Saturday, July 3, 2021

RUNNING FROM VERONICA - WRITERS 750 CONTEST 3

 Well it took me three times at the plate, but I finally got a hit!  Hope you enjoy my award winning story Running From Veronica.  


RUNNING FROM VERONICA




    

“Well, It’s Hurricane season again, and this time, I am not going to watch my life blow away!” Arthur was busy packing up what little he had left and what little he managed to replace from his loss the previous year. He was happy he had beaten the calendar and was getting away before the first hurricane of the season formed. Templeton, his Pit-Shepherd mix, looked up at him curiously as he spoke. Templeton had a very expressive face and a knack for appearing as if he understood everything Arthur said. Arthur only wished Templeton could speak back.


It was almost a full year ago when Hurricane Veronica blasted through. Arthur knew it would be a life changing storm as soon as he heard the name on the news. Veronica had been the name of his ex-wife who, six years earlier, had inexplicably, burned all his clothes, packed up her stuff and left without so much as a note of goodbye. A month after Veronica left, divorce papers arrived in the mail with a return envelope and a note requesting his signature. When Arthur sealed the envelope, he sealed a chapter of his life and never heard from Veronica again.

Well, he never heard from that Veronica again, the next Veronica to enter his life had been equally devastating. When Hurricane Veronica (the storm, not his ex) approached his small island home, Arthur knew it would be bad, like you know a root canal is going to be bad. Only imagine five root canals and no pain medicine before or after. He prepared the best he could, the best anyone could, having never experienced a Category Five hurricane, but, he soon realized his preparations were far less than adequate!


Arthur’s first clue he was ill prepared was when the dead limbs from the tree in his front yard broke free and slammed against his house, one coming right through his window. He managed to drag the mattress from his bed over to the window and prop it up with a table.


Templeton whined and watched from the corner so Arthur moved him to the bedroom closet for safekeeping. No sooner than hearing the click of the closet door, Arthur heard a great crash in his kitchen. Running in to investigate, he discovered a bathtub, who knows from where, had crashed through the back door into his kitchen, smashing into and destroying his refrigerator. His mind spinning as chaotically as the storm outside, Arthur randomly considered finding the owner of the bathtub and working out an arrangement, the stranger could use his bathtub and he could store things in the tub owner’s refrigerator.


His thoughts were interrupted when he heard the great crunching sound of wood being torn loose from his living room. Arthur ran through the kitchen doorway in time to watch as a large section of the roof over his living room was wrenched off and disappeared into the angry black clouds devilishly churning in the sky above his now compromised home. Wind and rain poured into his living room creating what looked like a mini vortex. The little tornado swirled around his living room and Arthur watched helplessly as his compact disc collection was sucked up and spun around the room. Over five hundred CDs swirled like dervishes breaking and being broken as they clacked and smacked against furniture and glass. As the CDs wreaked havoc and destruction, wind howled through the broken kitchen door, causing the kitchen cabinets to open and close slamming out of sync with one another creating a terrible cacophony to join the horrific roaring wind and sound of breaking plastic and glass in the living room.


Feeling as if he were in some crazed funhouse designed by maniacs and paralyzed by fear, Arthur crouched low in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room holding his ears thinking his life was about to end when he heard a great whoosh and watched his entire CD collection shoot up through his roof as the indoor tornado retracted back into the sky. Rain continued to pour in through his broken roof, but at least the wind began to subside and the maddening racket in the kitchen stopped as well.


Torrential rain continued to pour through the hole in his roof and Arthur realized his house was becoming flooded, very quickly. His red velvet couch, lifted by the flood water, floated across the room and slammed into the front door, splintering the door from its hinges. The flood water inside the house coursed through the broken doorway joining the floodwaters outside sweeping the couch out the door, down the driveway and into the street which flowed like a small river. The last Arthur ever saw his couch was when it floated to the end of the street and around the bend.


Then, just as if someone had thrown a switch, the wind and rain stopped, the sky was clear and the sun shined down into the demolished living room like a spotlight. Amid all the destruction and chaos, a very curious thing happened. Arthur watched, bewildered, as a single compact disc jewel case fell through the hole where his roof used to be and clattered to the wet floor. Retrieving the CD, he saw it was Crystavox, an 80’s hair metal band who only released two albums. Over five hundred CDs flew up into the sky and only one came back down. Arthur was happy to get it back.


Feeling shell shocked, Arthur walked, almost zombie-like, to his bedroom to check on Templeton. Opening the closet door, Arthur discovered his best friend had passed the time chewing up every pair of shoes he owned. Only two shoes remained uneaten, unfortunately the shoes were not a matched pair. The only consolation was one uneaten shoe was a left shoe and the other a right. Arthur was a pitiful sight when he arrived at the emergency shelter, disheveled, soaked and wearing one brown loafer and one white tennis shoe.


