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.

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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

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.

 

 

 

Along the Way: Part 3

Well, this has certainly taken me much longer than I ever expected to get back at it and finish out this last part of my blog on eternity. But, life happens…

Part 3: Along the Way, an Exposition

A lot of well-known people died near the end of 2016. Alan Thicke. George Michael. Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds. And to start off 2017, Mary Tyler Moore. And this has gotten me a little too focused on death again. I really am just not too sure that this isn’t going to be one of those “thorns in my side” throughout my life. I mean, it’s not like I get up in the morning and say to myself, “Hey today I am going to drive to work and the whole way I am going to think about the fact that people all around me, both younger and older, are dying everyday.” Nor do I lay down at night and intend to lie awake troubled by the fact that the only way to have a 100% certainty as to whether or not my faith in Christianity and Heaven are true is to die. (And I guess that is only if it’s true, because if it’s not I will never know the difference!) Yet, I find my mind inadvertently stuck in these places far too often.

At times I can draw myself out of these dark thoughts by going back over my reasons for believing in eternity. On my best days, because the bible teaches it. On my decent days, by going through my rationalizations again. 1) The anticipation and let downs in life are preparing us for the ultimate anticipation. 2) There just has to be more than this! On, my worst days, well, on my worst days, I take deep breaths until I can find a distraction that relieves my mind from my morbid focus.

So, where does this leave me? I think it leaves me asking myself, “What I am I going to do along the way?” You see, I continue to make it a matter of prayer that I would have more confidence in eternity and I continue to remind myself why eternity makes sense. But, at the end of the day, there is no certainty of what is to come until we breathe our last. So, for now, I need to live each day as if I am certain. Each day I need to live as I would if God gave me an out of body experience to go up and get a preview of Heaven, that would confirm for me beyond a shadow of a doubt that eternity was real.

As I wrote back in my introduction blog, my goal is to live each day as if it is one of my best. To choose to trust and hope that on those best days God is revealing Himself to me and giving me the strength to persevere when I’m not “feeling it.” To seek and to question and to think and to act and to fight for the faith that I have in fleeting moments, but desire to have every moment of every day. 

You see, I should endeavor to live each so that if it were my last, if indeed my faith and hope in eternity are true, when I meet the Lord I would hear him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter into the Master’s joy.”

And I have noticed quite a curious phenomenon when I live my days that way. On those days, when I have truly given my all for the Lord, when I lay my head on the pillow at night, I rest just a little easier; and I find that I have just a little more faith than the night before, that indeed eternity is real.

Seasons of Life

I am still working on Part 3 of Along the Way, to wrap up my posts on eternity. So, I thought I would put out another post in the meantime. I hope you enjoy the poem!

 

Seasons of Life

Spring

New life is born                 

Joy abounds                

Happy people                                  

all around

Big boy, big girl                

so proud of you                

Encouragement                                    

in all I do

Playful spirit                

Life is fun                  

Never a worry                                    

On the run

Growing quickly              

Changing fast                  

Never stopping                                    

Present turns to past

Summer

Growing up                      

ups and downs              

Stuck in between                                   

smiles and frowns

Body changing                

mind is too                

Understanding                                    

confusing you

Falling in love                

just a crush                

So much pressure                                   

what’s the rush

Only June now                

Forever young                

August ending                                    

I’d just begun

Fall

Changing colors                

On my own                

Lots of people                                    

all alone

Working hard now

Rise to the top

Determination

Never stop

Met my someone                

settling down                

Trade big city                                    

for small town

Kids are growing                

way too fast                

Wishing somehow                                   

to travel back

Winter

Wind is howling                

Empty nest                

Looking back                                    

Did my best

Family growing                

Grandkids kissed                

Retirement party                                   

Bucket list

Body weakens                 

mind does too            

Time is short                                    

Still much to do

Breathing slowing                

Time is near                

Take me home, Lord                                   

into your care