Tag Archives: Christian

A Second

A second

A voice spoke, the deep heard

Light created by the word

 

A second

The world weaved

Life breathed

 

A second

Lies believed, man fell

Forever separated from the everlasting well

 

A second

A baby born

The veil between heaven and earth torn

 

A second

A kiss betrays

An innocent, convicted stays

 

A second

The guilty released

God betrayed by his own priest

 

A second

Blood ran red

Lamb to the slaughter was led

 

A second

Death defeated

Earth given the savoir it needed

 

A second

Creation doubts the existence of creator

No one needs a savior

 

A second

Death, destruction, hate abound

No one believes the trumpet will sound

 

A second

Heaven opens, one who was pierced appears

The glow of his light calms all fears

 

A second becomes eternity

God is all that is seen

 

The beginning, the end, the word, God

Time doesn’t hold him–out side of it he does trod

 

What the Word spoke in the beginning

Never faded, kept on spinning

 

Our struggle seems an eternity

When we look back, it’s only a second we see

 

Life in the seconds seems forever

Only because to this earth we have a tether

 

In the end, when the beginning starts

Time will be taken apart

The Criminal (Part 3)

The burning in my lungs chased away thoughts of miracles and prophets. My breaths in were difficult, but breathing out was impossible with my arms stretched out and over my head. I needed to pull myself up, but I couldn’t move. My muscles weren’t responding to the command. Up. I need to breathe.

Did I need to breathe? Why not stop breathing and end this misery now? Cramps assaulted me. The muscles around my chest and shoulders angrily squeezed themselves into tight balls of fire.

Instinct took over, and even though my mind told me not to prolong this agony, my body began to rise. Fiery swords twisted into the holes in my wrists and feet. I was sure I could hear bones grinding against the iron spike. The assent rubbed my back against the rough timber, scraping it until there was blood running down my legs.

I reached the top, and my lungs moved up and down. The cramps subsided. Then my arms began to shake and I let my knees buckle beneath me. The movement jolted the spikes in my hands sending searing pain through my fingers and arms. I would have to go down more slowly.

“Father.” The zealot carpenter from Nazareth was talking. “Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”

The angry mob paid little attention to the man’s words—they continued to hurl insults—but I wondered why he would say such a thing. Was he trying to play the crowd? Pretending to be the merciful messiah to the end, hoping that someone would believe his act and get him down?

No. I felt my body pulling apart just as he, and pain like this didn’t leave room for acting. It stripped a person of all pretending and exposed who they truly were. He meant it.

I looked to the soldiers who gambled over his clothes. Did he mean them too? The ones who held him down and drove spikes into his flesh? What person would forgive that? Unless, he wasn’t just a person.

I’d seen a miracle once. I don’t even know why I went that day. I think part of me hoped that there was a prophet among us again. There was a mob there to hear the man preach. Such a vast crowd—it was like one I’d never been a part of. If that many people believed in him, then maybe not all the rumors were false. I don’t remember much of what he said, but I do remember the taste of the fish and bread. It looked ordinary, but it had a taste like no other fish or bread I’d ever eaten before or since. Maybe because it wasn’t the food of this earth.

I saw what the man had to feed the massive crowd—five barley loaves and two fish. It was hardly a meal enough for one man but somehow, as his followers broke the food into pieces and handed them out, the food didn’t run out. The entire crowd was feed on such a meager portion. It was food coming out of nowhere, like the manna my forefathers received in the desert. There was a prophet amongst us again.

My taste buds remembered the meal as I thought of that day—a small pleasure in the middle of my torment. I glanced at the bloody face of the man next to me. The misshapen face didn’t look like the man that spoke that day, but how many carpenters from Nazareth could there be claiming to be the Messiah?

“Your name is Yeshua? Isn’t it?” I gasped.

The man nodded.

A soldier heard my question. “You’ve heard of him, huh? What is it like to be put to death beside a king?” He gave a roaring laugh, then turned to Yeshua. “That’s what you are, isn’t it? It’s what your sign says. Well, if you are really king of the Jews, then why don’t you save yourself?”

“Come off your cross,” said another soldier, “Aren’t you their messiah? Don’t you have the power to help yourself?”

“Where is your power?” called someone from the crowd, “Where is your army of angels? Can’t you call them to save you?”

“Why don’t you call them?” I recognized that voice. It was Jesse, hanging on the other side of Yeshua. He would join our tormentors in berating this man? He had no decency, to turn on a man dying in the same way we were. Would he start yelling insults at me too?

Jesse continued his mocking. “If you are God, then save yourself. While you’re at it, save us.”

The solders laughed and one said, “Your fellow criminals want you to help them. Are you going to disappoint them?”

“We’ll be your most devoted subjects. Won’t we Johan? All hail the King of the Jews,” Jesse gave a laugh that sounded more like a cough, “What’s wrong oh king? Come, we don’t have all day.”

Let him mouth off to the Romans if he wanted to. They deserved it. But what did he know of Yeshua? I balanced shakily on the spikes so I could breath. “Don’t you have any respect?” I asked him. “We are under the same sentence. At least we deserve it.” I hung my head and took a breath. “We are punished justly. But this man isn’t like us. He has done nothing wrong.”