Now, about a year later, after having battled with the insurance company, overseeing repairs and putting the house on the market, Arthur and Templeton were packing up the last of his modest possessions ready to close on the sale of the house. The furniture and larger items had been boxed up and shipped to the mainland and Arthur stuffed the last of his clothes and personal items into a shoulder duffel, the last item to go in, the Crystavox CD.


Arthur made his way to the charter plane, looking forward to a new chapter of life when he heard his name. “Arthur, how are you?” He turned and saw Pastor Mike from the shelter he stayed at the previous year while his house affairs were sorted out. “Pastor Mike, how are you? Long time no see”, Arthur exclaimed as he reached out to shake the minister’s hand. Pastor Mike had been a source of great comfort and wisdom during the dark days after Veronica (the hurricane, not his ex). “Looks like we will be sharing the flight,” Pastor Mike said happily. Mike looked down at Arthur’s shoes and remarked, “nice to see you have matching shoes on today, I trust everything has worked out for you then?” Arthur recounted his plans for the future to which Pastor Mike said, “You know, Arthur, there will always be Veronica’s in your life, whether they be horrible ex-wives, devastating hurricanes or any variety of calamity that befalls us. The main thing is knowing you are not facing the Veronicas of life alone.” Arthur remembered how much he had enjoyed late night conversations with Pastor Mike at the shelter and actually looked forward to the two hour plane ride and the opportunity to share in the man’s wisdom at least one more time.


Pastor Mike said a little silent prayer asking for just the right words to share with Arthur, knowing this would probably be his last opportunity to share the Gospel with him. The men climbed the airstair together, with Templeton leading the way, catching up on the last eight months or so when they reached the top of the steps and both men stopped suddenly. Much to the bewilderment of the pilot standing just inside the plane greeting her few passengers, both men burst out laughing as they noticed the name tag on the pretty pilot’s uniform - it read “Veronica”.


To learn more about Writers 750 you can check it out here: https://writers750program.com/


The writing contest is open to everyone and happens every month. Also, if you are interested in becoming a better writer, I encourage you to check your my friend H.M. Shuldt's book.


Whatever you do, do it unto the Lord!

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

INTRODUCING: SONS OF THUNDER - SIMPLE MAN

 


    Sons of Thunder is an exciting collaboration from guitar wunderkinds, Kevin Musicman and Pastor Wildman. A passion for classic metal, rivaled only by a passion for serving God according to their calling, Musicman and Wildman have captured the essence of 1980s metal.

    SOT's first release is Simple Man. An ambitious original composition reflecting the taste and style of two seasoned musicians who play for the love of the craft. Simple Man is a preview of great things to come

    From the opening guitar licks, the listener knows they are in for something special from accomplished axe-masters. If you are looking for the blues infused, guitar driven music style of yesteryear, you will not want to miss out on Sons of Thunder!

    In addition to great musical composition, lyrically, Simple Man will inspire and encourage believers, in any phase of their spiritual walk, to live a life committed to God and serving others. 

    Powerful, meaningful and fun, Simple Man captures the sound of classic metal while inspiring the listener to strive ahead, spiritually speaking. 

    Sons of Thunder will be a force to be reckoned with, look forward to an EP release sometime in the summer of 2021!

                                    Be sure to play it loud!




Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

BLOOD ON THE WATER - WRITERS 750 CONTEST 2

 Once again, I had the opportunity to participate in the writing contest for Writers 750.  No, I did not win, but, it was fun!  Below is the story I submitted - Blood on the Water.  


 BLOOD ON THE WATER




“Dude, the mosquitoes are brutal tonight”, Chaz complained, for about the hundredth time in the past hour.  “Yeah, you're in the swamp, man, and you asked to come out here so just deal.”  Chaz and Andy sat in a jon boat in the Florida Everglades doing some night fishing and drinking more than a few beers.  Andy spent most of his spare time in the everglades fishing and generally hiding from the mess of a life he created for himself.  Chaz couldn’t even remember why he wanted to go fishing.  “At least the beers are cold,” he thought as he swatted yet another annoying mosquito buzzing around his ears.


Up until now, the conversation had been light and inconsequential, just two lifelong friends who hadn’t had much time to hang out together catching up with one another. Andy cast out, lit up a cigar and with a serious look in his eye turned to Chaz and said, “Hey man, you know, Lenny’s back in town.” Chaz, mid sip, spit beer all over Andy’s tackle box. “Nice,” Andy said with a smirk and an eye roll.  Chaz, wiped his mouth and with wide eyes replied. “Do you think he’s still holding a grudge?”  “I don’t know, bro, but if I were you, I’d be watching over my shoulder.”  Andy punctuated his last statement with a large plume of smoke from his cigar.  


