovely ladies like yourselves should always have the door held for them.”

As Donald held open the door his thoughts shifted, but they were still just as clear in Courtney’s mind.

Oh man, I must have just sounded like such a dork. I know it’s coming, the whispers to each other and then the laughing. But, maybe not. I mean, I know Courtney does go to church.

“Yeah, okay, thanks Donald,” Ashley said not hiding her irritation.

Ashley turned expecting Courtney to follow up on her verbal assault, but instead she heard a gentle voice say, “Thanks Donald, that was really nice. Do you want to walk us to class?”

“Um…yeah, sure. I’d love to.”

“What are you doing Courtney?”
“Just thought Donald might want to have someone to walk into the study session with.”
“Okay, whatever. You and Prince Charming go on ahead, I’m gonna make a stop in the ladies’ room.”

As Ashley walked away Courtney and Donald began to walk down the hall. She turned to Donald and said, “Don’t worry about her. She must’ve woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Now, let’s go see if Mr. Jones can manage to make our day miserable even before school officially begins.”

Donald snickered at that and delightedly walked down the hall with Courtney.

  

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Courtney sat alone picking at a salad in the lunchroom waiting for her boyfriend Derek to come in. She still had no idea what was going on, but it was somehow clear that she was actually reliving yesterday. She had kept trying to convince herself that she was just dreaming, but when she stabbed herself in the hand with her fork to test her theory, the pain persuaded her this was actually happening. Everything was happening just as it had yesterday, well yesterday’s yesterday that is…It seemed as if the only one who had the ability to do anything different, to create change from what had taken place yesterday, was her. As she sat there lost in her own thoughts, a commotion from the corner of the cafeteria nearest  where she sat startled her.

“We’re gonna crush ‘em tonight!” yelled Brad, the running back and team captain of the football team.

“We’re gonna hit ‘em so hard they are gonna wish the game only had two quarters,” Marcus, a lineman, chimed in oh so intelligently.

Here we go again, Courtney thought. More of these guys’ screaming like wild animals. Living this moment once was more than enough.  

“And what do you say Bo!” Brad screamed trying to draw in the star quarterback who seemed to be trying to keep just enough distance to not be a part of the commotion, but not too much distance to offend his teammates.

“I’m sure we’ll win tonight, Brad,” answered Bo in a voice much quieter than the other players.

Just before Courtney’s mind began to attack Bo, it happened again. What seemed to be thousands of voices in her head all at once, quickly receded until only Bo’s remained.

Seriously, Brad. I love you guys like brothers, but really. This is just idiotic. I mean, the only reason I am playing on the team is to keep my dad happy. If I have to listen to his story about how ‘if he hadn’t blown out his knee he would have gone pro’ one more time, I might puke. And Lord have mercy, if I tell him that what I really want to be doing is focusing on my artwork…

Because, don’t you know that in my father’s brilliant mind that’s only for girls. Um…ever heard of Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo, and Leonardo De Vinci? Pretty sure those were all guys, dad. At least it’s only 2 more years living under his roof…but man two years can seem like an eternity.

 

Courtney couldn’t believe it! Bo the artist. So, that’s why the shy, humble attitude. He really didn’t even want to be playing.

“That better not be all you got!” Brad fired back.

Bo sighed, and raised his voice just slightly, and without much conviction said, “We’re gonna destroy them tonight!”

“Yeah, that’s right!” all the guys screamed and their voices turned into a loud chorus of “Whose house? Bear’s house!” The Brawling Bears being the high school’s mascot.

As the yelling grew louder Courtney’s face turned into a frown as she felt genuine sympathy for Bo.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

“What wrong babe?” Derek asked as he gave Courtney a kiss on the cheek and sat down beside her.

“Oh nothing, just kinda seems like Bo would rather not be a part of all that craziness over there. Look at how he is trying to stand off to the side. I feel bad for him.”

“Yeah, right,” Derek mocked. “Poor, innocent, Mr. Popular, All-State quarterback. I feel real bad for him.”