“He’s still dying ain’t he? Just like us.” He snorted. “He’s no different than we are. Even if he does have a fancy crown.” He gave a hollow laugh. “Death. The great equalizer.”

Death wasn’t an equalizer. Yeshua wouldn’t be going to the same place as Jesse. Or me.

This man was a king. Not just King of the Jews, but king of an other-worldly realm. If anyone could help me, if anyone could change my destination after death, it would be him.

I let my head roll in his direction.

“Yeshua.” The man looked at me. “Lord. Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

The soldiers laughed. “He wants the king to remember him.”

One of the soldier nudged another. “He believes the carpenter has the power to come off the cross and hopes he’ll get him down as well.”

I paid them no attention. Yeshua was pushing himself up, grimacing as the wood peeled away the flesh of his back. Once he caught his breath, he would give me an answer.

Suddenly, I dreaded his response. What chance did I actually have? It was too late to go back and live my life in a way that would ready me for death. Did I spend time reading the Torah? Had I prayed twice every day with the scriptures tied on my arm and head? Did I recite the Shema every morning and night?

But he was a man of compassion. Even if he wouldn’t do what I requested, he would respond with an indulging answer simply to comfort me in his time of death. Perhaps a kind lie was more than I deserved.

“I answer you truthfully,” said Yeshua, “today you will be with me in paradise.”

My muscles where shaking. I slunk down the wooden stake and let my weight again hang from my arms. I was too out of breath to say anything.

“You’ve earned a place in a paradise with the gods!” bellowed a soldier.

Another looked at Jesse and said, “What about you? Are you going to join them in their kingdom?”

“Fool.” Jesse spoke to me, not the soldiers. “Fear of death has addled your mind.”

I closed my eyes. My muscles tightened, then teased me by slowly releasing before squeezing even harder in a jerking movement. I fixed the word “paradise” in my mind so that it blocked out all other words. It soothed me. Soon it would all be over, and a new life would begin.

Now, all that was left to do was die.

———

Time was my enemy. It moved slower and slower, stretching infinitely. I pushed myself up, and eased back down. I breathed. I bled. This went on for days. No, not days. It was only hours. Sometimes consciousness would slip away. I was always disappointed that it came back.

Why was I still breathing? My back scraped up and down along the wood so many times I wondered if my ribcage showed.

Finally, relief came. A club smashed against my legs until my bones broke. My tongue was swollen and my mouth so dry, screaming was difficult.

Now I wouldn’t be able to lift myself to breath. I would suffocate.

This small mercy was only given to me because whoever was responsible for our burial was impatient to finish his job before nightfall when Shabbat began and work wasn’t allowed. Any other day, and I could have hung for days before drawing my last breath.

My arms were out of their sockets, but the ache of their stretching was overshadowed by pressure in my chest. I could inhale, but couldn’t exhale. My lungs were going to explode.

My head was floating. The people still gathered meshed and wavered like a candle.

This was it. What would happen after the end? My panicked mind fought to hang on. Me in paradise? It would take a miracle to get me there.

Something filled my mouth. It was a taste that I’d only savored once before. Bread and fish. Miracles did happen. And I’d met the one who did them.

Then, everything was still. My muscles were free of cramping. My body wasn’t being torn apart.

A circle of light appeared in front of me, and out of the light walked two men.

It was him! The man from Nazareth was standing free of blood or bruise wearing a white and purple robe. There were no thorns on his head, but a crown that glimmered with more jewels then even Solomon himself could have had.

Behind him was a man I hadn’t seen in years. My father. A huge grin lit his face.

Yeshua stretched out a hand. “Come Johan. Let me lead you to the kingdom.”

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Part 1

Part 2


Hi everyone! I hope you enjoyed this three-part story that tells an age-old tale from a perspective not often seen. The two criminals hanging side-by-side with Jesus is a powerful visual for the options each person is given. Both men were beside Jesus in the darkest moment in their lives, and both would have been given the comfort of everlasting life, but while one dared to ask the unthinkable, the other could only spew insults. Even at death, all he could think of was temporal things that wouldn’t count as soon as he breathed his last. By joining in the catcalling, he put the views of the people gathered that day ahead of his soul.

 

Interesting facts:

Johan means “God is gracious.” I chose this name because God was gracious enough to give him everlasting life in spite of anything he did.

Jesse means “God’s gift.”  The greatest gift was pinned to a tree, bleeding before his eyes, but he chose to refuse it.

The Criminal (Part 2)

The soldiers hoisted a wooden beam onto my bloody shoulders. My body swayed slightly as it adjusted to the weight. It wasn’t enough for these pigs to simply kill us. They had to humiliate and torture us as well. Perhaps so that when death came, we would welcome it.

Earlier this morning, Jesse and I were flogged with a nine-tailed whip riddled with bone and glass. The claws of the whip didn’t stop digging into my naked flesh until I sagged unconscious, dangling from the rope that tied my hands above me. Now that half the life was beaten out of us, we would have the privilege of carrying our own instrument of death.

