This story is the prototype of my next book, a year long weekly devotional featuring short stories that kindle long thoughts about God. Fifty-two stories, hundreds of new ways to think about your relationship with God, and hopefully in an interesting and engaging way. Let me know what you think.
Outside my window on the fourth row, the runway raced underneath faster and faster until the nose of the jet lifted, dragging the rest of the 737 with it. The two powerful engines overpowered gravity for the moment; but eventually gravity would win the battle, it always did. So our pilot’s most important objective became choosing where and when the aircraft would submit to gravity and return to earth. Everyone on board flight 765 that day preferred the surrender be accomplished gently, on a runway at the Denver airport.
This year we vacationed in Oregon and Washington, anxious to experience the perfection of the Cascade Mountains, the unmatched beauty of the many rivers and lakes, and the grandeur of the Puget Sound. It would be a road trip for just my wife and me. We had purposely planned to be unplanned, granting ourselves the unusual gift of freedom to stop when we wanted, to wander off course as the urge prompted, and to be free from the chains of a schedule. When we left our home heading north the sunroof was open, the music was loud and our smiles were broad. We were on vacation.
Since the dawn of time, or since I was a little boy- whichever is longer, I can remember being told that too much of a good thing would be bad for me. I could not understand if something was good, how then could too much good be bad? Of course, my early onset selective memory conveniently misplaced the upset stomach that resulted from a solo attack on a quart of chocolate ice cream; or the burned back and shoulders suffered from not slathering on DP 45 sunscreen at the beach. Still, how could anyone have too many Legos, too many marbles, or enough video games? Our backyard pool could have been bigger, my bedroom was certainly not roomy, and my closet was just too small to be clean.
A mirror is supposed to reflect backwards what actually exists, but almost always what we see is not all that is present, sometimes the image we see is not a realistic reflection of the truth……………
Last night was a long one for Bill; too little to eat, too much to drink and way too little sleep. The alarm only accentuated his pounding headache, so knocking the clock on to the floor of the hotel room seemed a fair exchange for waking him this early. Rolling out of bed, Bill walked, in not so much of a straight line, to the bathroom. What he saw in the mirror was not a pretty sight; although the mirror had been cruel to him for many years now, so he should have expected nothing less. Before washing his face Bill looked at his reflection in the mirror. The bloodshot eyes were no surprise; most mornings were met with varying shades of red surrounding black pupils. His once thick, black hair was thinning across the top and offered more grey than black. The sagging bags under his eyes were pronounced, looking like a wave of exhaustion pulling down his face. There is a crooked scar just under his right eye, a reminder of falling asleep while driving home late one night from somewhere that he should not have been. The morning beard is a staggered mixture of white and black. Why did the architect of this hotel make the mirrors so big? There was nothing here Bill wanted to see.
We need to have goals and dreams, for ourselves, family and friends; it is a vital part of being human that God placed in each of us. We need jobs, homes, vacations, food, transportation, clothing, value, friendship: all off these things are also a part of life. First though, before all else – we need God. He needs us, too.
Most of us try to be first; first in that “over 40 year old 5K race,” first to get the promotion, first in line at the theater, first on line to buy concert tickets, first to get the view of the morning sunrise, first in your college graduating class, or first to get control of the TV remote. Being first has been a preoccupation with humankind, from the beginning of the Olympic games where we proved who was best at some sport, to the first to file a patent so we can lay claim to ownership of a design or idea. It is a natural human condition to want to be first, with a few notable exceptions: the first to die, the first to pay taxes, the first to sin. The reasoning behind not wanting to die first is obvious, and no one enjoys paying taxes so why do it first? To sin is to willingly separate from God, so why be first at something so bad? The initial sin is almost expected, because we all fall short of perfection, but the second sin is by choice – after observing or doing it once, we with full knowledge do it again. So maybe, it is better to be the first sinner, rather than the second. Perhaps the first sin is not the worst, but it is the second sin that we all must avoid.
Once upon a time, in a land not very far away there was a small town, nestled in brown rolling hills and oak trees, inhabited with mostly happy people who got along with each other and with neighboring cities. Gardens were planted, golf was played, churches attended, businesses thrived, and many a feast was eaten; that is until the day of the great let down. On that day the banks, money changers, manipulators, and Federal Regulators let everyone down: and so the Great Recession began. Every town had lived through recessions in the past, but nothing had been seen in decades like the Great Recession. Where once flowers had grown on the land between the lanes of traffic now stood people with cardboard signs asking for work or food. Stores, restaurants and shops all over the land closed their doors, leaving many people without a way to care for their family. When people could not pay their mortgage, the same banks from the great let down threw the people to the street. Families cried, asking their leaders for help.
“Mom, where are my blue socks with the little pink hearts?” shouted Kallie from her upstairs room.
Lynn (Mom) walked from the kitchen, where she was making breakfast, to the landing midway up the stairs, “They are in your top drawer on the right side, with all your other socks -same place that they have been for the last four years; and remember the rule of not shouting in the house?”
“Yes Mom, thank you.” ‘You’ was drawn out in typical adolescence overkill. Kallie was the middle child in this busy household.
This German folk tune, later sung by a host of musicians including Peter, Paul, and Mary, asks a very good question in its title; “Where have all the flowers gone?” Throughout the song, the songwriter misplaces a multitude of people and things – I used to sing this song in my eighth grade German class. Listening to the tune brought back a memory of the last time I “lost” my keys. All of us have lost our keys, books, wallet or purse, only to find the missing artifact in some obvious place a few moments, or hours later. We are amazed to think that we could have overlooked during our frantic search a set of keys sitting on the kitchen table. Could the keys have become invisible for two hours, and then just reappeared? Is there a wormhole to a distant universe in my kitchen? Or maybe, when we lose, or temporarily misplace something, it is because we have forgotten where ‘it’ came from and how to find ‘it’ once it has become missing?
The first thing that I noticed was his eyes; piercingly intense, visible even through the thick brown hair that was wet with sweat and had intermingled stains of red. Those eyes could have been wild with anger, or hate, we would have understood, but instead they were sincere, full of compassion and knowing. His eyes were kind – even today.
He was kneeling in thick dirt, dried mud from sweat and blood covered his hands to the elbow; his feet and calves were equally stained. The crowd roared with approval when the soldier raised the whip high to the sky. He yelled for the beaten man to “get up now.” Idiot. Didn’t he know that whipping a hurt man will not make him move any faster? I wanted to look away because he was my friend, my master, but I could not. The whip came down hard; his cry was muted by the force of the approving mob. He had been beaten, but he wasn’t beat. He moved his right foot slowly, dragging upward to a kneeling position. The cross was balanced on his right shoulder, with the cross member in front just past his knee and the end reaching ten feet behind. Weighing 200 pounds, it was a massive killing staff designed with only one purpose. The crowd continued screaming for more, hoping for another blow from the guard. But the guard was tired from a long night, so he rested, hoping for selfish reasons that the prisoner would stand up soon.