“I don’t know, I think you might have him figured wrong.”

Strutting over to the chanting, grunting, screaming crowd of players, walked Cassie. Being gameday she was of course dressed in her cheerleading uniform with a skirt that showed just how long her legs were.

And there were the voices again; quickly dwindling until only Courtney’s remained.

Time to put on a little show. Sure guys, smack my butt, I love it. Pinch it too,  never gets old….But, what else am I going to do. Never been good at much else. Barely passing yet again this year. And then of course there is, ‘Maybe next year,’ from Mrs. Clark when I tried out for chamber choir. And, ‘Well you could play on the JV team again this year,’ from Coach Saunders. I’m a junior, what will that look like me being on the JV volleyball team for a third year.

But, parade over here to these buffoons and they’ll notice me. They don’t care that I can’t sing, I’m not very athletic and that I’m stupid. They just like what they see and that’s all that matters….well, of course except maybe for Bo. But, if he really likes me, why doesn’t he ever say so?

_________________________________

“Wow, Cass, I can’t get over how good you look in your uniform,” one of the not so subtle jocks told her.

Cassie giggled and rubbed her hand over his chest, “And you look so strong in your jersey, Tyler. You gonna catch a touchdown for me tonight?”

“I’ll catch two,” he answered grinning.

“That’s cool, you go ahead and score for her. I’m trying to score with her,” another player threw in, laughing loudly at his own joke.

Courtney began to hear Bo’s voice again in her head.

Man that pisses me off. I hate how they treat her. I don’t get why she lets them talk to her like that. Doesn’t she know how beautiful she is? How funny and sweet she is when she stops putting on that stupid act. I just wish I had the nerve to go over there and stick up for her.

_________________________________

 

“She is such a slut,” Derek said to Courtney.

“Don’t say that,” Courtney shot back.

What? What’s wrong with you?”

“I gotta go over there. Sorry, Derek I’ll be back.”

“Hey, hold on, I wanted to talk about our plans for tonight.”

“Sorry, I’m hanging out with my mom tonight,” Courtney yelled over her shoulder as she raced toward Bo.

_________________________________

Courtney grabbed Bo by the arm and pulled him a little ways from the crowd. “Hey, Bo. Not sure if you know me or not. I’m Courtney.”

“Yeah, I know you. We are in Geometry together.”

“Okay, whatever. Just listen. I think you are a really nice guy. And deep down I think Courtney is a really nice girl. She is just putting on a show right now that she would rather not be performing in. And I think if you really like her as much as you say you do, you need to go over there and stick up for her.”

“Wait, but how do you know I…”

“Just cut the crap. I know. Everyone knows. It’s obvious.”

“Okay, I’ll go!”

As Derek started to walk back toward the crowd gathered around Courtney he turned back to look at Courtney in disbelief.

She smiled at him and added, “And I’m sure she’d love if you drew her one of your amazing pictures!”

The look of shock on his face was priceless.

 

_________________________________

 

“Come on, show us some of that Brawlin’ Bear pride, Cass. You know it’s our good luck charm,” Brad coaxed.

Bo pushed his way into the middle of the crowd.

“Courtney you don’t have to do that.”

All eyes turned to Bo.

“Look, these guys might just be joking around, thinking this is funny. But I know you don’t really want them looking at you that way, touching you. Why don’t you let me walk you to class.”

Cassie felt a relief rush across her that was unbelievable and started to walk toward Bo.

“But Bo,” Brad wined. “It’s our good luck ritual.”

“We don’t need luck with me at quarterback,” Bo shot back with quite possibly the most cocky statement he had ever made.

With stares of disbelief, the players watched as Bo and Cassie left the cafeteria, holding hands.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

As Courtney went into her class last of the day Biology, it was the first time she wasn’t worried about being bored to death by one of Mr. Becket’s lectures. Instead, she was completely focused on hearing what was really on Allison’s mind. Courtney did not have to wait long to find out.