Beside me, the soldiers placed a beam on Jesse’s shoulders. He spat at their feet and was rewarded with a fist in his jaw. Jesse laughed wildly as if he thought it was funny that a punch would mean anything to him when the worst death imaginable awaited us. It was a slave’s death we were sentenced to. A death only given to the worst and lowest of society.  It wouldn’t be a quick one.

Another prisoner was lead out. He looked dead already. His own blood covered every inch of him, including his bruised and swollen face. Maybe he’d spit at the Romans too.  He must have done it more than once by the look of his face.

The people in the crowd began to boo as soon as they saw him. He must have murdered many people, or maybe of a very loved and important person judging by the crowd’s reaction. Whatever he’d done, I was glad he was being executed with us. The crowd saved all their insults for him, and Jesse and I were left alone.

After the murderer’s beam was secured across his back, the centurion ordered the procession to begin. The centurion lead the way with the badly beaten murderer next, then me, then Jesse behind me. Soldiers walked beside us, as if ready for us to try to escape. Like that were possible with a hundred-pound piece of wood on my back.

The Romans lead us down a highway, so as many people could see us as possible. On either side of the street, people stopped what they were doing to gawk. Some ran to join the crowd that was forming behind us. Others stood to the side shaking their fist and yelling.

“Die! Kill them.”

The murderer in front of me stumbled and fell. Jesse cursed under his breath. The soldier beside the fallen man kicked him.

“Get up!”

“Yeah, get up,” Jesse said. “We have an important appointment to keep.”

“Come on,” I grunted under my breath. Every moment this man sat there was a moment longer I had to stand with the weight of the beam cutting into my shoulders.

“Can’t you lift yourself from the ground, oh great Messiah?” taunted someone from the crowd.

Messiah? So this man wasn’t a murderer. He was one of those mad zealots that told everyone they were the Messiah as a ruse to get followers. No wonder the soldiers beat him so much. He was encouraging people to rebel against Rome.

The soldiers must have realized the zealot didn’t have the strength to get up because they pulled a man out of the crowd and had him carry the beam. I was surprised he complied. It seemed everyone in this crowd hated the zealot. He didn’t really have a choice though. Argue with a Roman solder and he might be joining us for more than just the walk.

Freed from his burden, the zealot shakily stood and began walking again. I stepped forward, my bare feet treading on the street’s worn stones, wet with his blood.

I don’t know how long we walked before we left the road and were led over a rocky path. The ground inclined and I had to stoop even farther forward to keep the weight on my back from toppling me backward. I cursed the Romans for putting their killing ground on the top of a steep mound. Jesse grunted behind me as if agreeing with my thoughts.  The beam across my shoulders rubbed at my open flesh making fresh blood pour out. My leg muscles burned and began to shake.

Finally, we reached the top and the centurion gave the order to halt.

My body sagged in relief as the beam was lifted from my shoulders. My eyes wandered to the eight-foot stakes rising out of the ground like naked trees. I would hang on one of them in just a few minutes. I wondered if the Romans knew what Moses wrote, “Cursed is the man who hangs on a tree,” and picked this tortured death just for us Jews.

A soldier offered me a drink of wine and myrrh, as was custom. I knew it would do little to numb the pain, but it was better than nothing, so I drank. The myrrh left a bitter taste.

The soldier moved to the zealot, but when the ladle was put to his lips, he shook his head. He was refusing?

“Stupid,” said Jesse beside me, “Does he think that refusing the drug makes him tough? Or does he think his little act of defiance insults the Romans?”

The soldier came to Jesse and he drank, keeping his eyes locked on the zealot who watched him. He swallowed once, then filled his mouth with more. When the ladle was pulled away he spewed the wine mixture out on the Roman. The soldier backhanded Jesse so hard he stumbled back. When he regained his balance he looked at the zealot.

“That is how you insult.”

The man didn’t have time to answer. A soldier came and pulled his clothes from him.  More came and stripped Jesse and me. The blood on my back had hardened so that the cloth was part of the forming scabs. As the garment was pulled over my head, the cloth took my dried blood and pieces of skin with it. I hissed as my back was ripped off with my clothes.

Once I was naked, I was pushed to the ground, the beam I’d carried was beneath the back of my neck and my open wounds pressed to the rocky ground.

They pulled my arms out so that the back of my hands rested on the beam. My right arm was held down and a metal point pressed into my wrist. I knew what it was, but I turned my head to look anyway. The spike that rested against my skin looked longer than the seven inches it actually was. How many hammer strikes would it take before all of it went through my wrist and into the wood beneath?

Pain. It took my brain a second to realize that the pain that shot through me was related to the slightly shorter spike. It was a moment before I realized that I’d seen the hammer fall and it was already coming back for a second blow. My body jerked, and I yelled as the hammer struck the head of the spike. I heard the metallic zing this time. It was the loudest sound there was.

My hand twitched like a separate entity as the spike burrowed deeper into my flesh. My arm was a betrayer, sending wave after wave of pain. I didn’t want to watch the blood bubble out of my wrist and spill over the wood beam anymore, but I forgot how to move my head.

Finally, the spike was gone. It was nothing but a flat bit of iron resting on my skin. It was over.

But had it only started. My other arm was held down. I didn’t look.

Once I was pinned to the beam, soldiers lifted each side and hoisted me to the top of one of the stakes already in the ground. My entire weight was hanging from my staked wrists.

My feet were placed on top of each other and my bottom foot made to lay flat against the wood. My knees were left slightly bent. I tried to brace myself for what would come next, but nothing could prepare me for the pain that coursed through me as a third spike entered my body. Every blow slowly moved the iron through my muscle. First my top foot, then it broke through the skin at my foot’s arch and in the same movement cut open the top of the foot beneath. The hammer struck again, and again. It would never end.

Then, I realized that it had. The hammering was done. The sound of the crowd came in a rush, their angry voices slapping me in a demand to be heard.

This is not how I should die, pinned and mounted, stretched out like an animal hide at the tanners. Hanging naked for all to see while people hurled insults. I should die peacefully with a family gathered around.

But was that the death I gave the man on the highway? It wasn’t the death my father got.

Father. If only he hadn’t died while I was so young. I would have grown up to be respectable like he was. He would have taken me to the temple at my thirteenth birthday for my bar mitzvah. I would have become a man by reading the Torah before the congregation instead of by swiping food in the midst of beggars. I wondered if the man I put a knife through had sons. Did they have a mother? Or would it be the streets that raised them, turning them into criminals instead of sons of the law?

A sign was nailed above my head. It let everyone know what I’d done so they could scream their indignation at me. I waited for their cries to come, but the word murderer didn’t arrive.

“King!” someone shouted, “What kind of king are you?”

I scanned the crowd. They weren’t looking at me. I followed their gaze to my left where the zealot hung. All of their anger was for him. He claimed to be a king? The ring of thorns that crushed into his skull made since now.

“You said you could raise the temple in three days,” cried another, “Well coming down from the cross shouldn’t be so hard then should it?”

“Prove to us your divinity. Are you the Messiah? Or are you the carpenter from Nazareth?”

A carpenter from Nazareth who claimed to be the Messiah? I’d heard of him. Who hadn’t? All of Judea was talking about the man who could make crooked legs straight and blind eyes to see. I’d even heard that he cured the incurable leprosy.

None of it was true of course. There were always rumors of messiahs. The people were hungry for a deliverer—someone to get them from under Roman rule. Someone who would build a vast kingdom and usher in a great age like that of Solomon. Miracle workers only existed in people’s minds or in the times of old when prophets were in our land. Still, there was that one time…

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In honor of Easter, I’m sharing this three-part story telling the crucifixion from a nontraditional point of view: the thief on the cross.

For some of us, the crucifixion story is so well known that there may be a tendency to sort of “zone out” when hearing it again. I wanted to write something that would trick our brains into paying attention before it went into I-don’t-have-to-pay-attention-because-I-already-know-it mode.

I hope this story will allow those of you who have heard about Jesus on the cross many times to have the chance to experience it like someone hearing it for the first time.

If you haven’t read the first part, here it is.

Part 1

Look for part three tomorrow!

 

Interesting facts:

The nails used to hang criminals to the cross were often reused. The materials used to make the nails were too scarce to waste by leaving them in the dead body.

The stake that went in the ground (the part of the cross that stood upright) was also reused because trees that would yield beams that large were in short supply in the area. That’s why the stakes were already in the ground when Johan reached the top of the hill.

The Criminal

The soldiers shoved me, and I fell through the opening of the cave-like pit below.   My hands and knees took most of the impact. The smells left by the previous inhabitants filled my nose: sweat and urine. My fellow thief, Jesse, landed on top of me. I grunted as his kneecap slammed into the middle of my back.

“Get off,” I grumbled.

“Am I making you uncomfortable Johan? Terribly sorry. The whole purpose of this prison is our comfort.  I wouldn’t want to ruin that for you,” said Jesse as he pushed himself off of me. I scowled at him.

“I’ll show you comfort.” I thought about punching the grin right off his face. How he could smile with death looming over us was beyond me.

“What’s wrong, eh? This prison isn’t up to your standards?” Jesse asked. “Do you hear that?” he called to the Roman guards standing above us in the entryway, “My friend doesn’t like your prison!” He cackled. I hurried to my feet and grabbed his shoulder.

“Shut up,” I hissed. He turned to me.

“What? What are they going to do to me? Kill me?” He snorted, then in a flat tone added, “We’re already dead.” Jesse turned and walked to one of the rough rock walls and slumped to the floor. He sat, one leg sprawled out and the other pulled in so that his arm flopped over his knee.

“Don’t be stupid,” I told him, “There is a lot they can do before they kill you.”

“Are you scared Johan?” Jesse sneered. I again resisted the urge to punch him. I didn’t hold myself back because I was afraid of Jesse’s fists. He was two inches shorter and weighed a good deal lighter than I did. It was a habit of mine to spare Jesse even when he deserved a hit. Through the years, I’d learned Jesse couldn’t keep his mouth shut, and he became especially mouthy when things were dangerous or he was cornered. Besides, I only had a little more time to live, and I didn’t want to spend my last moments beating the daylights out of Jesse.