She slumped down in a seat near the back with Ashley to her right and

Allison to her left. As she did, she expected to hear the barrage of voices as she had earlier, but instead she was able to immediately focus on in on Courtney’s thoughts. Must be fine tuning my gift, Courtney thought to herself and smirked. A smirk that would not last long.

I just can’t sit through one more class. Allison thought to herself. I mean, do these people seriously expect me to focus on school when my mom died over the summer? I hear all of the counselors and experts talking to my dad, ‘She needs to get back into a routine. Keep things as normal as possible. It’s the best thing for her.’ How do they know about what’s best for me? It wasn’t there mom who died!

The tardy bell startled Courntey, and Mr. Becket, always prompt, began his lecture immediately. “Today, class, we will be looking at how both dominant traits and recessive traits are contributing factors in offspring.”

She tuned him out immediately and concentrated on hearing Allison. And then my dad wants to start dragging me to church to hear about how much God loves me.  ‘It’s a place to help ease our pain.’ Year right! What a great loving God who let a mother of 3 die an excruciatingly paniful death from cancer.

Courtney was so intent on Allison’s thoughts she didn’t notice that Ashley was trying to pass her note until she heard, “pssst, psst, Courtney, here,” she whispered in a not so quiet voice.

Courtney opened the note and read it, Do you think it was the dominant or recessive trait that gave Allison pink hair.

Courtney saw Allison look at the note and she shot Courtney and Ashley both a piercing look, but somewhere just behind the death stare there seemed to be a trace of moisture.

Allsion’s thoughts came in a furry now, and somehow they were louder than any she had heard earlier that day. Almost as if Allison was managing to scream through her mind. And here we go again. Those two snobs think they’re so funny. And as if my mom dying wasn’t enough proof that there is no such thing as a loving God, Courtney confirms it.  All the church girl crap and then she looks down on everybody else. And she claims to serves the same loving God that killed my mom.

Now it was Courtney’s eyes that moistened. She knew that canceling plans with Derek earlier was really just delaying the inevitable. She had to break up with him. It was a relationship based purely on the physical. And it had to end. Now, as she thought about what she was going to do next, she realized she might be burning bridges with her best friend and boyfriend all in the same day.

She wrote back, in large letters, so that both Ashley and Allison could both see. Not cool Ash, cut it out.

Ashley quickly shot back in huge red letters, “What’s wrong with you? You gonna join the freak show?”

Ashley’s jaw dropped, when she read Courtney’s reply, Yeah, I think I will.

Then her surprise grew to disbelief as Courteny gave a note to Allison that read, Hey. I am just going to hang out with my mom and play some games tonight instead of going to the game. Wanna come with me?

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

When the door slammed Courtney’s mom looked up from the novel she was reading and checked the clock. Only 6:00.

“Courtney, sweetie, is that you?”
“Yeah, it’s me mom.”

“I thought you were going to the football game and then over to Ashley’s.”

“Change of plans,” Courtney answered as she and Allison entered the living room. “It’s family game night tonight. And I brought a friend.”

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

When Jesus had finished he peered into the crowd of teenage observers to watch their reactions. They varied from those who were still in a state of disbelief that Jesus had said a cuss word while telling His story; to those who were so entrenched in their double lives that they could feel nothing but bitterness toward Jesus for describing their lives with pinpoint accuracy; to those who showed remorse for not being the same person at school as they were at church, but knew they were not willing to pay what it would cost to change; to those who carefully contemplated how they were treating others and allowed a picture to form in their minds of who they would reach out to and how they would do it the very next day at school.

Without another word to anyone, Jesus walked out of the youth room door with his 12 disciples, crumbs still smearing the edges of their mouths, following close behind.