But what did I want to spend it doing? Praying? Reciting passages of the Torah? A few hours of scripture recounting couldn’t erase an entire life. I didn’t even know if I remembered the scriptures my father taught me. My father…. It was a long time since I’d thought of him. I taught myself to ignore his image looming in my mind early on. It was too painful.

My father was beaten to death by robbers while traveling to Samaria. My mother died some years before, so at nine years old, I was left to take care of myself. Life on the streets was cruel. I tried begging for money, but I didn’t get much. There were droves of orphaned children on the streets of Jerusalem and the ones who made the most money were the blind, or crippled.

It didn’t take me long for me to I realize that some of their disabilities were fake. Once we were huddled in our tunnel for the night, blind folds would come off, canes and crutches were thrown to the ground, and  “lame” legs were suddenly strong enough to walk.

It would be easy to tie a strip of cloth around my eyes, but it would be dishonest. My father would never do something like that, and even if he wasn’t with me physically, he was alive in my mind. I wouldn’t disappoint him.

After a few weeks, the hunger in my belly became more real than the memory of my father. I tore a strip from the bottom of my tunic and tied it around my eyes. Why should I starve just because people were naïve enough to give money to a fake blind kid?  Honesty got me nothing but hunger pains.

The blindfold wasn’t enough to keep the gnawing hunger away. I’d watched other children swipe a fig from a cart or bread from a bakery, but I never tried. It was wrong to steal. But my aching belly told me it was wrong that people should have so much food, and not share it.

The first time I stole a barley loaf, I thought that the Almighty would strike me dead, but the moment I put it in my mouth, I didn’t care if he did. With a bite of stolen food, I banished God and my father from my mind.

Now, hours away from my death, they came back.

I slumped against the wall, tired of pacing. I had learned to live one day at a time, keeping all thoughts of life after death out of my head. Now, with nothing to do but wait for death to come, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to me after my lungs breathed their last.

When I was a boy, I would have said that I would go to the bosom of Abraham like all my forefathers. Like my father. Even if I could go there now, I doubted my father would want to see me. He wouldn’t be able to stand what I’d become.

I eventually outgrew snatching food from the market and graduated to patrolling the highways for unfortunate travelers with Jesse. One day, we got lucky and a wealthy man rode by. His clothes were fine, and he was riding a horse instead of a donkey. Best of all, he was alone.

The man put up a fight. He charged at me with a knife. I knocked his arm aside and plunged my own dagger into his gut. Blood gushed over my hand. I pulled my dagger out and watched his body crumple to the ground. What was the fool thinking? He could have lived. We wanted his money, not his life.

As l looked at his blank eyes staring wide at the sky, I wondered if that’s what my father looked like when he was found. Then I realized what I’d become.

I was a murderer. No better than the one who killed my father.

No prayer could save me now. When the Romans put me to death tomorrow, I would go straight to hell.

Part 2

____________________________________________________________

In honor of Easter, I’m sharing this three-part story telling the crucifixion from a nontraditional point of view: the thief on the cross.

For some of us, the crucifixion story is so well known that there may be a tendency to sort of “zone out” when hearing it again. I wanted to write something that would trick our brains into paying attention before it went into I-don’t-have-to-pay-attention-because-I-already-know-it mode.

I hope this story will allow those of you who have heard about Jesus on the cross many times to have the chance to experience it like someone hearing it for the first time.

 

 

 

Gift

I didn’t want to be at grandpa’s house surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins who all wanted to know if I’d dreamed my gift dream yet. I didn’t need to be reminded that I was the only twelve-year-old girl in my class that didn’t have their gift.

I tried to escape grandpa’s over-crowded sitting room, but as I headed to the back porch my Aunt Helen cut in front of me.

“Lora, you’ve gotten taller since the last time I saw you. Looking like such a little lady now.” She moved her hands when she talked and I thought she was going to drop the pie she was holding. “I bet you’re having fun learning about your gift aren’t you?”

She didn’t even ask if I knew what my gift was. I guess it was so uncommon to not have your gift by this age that no one thought it possible.

“I don’t–” My aunt didn’t let me finish my humiliating confession.

“I bet you are an artist like your mother.” She nodded her head and the tower of hair she had piled on her head jiggled. “You have her curly hair and dimpled smile—you’re the image of her when she was your age—you must have her gift.”

I didn’t say anything. Maybe she would keep talking and I wouldn’t have to admit that I hadn’t had my dream yet. That hope didn’t last long. My annoying eleven-year-old cousin butted it.

“She doesn’t have a gift,” Edward said stuffing one side of a roll in his mouth. His round cheeks made him look like a squirrel with too many acorns stuffed in its mouth.

“Of course she does,” my aunt insisted.

“No she doesn’t. Ask her.”

They both looked at me, and I wished that I still believed that covering my face made the rest of me disappear like I did when I was two.

“It should come soon,” I told her, even though I had no idea when I would have my dream.

Aunt Helen took in a breath and pulled her head back, making her hair wobble. “You haven’t had your dream yet?”

Did she have to say it so loud?

“You are twelve aren’t you? Or did I get you mixed up with Leah. She’s twelve and you’re eleven?”

Before I could answer, know-it-all Edward did for me. “She is twelve, but she still doesn’t have a gift.” He stuffed the other end of the roll in his mouth. It wasn’t time to eat yet. He must have snuck it out of the kitchen when no one was looking.

“So I was right,” Aunt Helen said. “ Leah is eleven.”

“Leah is fourteen, Aunt Helen.” Edward rolled his eyes.

“Oh dear, you are all getting so big. Growing up so fast.”

“Except for Lora,” Edward said.

I could’ve taken the pie from Aunt Helen and shoved it in his face.

“Don’t tease poor Lora. She can’t help that her gift hasn’t come in the normal time.”

If Aunt Helen was trying to make me feel better, it wasn’t working. I was relieved when Uncle John called for everyone’s attention.

Edward zipped off to get to the front of the group so he could see what was going on.

“Oh my. I better get this pie to the kitchen or I’m going to miss all the excitement,” Aunt Helen said as she plowed through the crowed sitting room.

I was finally left alone. I almost dashed out to the back porch, but decided to stay to hear whatever the big announcement was.

Uncle John stood near the mantel with his arm around his daughter.

“Clara has some exciting news to share with you.” He looked down at her. “Why don’t you tell them?”

Clara smiled shyly at everyone. “Last night, I got my gift.”

The room erupted in “congratulations Clara” and “No way, that’s so great,” and other statements of surprise and happiness, but all I could do was stare. Clara was only ten. How could she have had her dream already?

She beamed at the praise. My stomach twisted.

“What was it like?” asked one of the younger girls.

“Don’t leave us wondering,” Aunt Helen piped in, back from the kitchen. “Tell us your dream.”

Clara glanced at her father and he nodded at her. “I was standing in a field of grass, behind me, flowers sprang up and filled the path I’d walked. Then the whole field started growing flowers, and vegetables, and fruit. And a cherry tree grew right over my head.” She shrugged. “When I woke up, I knew that my gift was growing things.”

“A practical and beautiful gift,” Aunt said nodding her head in approval. Her hair was going to wobble right off her head.

Of course Clara would get such a perfect gift. Everything she did was perfect. Even her strait blonde hair, that unlike mine, stayed neat after it was brushed instead of tangling in a mass of curls the moment the brush was set down.

“How did you get your gift already?” Edward asked. “Even Lora doesn’t have her gift yet, and she’s way older.”

The adults laughed at Edward like what he said was cute and looked at me. My face burned. I wished I’d put that pie in Edward’s face.

“Everyone get’s their gift at different times,” Grandpa said, standing beside the fireplace.

Maybe some of us never get our gifts. I would be thirteen soon. Who ever heard of a thirteen year old without a gift?

Everyone was back to congratulating Clara, and I started for the back porch like I should have before all this “good news” was shared. I squeezed though my aunts and uncles and just made it to the kitchen door when Grandpa said, “Before we eat, I have a game for the children.”

I stopped. A game would be more fun than sulking on the porch. At least I wouldn’t have to think about my lack of a gift.

“I have hidden twelve gifts, one for each grandchild, in parts of the house.” Some of the younger kids squealed and jumped. “Once you find a present, it is yours. You can’t keep looking once you’ve found one.”

“Can we open it and decide if we want it?” Edward asked.

“Once you find a present, it is yours,” he repeated, giving Edward a look before continuing. “There aren’t any in the yard, but they could be in any part of the house. You’ll know you found one because they are each tied with a red ribbon.”

Grandpa had all the little kids go first. They scrambled off giggling and squealing. Next he had the nine and ten year olds go. By now, some of the kids from the first group were coming back, holding up their prizes proudly: a handful of candy, or chocolates, or a spinning top.

“They’re going to get all the good stuff,” Edward whined beside me. I couldn’t help but agree with him. We were the only two left. Grandpa let Edward go. I thought he would let me go right after, but he didn’t. Maybe he forgot I was playing. I looked up at Grandpa. “Can I go now?”

“Just a little longer.”

I shifted my weight from foot to foot as I watched more kids come in with their presents. If I didn’t start looking soon, all of them would be gone except one. Probably the smallest one that no one wanted.

I looked back at Grandpa.

“Alright, your turn.” He winked at me.

I took off, not bothering to search the sitting room. I was sure that all the presents in there were gone by now. I looked through the kitchen: opened cabinets and drawers, looked under the table and chairs. There wasn’t a single present.

I ran to the bedrooms, but even after looking under the beds and in the closets, there was nothing. Maybe there was a gift still hiding in the sitting room.

I went back to the sitting room, which was emptying out as people went to the kitchen to began eating.

I slipped around one of my aunts who was complaining that Grandpa should have waited until after we’d eaten to give the children candy, and slid past some of my cousins comparing gifts.

I looked under the rocking chair, around the fireplace, and behind curtains, but there wasn’t a single thing with a red ribbon around it.