 

 

 

The Day Jesus Came to Youth Group (Part 1)

The worship set wouldn’t start for another fifteen minutes and the teens were eating the snack set up in the back of the youth room and standing around talking. Their youth pastor was telling his usual, not so funny jokes to a group of new freshman, the only ones who hadn’t yet heard his comedic charm.  As the talking began to die down and the countdown on the screen showed only three minutes till service would start, a large crowd of adult men walked in.

The youth pastor grew a bit nervous as he counted to himself , 1,2,3…11,12,13. Now he hadn’t recognized the first 12 who had walked in and headed straight for the snack table, but the 13th was unmistakable, it was Jesus! And the other 12 where of course his disciples. Before the youth pastor had a chance to get over his awe and walk over to greet him, Jesus came straight over and began to speak.

“Hello, John. How are you this evening?”

“Well, uhhhh, ummm, I’m fine.”

“That’s good. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me just a moment to speak to the teens in your youth group. I will keep it very short.”

“Well of course Jesus. Do you want to talk before or after we worship?”

“What do you mean?” Jesus asked. “Does worship ever end? Is it not within our hearts to constantly adore the Father who has given us life and everlasting love?”
Feeling quite chided, the youth pastor’s cheeks grew red as he answered, “I mean, I meant…before or after the praise songs.”
“Oh,” Jesus replied with a smirk on his face. “After will be fine. Nothing better than singing to my Dad.” Jesus’ eyes scanned toward the back of the room where the disciples were still greedily devouring the few remaining snacks. Jesus sighed and began to walk toward them. “I just can’t take these guys anywhere.”

After the praise songs had been sung, Pastor John got up and said, “Well guys, I don’t quite know how to make this introduction. But, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, Jesus Christ himself is here with us today! And he has asked to say a few words to you.”

Jesus walked up to the old music stand that served as a pulpit. He did not put down any notes, but began to quote from memory Matthew 7:1-5, “Do not judge or you to will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

He continued, “You come here on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday. You read the Gospels that tell you of my words. You talk about love, love, love. Yet, the only ones you seem to love are those who are just like you, and this is only in small proportion to how much you love yourselves. How can you read my words time and again and not see that I loved the tax collectors, the lepers, the sinners, the promiscuous, the outcasts.”

With that, Jesus went and took a seat in the first row of chairs, took out his iPhone and began texting. All eyes were on him, waiting for him to say something more. But he just sat. Pastor John knew he had to do something. He couldn’t allow Jesus to only say such scathing remarks to his teens. They would be offended.

He went and sat in an empty seat next to Jesus and whispered, “Um, Jesus. I’m not trying to tell you what to do here. I mean, I get the whole Son of God thing and all, and I know you know better than me. But, um, well you were really hard on these guys. I mean they are just teens and all. Do you think, just maybe, you could say a few uplifting words to them before you go?”

Jesus looked up at the youth pastor. He saw into his heart. He knew he meant well and he spoke to Jesus out of genuine love for his flock. Jesus set down his cell phone and walked back to the front.

“Let me tell you a story,” Jesus began.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Courtney pulled on her black leggings and then put on a gray sweater, turned around and looked in the mirror. Nope, not long enough. She took it off and tried on a pink one. She tugged at the bottom a bit. At least an inch or two past her butt, should do. She knew it first had to pass the inspection of her mother as she left the house and then any of the teachers who actually cared about the new dress code policy the school had initiated that year.

She went down to the kitchen and grabbed a granola bar, a banana and a bottle of water and started to head out the door.

“Is that all you’re gonna eat for breakfast, honey,” her mom asked as she fixed pancakes for Courtney’s younger brother and sister.

“Yeah, mom. I’m in a hurry. I need to be to school early for a study session in History class. It seems to be Mr. Jones’ mission in life to destroy as many students’ GPAs as possible before he retires.”

“Okay, well just wait to eat that till you get there. I don’t like you eating and driving.”

“Yes mom,” answered Courtney with mock concern. “And I will make sure my hands are at 10 and 2 the whole way there.”

Mom chuckled and then added, “And isn’t that sweater a bit short to be wearing with those leggings?”