“You aren’t very lucky with gifts are you,” Edward said, seeing I was still without a present. I made a face at him, but he didn’t see. He was showing someone the large chocolate bar he’d found.

I looked through the whole house again, but still couldn’t find a present. By now, everyone was in the kitchen, dining and laughing, but I didn’t feel like eating.

I slumped into a rocking chair in the sitting room and listened to the chatter in the next room. Not only was I the only twelve-year-old that didn’t have a gift, but I was the only one of my cousins that was too stupid to find their present.

Edward was right. I wasn’t lucky with gifts.

I glanced around the room, trying to think of a place I hadn’t looked. I’d searched the whole house. Maybe there wasn’t another present anywhere. Maybe Grandpa counted wrong and forgot to get me a present.

I guess I better get used to being without a gift, since it didn’t look like I’d be having my gift dream any time soon.

I put my feet up into the chair and hugged my knees. My throat was hot and tight and I thought I might cry, but someone came beside the chair.

“You’ve given up already?” It was Grandpa.

“Are you sure you hid enough gifts?”

He nodded.

I rested my chin on my knees. “I’ve looked everywhere and there isn’t one.”

“Are you sure you looked everywhere?”

“I’ve looked in every room in the entire house.” I let out a frustrated sign. “And you said they weren’t in the yard…” I realized there was a part of the house I didn’t look. “Wait a minute,” I said, jumping out of the chair. I ran though the kitchen, dodging between people standing up to get seconds.

I flung the back door open and stepped out on the back porch. I didn’t even have to look for it. Sitting in the rocking chair, was a huge basket with a red ribbon tied to the handle. It was filled with candies, chocolates, and little toys.

I grinned and took the basket into the kitchen so everyone could see that I didn’t have such bad luck with gifts.

“Not fair,” Edward said, dropping a spoonful of pudding halfway to his mouth. “She got a bigger present than anyone.”

Grandpa, leaned on the doorway between the sitting room and the kitchen. “But she had to look the hardest for hers. Sometimes, the best gifts come after the longest wait.”

I smiled, wider than Clara did at her announcement. It didn’t matter that my gift dream took longer to come than anyone else’s. When it did come, it would be the greatest gift dream there was. Because the best gifts come after the longest wait.

 

 

Twitter_bird_iconThis little blue bird will take you to my Twitter page where it will continuously feed you random lines about writing, blogging, and the world inside my head.

 

Mansions

Darkness was the first thing that filled my conscious. Slowly, the darkness faded and light overwhelmed me. A group of shining mansions towered above.  They were made of gold or marble and decorated with amethyst, rubies and other gems.  Even the yards were perfect: neat flowerbeds decorated lawns that were so green they couldn’t have been real.

I knew I was supposed to live in one of the houses in this new place, but I didn’t know which one. The streets were empty except for an elderly lady walking toward me.

“Excuse me,” I called to her, “I’m new here, and I was wondering if you could tell me where my house is.”

“It isn’t in this neighborhood,” she chuckled. “Do you see that house, girl?” She pointed to one on my left sprinkled with emeralds.  “That one belongs to a man and his family who spent their whole life helping people who lived in what people in the Old World called ‘third world countries.’ They deserve a mansion after living in the places they did.”

She pointed to another that looked almost castle-like. “The lady in that house has a beautiful voice. She used it to sing about The One.”

I knew about The One. He built this New World for people when they could no longer stay in the old.  I guessed it would make since that if a person worked for him in the Old World, they would get a better place to stay.

“And the man who lives there,” continued the woman pointing out a golden house, “spent his life telling people in the Old World about this place.  And those over there,” she gestured with her head to a group of mansions, “That entire row of houses belongs to a whole line of families who have passed down their dedication to The One from generation to generation.”

She looked at me. “You are the only one from your family that has made it here aren’t you?” I nodded.  “And you didn’t do anything for The One while you lived in the Old World did you?”  I shook my head wishing I’d done more to prepare myself for this place.  “You didn’t even reserve a house here while you were in the Old World.”

It was true. I didn’t reserve a place here until just days before my journey.

She clucked in disapproval. “You definitely won’t be staying in this area.  Come on.  I’ll show you where your house is.”

She walked me down the row of houses, pointing out more great people and telling me of their wonderful deeds. We didn’t go far before the houses changed dramatically.  They were shotgun houses at best, shacks and hovels at worst.  Shiny windows gave way to square holes covered with rags.  A rainbow of colors turned to grey and faded brown.  The bright green grass disappeared, and in its place were muddy little patches of yard and alleyways littered with broken glass, overturned garbage, and foul smells.

After finding out that the mansions were for those who had made the most of their life in the Old World, I expected to live in a small house. I didn’t spend my time helping others, and I’d hardly even given a thought to the New World while I was in the old.  I knew I didn’t deserve a mansion, but I didn’t think I would be given a dirty hovel either.

“Here it is,” announced my guide as we stopped in front of a sad looking shack. The paint was peeling off in so many places that it looked like a puzzle, and the roof sagged.  It didn’t even have windows.

“Are you sure this is it?”

“It has your name doesn’t it?” She pointed to an inscription by the door.  My name was carved into the plaster, though it was difficult to make out.  There was a line of red paint running through it.

“See it’s yours. You can go inside.”  She encouraged.

“I’m not sure I want to.” I took a step back.  Something about this wasn’t right.

“Go on,” she told me forcefully as she put her hand on my back and pushed me forward. “It’s not so bad once you get inside.”   I resisted her, but she grabbed my arm and pulled me to the door with surprising strength.

I stopped myself by grabbing the door post. I couldn’t take another step.

Where the floor should have been was a large pit. It was so deep, I couldn’t see the bottom.

“I can’t go in there!” I would fall to my death.

“But it’s your home,” she told me sweetly.

“You know that isn’t her home,” said a stern voice behind us. The old lady’s hands released me as if I had burned her.  We both turned to face the man.

“I was only having a little fun.” She cackled nervously.  “I wasn’t really going to…”

“Leave,” commanded the man. The woman disappeared.  I blinked at the spot where she’d stood, but she didn’t come back.

The man held out his hand. “I’ll take you to your home.” The moment I touched his hand, the dilapidated houses were replaced by the pristine mansions I first saw.

“I don’t think I am supposed to live here either,” I told him. “I didn’t do anything great while I was in the Old World. I don’t even have family in this place.”

“Do you think these people live here because they had family here that came before them?” he asked.

I shrugged. “That woman told me about the people who live here.  I’m not good enough to live in this place.”

“Neither are they.” The man smiled at my puzzled expression. “None of these are worthy enough to live here.  They are here not because of what they did, but because of what was done for them.”

Before I could ask what he meant he led me to a mammoth house made of white marble and lined with hundreds of ruby colored roses.

“It has your name,” he said pointing to a golden plaque by the door. But this mansion couldn’t be mine, as much as I wanted it.

“But what about the other house? It had my name too,” I told him, confused.

“It was yours at one time, but your name was marked out in the only way that a name on such a house can be—with the blood of sacrifice.”

It was then I noticed his hands. Both palms were scarred in the center.

It was his blood that marked out my name.

———————————————

In honor Flash Fiction Day, I’ll be posting flash fiction throughout the day. Be ready to read. There’s more to come!

Here’s the other stories I’ve posted today. Letters, Shattered , Loki’s Interview , The Chalice, Sacrifice

A Second

A second

A voice spoke, the deep heard

Light created by the word

 

A second

The world weaved

Life breathed

 

A second

Lies believed, man fell

Forever separated from the everlasting well

 

A second

A baby born

The veil between heaven and earth torn

 

A second

A kiss betrays

An innocent convicted, stays

 

A second

The guilty released

God betrayed by his own priest

 

A second

Blood ran red

Lamb to the slaughter was led

 

A second

Death defeated

Earth given the savoir it needed

 

A second

Creation doubts the existence of creator

No one needs a savior

 

A second

Death, destruction, hate abound

No one believes the trumpet will sound

 

A second

Heaven opens, one who was pierced appears

The glow of his light calms all fears

 

A second becomes eternity

God is all that is seen

 

The beginning, the end, the word, God

Time doesn’t hold him–out side of it he does trod

 

What the Word spoke in the beginning

Never faded, kept on spinning

 

Light was made

And throughout time stayed

 

Walk in the light

And the constraints of time won’t be so tight

 

Our struggle seems an eternity

When we look back, it’s only a second we see

 

Life in the seconds seems forever

Only because to this earth we have a tether

 

In the end, when the beginning starts

Time will be taken apart

 

 


 

Christmas in October?

Before you judge me based on the title–I am not one of those people who starts listening to Christmas music in July and doesn’t take down their decorations until the middle of March.  This random burst of Christmas in October is totally not my fault.  See, I’m taking Writing 201 (a poetry class), and today’s assignment was to write an acrostic on the subject of gifts.

And what’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “gifts”? That’s right! Christmas.

Naturally, I couldn’t help myself from drifting into this seasonal theme.

So, stop giving me weird looks and enjoy this bit of Christmas in October.  🙂

(Oh, and if you don’t know what an acrostic is, pay attention to the first letter of every line.)

         GIFT

Give us a present

Intone the voices, incessant

For Christmas is near

To get more—that is Christmas cheer

—————–

And because that one was so short, here’s another.  🙂

—————–

                           The Gift

Behold, a gift was given like none other

A gift of love, carried by a holy mother

By the hand of God, in a manger was laid

Ye who are broken shall be remade

Just as it was said long ago

Even the sick, the sinners, the low

Shall be healed, forgiven, lifted

Unless the world was gifted

Such struggles would remain unassisted



On a totally unrelated topic, I thought I’d let you all know that I didn’t forget about the poll I took a few weeks ago.  There was a lot of interest in the choose your own adventure idea, so I’m going to take a deep breath, plunge into these unknown waters, and to do it.  I’m busy coming up with the story right now.  I know it’s going to be a fantasy story with a bit of a mystery going on, but I haven’t finished the plot.

Thank you all for voting this idea in. I’m having so much fun with this and I can’t wait to share it with you!