“It covers my butt. I checked it.”
“Yeah, as long as you don’t bend down, walk quickly or happen to be outside when there is a gentle breeze.”

“Ha ha, mom. The new rule clearly states that if a student wears leggings he/she must wear a shirt that completely covers his/her bottom. My bottom is completely covered.”

“You know what. You are a junior in high school. You drive yourself to school. You have a job. I guess you are old enough to figure out if your clothes are in dress code or not. But, if there is a consequence at school, you’re on your own.”

It seemed her mom had finished and Courtney started to head back to the door, but just as she opened it her mom added, “I mean, I’m not so sure you’d wear that outfit if Jesus were in the room. I’m just sayin.”

Mom’s favorite, Courtney thought to herself. The catch all. Would you do, say, watch, act like, treat your brother and sister that way, and now of course, wear that, if Jesus were in the room.

Not to be deterred, Courtney answered over her shoulder as she walked out the door, “Jesus is okay with my outfit. I asked him this morning while I was upstairs. Love you mom, see you after school.”  

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

As Courtney parked her car in the student parking lot she saw her friend Ashley pulling up. She waited for her to park and the two girls walked in together.

“Mr. Jones is just ridiculous,” complained Ashley as the two girls walked toward the building. “All this, ‘I’m just trying to prepare you for college’ crap. Give me a break. His wife left him last year and now he is bitter and has way too much time on his hand. A bad combination.”

“Seriously,” Courtney agreed. “Get a life. Go to the movies. Go on a date. Do something other than stay up all night dreaming up ways to make your students’ lives miserable creating more unnecessary work.”

As they neared the door, a boy came racing past them and opened the door. “Let me get that for you,” Donald said, clearly nervous and almost dropping the large pile of books he now tried to balance in one hand while opening the door with the other. “Two lovely ladies like yourselves should always have the door held for them.”

“Yeah, okay, thanks Donald,” Ashley said not hiding her irritation.

“Ya know, Donald, it is 2015, most girls really don’t mind pulling the handle of the big heavy door and walking through it them self,” added Courtney.

The girls walked quickly through the door and headed toward Mr. Jones’ room.  Donald, who struggled more than a bit in taking social cues, quickened his step to keep up with the girls.

“Ummm, sorry, I just thought…” Donald’s apology trailed off and he decided to give it another try. “So, Mr. Jones sure is laying it on thick this year. These study sessions are the only way I can keep up.”
“Really, Donald give me a break,” answered Courtney. “What’s your GPA, like a 5.9?”

Ashley decided the subtle hints weren’t worked with Donald and said, “We’re gonna stop in the restroom on the way to class, can you maybe not follow us into there.”

Donald’s head dropped as he slowed his pace to continue down the hall. “Yeah, sorry. Didn’t mean to bother you. Sees ya in class.”

As the two girls entered the restroom, Ashley continued the verbal assault. “Seriously, that guy is something. He could get straight A’s in his sleep. His in #1 in our class. I think the only reason he is here for the study session is because he actually likes to be in this building and wanted to get in as early as he could. And you know the only reason that dork held the door for us was so he could look at our asses while we walked by.”

“Butts, Ashley, butts,” corrected Courtney. “You know I don’t like the foul language.”

“Whatever, Ms. Church Girl.”

“Well,” Courtney added laughing. “At least he got a nice view, because I know my back side looks good in these leggings.”

The girls were still having a good laugh at Donald’s expense as they left the restroom and walked down the hall to the study session.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Courtney sat alone picking at a salad in the lunchroom and waiting for her boyfriend Derek to come in. The lettuce in the salad was on the verge of turning brown and she counted a grand total of three pieces of chicken, but out of the options the cafeteria offered, it was the best she could do.  As she sat there lost in her own thoughts, a commotion from the corner of the cafeteria nearest where she sat startled her.

“We’re gonna crush ‘em tonight!” yelled Brad, the running back and team captain of the football team.

“We’re gonna hit ‘em so hard they are gonna wish the game only had two quarters,” Marcus, a lineman, chimed in oh so intelligently.

Sounds that were somewhere between grunting and barking could now be clearly heard from the huddle of barbarian football players getting themselves amped up for tonight’s game.

What idiots, Courtney thought to herself. God I know you are a lot smarter than me, but it seems like the world would be a little bit better place if you hadn’t allowed those guys to be created.

“And what do you say Bo!” Brad screamed trying to draw in the star quarterback; who seemed to be trying to keep just enough distance to not be a part of the commotion, but not too much distance to offend his teammates.

“I’m sure we’ll win tonight, Brad,” answered Bo in a voice much quieter than the other players.

And there is the worst of all, humble, quiet Bo. Courtney’s thoughts continuing to throw daggers at the group of jocks, but now specifically honing in on Bo. Gets all the glory of being the quarterback. But, stays just to the edge of all the other players. I can see right through his pious act. It’s just his way of bragging. Look at me, not only am I a the best quarterback in the conference, but I’m just a quiet, down to Earth guy. Yeah right!

“That better not be all you got!” Brad fired back.

Bo sighed, and raised his voice just slightly, and without much conviction said, “We’re gonna destroy them tonight!”

“Yeah, that’s right!” all the guys screamed and their voices turned into a loud chorus of “Whose house? Bear’s house!” The Brawling Bears being the high school’s mascot.

As the yelling grew louder Courtney noticed Bo slowly backing away from the group. Good grief, she thought. None of these guys will ever amount to anything more than a bunch of townies. I can just see them now. All in their mid 40s, sitting around at a the run-down diner talking about their “glory days.” And look, there’s Bo. He’s the one serving the coffee!

The thought of Bo in an apron handing out mugs of coffee to pot bellied, balding, former football players made Courtney chuckle to herself.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

“What ya laughing at babe?” Derek asked as he gave Courtney a kiss on the cheek and sat down beside her.

“Oh nothing, just thinking about the wonderful future those buffoons in the corner are going to have once they are no longer star high school athletes.

“And look who’s joining them now,” Derek said.

Over to the chanting, grunting, screaming crowd of players, strutted Cassie. Being gameday she was of course dressed in her cheerleading uniform with a skirt that showed just how long her legs were.

Courtney snorted, “Yeah, I have to wear a shirt that covers my butt completely when I wear leggings, but she can wear a skirt that hardly covers her.”

“Yeah,” agreed Derek. “If you are in any way a part of the athletic program here at the amazing intellectual intuition of Morrisville High you can pretty much get away with murder.”

_________________________________

“Wow, Cass, I can’t get over how good you look in your uniform,” one of the not so subtle jocks told her.

Cassie giggled and rubbed her hand over his chest, “And you look so strong in your jersey, Tyler. You gonna catch a touchdown for me tonight?”

“I’ll catch two,” he answered grinning.

“That’s cool, you go ahead and score for her. I’m trying to score with her,” another player threw in, laughing loudly at his own joke.

Cassie didn’t even seem to blush at the comment, but just giggled and flipped her hair.

_________________________________

 

“She is such a slut,” Courtney told Derek.

“They say she spends more time on her back than Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel,” Derek added.
_________________________________

“Come on, show us some of that Brawlin’ Bear pride, Cass. You know it’s our good luck charm,” Brad coaxed.

Cassie giggled again, flipped up her skirt in back, and sure enough there on the spankies, right on Cassie’s derriere, was the picture of a bear in boxing gloves. The players performed their weekly ritual, each either giving Cassie’s backside a little slap or pinch. And although, her giggles continued throughout the ceremony, they seemed to grow a little more forced with each groping from the jocks.

 

_________________________________

 

“Whore,” Courtney’s hissed.

“Oh, forget about her. Let’s talk about something else,” Derek said.

“Okay, what do you want to talk about?”
As Derek began to speak, his hand began to slowly run up from where it had been sitting on Courtney’s knee to her thigh. “Well, like, what we are going to do after the football game.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Well, my parents are out of town this weekend. So, I thought maybe after we go to the football game, you might want to come over and hang out.

“Derek,” Courtney replied grabbing his hand that was getting dangerously close to an area past her leg completely. “You know I am waiting till I get married to have sex.”

“I know,” said Derek sliding his hand out of Cassie’s and continuing his attempt upward. “But, we could do some of the stuff we did that night in your basement when your parents had fallen asleep upstairs watching a movie. And maybe try a few new things. There are lots of things besides sex, you know.”

Courtney giggled as Derek’s hand finally reached its destination and she answered, “Sounds good to me. I will just tell my mom I am going over to Ashley’s after the game.”

With their plans set, the bell rang. Derek walked Courtney to class and Bo, the only player to not have his hands on her Brawling Bear emblem, walked Cassie to class.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Courtney went into her last class of the day, Biology. She hated biology. The only thing that made the class bearable was that Ashley was in there with her. She slumped down in a seat near the back with Ashley to her right. To her left sat Allison. Allison wore all black, sported hot pink hair and had more piercings in her ears, nose, eyebrows and tongue than seemed humanly possible.

The bell rang and Mr. Becket, always prompt, began his lecture immediately. “Today, class, we will be looking at how both dominant traits and recessive traits are contributing factors in offspring.”

Ashley and Courtney looked at each other and rolled her eyes.  Ashley shot a glance at Allison, who seemed to be genuinely interested in Mr. Becket, and smirked. She took out a piece of paper, wrote a note and passed it to Courtney.

Courtney opened the note and read it, Do you think it was the dominant or recessive trait that gave Allison pink hair.

Courtney wrote back, I’m not sure, but with Halloween coming up it must be nice not to have to buy a costume.

Both girls laughed at this. And while stifled enough not to catch Mr. Becket’s attention, it was loud enough to draw a glance from Allison. And when Ashley passed back a note back that said FREAK in large, squiggly red letters and pictured Allison riding a witch’s broom, Allison was watching. She shot Courtney and Ashley both a piercing look, but somewhere just behind the death stare their seemed to be a trace of moisture.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Courtney got home two minutes before curfew that night, feeling pretty lousy. She had taken things even a step further than last time with Derek and wasn’t feeling particularly great about it. Not to mention that she had lied to her mom and told her she was at Ashley’s. With all this on her mind, and a terrible headache, she was really not in the mood to make small talk.

Courtney took off her shoes as she as she came through the door and attempted to tip toe her way through the living room, where her ever devoted mother slept. She would never go up to bed until Courtney was home safe and sound. But, she never could actually quite keep awake, so it made her feel better to at least be downstairs when Courtney got home, even if she was off in dream land.

As Courtney carefully tiptoed past the couch and was nearly to the stairs, she

happened upon a squeaky floor board. Her mom sat up and rubbed her eyes, looked down at her watch and smiled, “Just in the nick of time, huh honey.  How was Ashley’s.”

“Good mom. But, my head is really hurting. I am going to take some Tylenol and get to bed.”

“Okay, sweetie. Maybe we can eat breakfast together in the morning and I can get a little more detail than ‘good.’”

“Sure, mom. Sounds great.”

“Hope your head feel better Courtney. Love you honey.”

“Love you mom. Good night.”

Courtney went upstairs and took some Tylenol and got in her pajamas. As she laid down her head was still pounding. She tossed and turned trying to find a position where her head would feel a little bit better, but it was no use. Finally, exhausted, head still throbbing, she fell asleep.

As Courtney lay sleeping, she woke suddenly in a fright. She thought she heard something that sounded like lots of people talking at once. So many that it was impossible to hear what they were saying. She looked around her room. She was alone. All was okay. Must have been a nightmare. But, man, did her head still ache.

She laid her head gingerly back onto the pillow. And even with the pain, she quickly fell back to sleep.