A loud splash to the right of the boat caught the two men’s attention and they turned in time to see a twelve foot alligator glide by in search of a late night snack.  “You know dude, we shoulda fed that guy to a gator that night, it would have saved everybody a whole lotta hassle,” Andy reflected.  “Yeah,” Chaz agreed as he chugged his beer with one hand and reached for another with the other, suddenly having an overwhelming desire to go from pleasantly buzzed to solidly drunk.  


Twenty-three years and a handful of months earlier, Chaz, Andy, Lenny and Lenny’s soon to be ex-best girl Marina were hanging out at a party in Everglades Holiday Park, blowing off steam, drinking and getting high after senior year finals. Imbued with liquid courage, Chaz called over to Marina, “Hey baby, when you get tired of babysitting Lenny, I know a real man who will love you like you deserve.” What neither Chaz nor Lenny knew was Marina had been getting tired of Lenny and Chaz’s offer was exactly what she had been waiting for. Just high enough to cast caution to the wind, Marina sauntered over to Chaz, positioned herself so she could stare Lenny in the eye and planted a wet kiss on Chaz’s mouth.  Many of the party goers erupted into cat calls, adding to Lenny’s humiliation.  


In a blind rage, Lenny hopped in the pick up truck his parents bought him for his eighteenth birthday, only two months earlier, and sped out of the park onto U S 27.  Through angry tears and, drunk well beyond the legal limit, Lenny never even noticed the minivan traveling in the opposite direction as he crossed the center white line. Convicted on three counts of vehicular manslaughter, Lenny was sentenced to three consecutive ten year stints in the state pen. Now, a little over twenty-three years later, due to time off for good behavior, Lenny was out on parole.   


Lenny’s first few years in prison were exactly what one would expect for a scared, scrawny, eighteen year old, a living hell.  Tall, but thin, Lenny hit the weights and before too long filled in his six foot two frame with impressive bulk. Lenny transformed from bullied to respected when he brutally beat one of his worst tormentors. Gone was the shoulder length blond hair, replaced with a shaved head accentuated with tattoos readily identified as the homemade jailhouse variety. No one who knew Lenny from high school would have recognized him now.   Fueled by hate, he became one of the most feared residents of his cell block. For the next eight years, Lenny enjoyed the fear he instilled in others and enjoyed the pain he inflicted on those he perceived as disrespectful.  


One fateful, rainy, Saturday afternoon, unable to lift in the Yard, Lenny wandered past the lunch room where some fellow inmates had gathered to listen to Chaplain Jack.  Chaplain Jack had once been an inmate in this very prison, but after turning his life around through the power of faith in Jesus Christ, he dedicated his life to serving the Lord.  Chaplain Jack looked like he still belonged on the inside, and caught Lenny off guard when he waved over to him and said, “Hi, I’m Chaplain Jack, come on in friend, and have a seat.”  Lenny skeptically went in but decided to listen to what the man of God had to say. 


Weekly, Chaplain Jack came and ministered and Lenny found himself, on more Saturdays than not, sitting in the lunchroom listening, and  eventually, not just listening, but asking questions and interacting.  Within a few months, Lenny prayed with the chaplain to receive Christ and entered into a discipleship program.  Lenny soon became a model prisoner and began ministering to other inmates.


The day Lenny was released he reached out to some contacts given him by Chaplain Jack and soon found himself in a welcoming community of believers who loved him for who he was and helped him get re-acclimated to society.  Encouraged to make peace with his past, Lenny decided to reach out to the one person he would have happily killed with his bare hands twenty-three years ago, Chaz Lewis.


The day Lenny contacted Chaz, Chaz contacted Andy and together they hatched a plan similar to what they had discussed on fishing night. “I’m not really sure if this is cool, man” Chaz told Andy as they discussed killing Lenny and dumping him in the swamp for gator food.  “Course it’s cool, bro, the dude wiped out a whole family and now he’s coming for you.”  “Yeah, I guess it’s either me or him, then, right?”  “Exactly!” Andy said with a wink.


Chaz and Andy found out where Lenny lived and staked out his apartment.  When Lenny returned home from a church meeting, Andy was waiting for him with an aluminum baseball bat.  After knocking Lenny out, the two smaller men wrestled his unconscious body into the bed of Andy’s pick up truck and headed out to a secluded boat ramp on U S 27. What neither man noticed was the surveillance camera attached to the apartment building, placed there due to the high crime rate in the immediate area.


The men, with great effort, transported Lenny from the pick up truck to the fishing boat and headed out to back channels where they would not be disturbed. Neither man was expecting Lenny to wake up so soon.  Only halfway to the pre planned killing spot, Lenny woke up and lunged for Andy.  Before Chaz could grab the nine millimeter handgun from the tackle box, Andy was being lifted from the boat seat by his throat.  Eyes wide with terror, Andy gurgled, “shoot him man!”  Chaz aimed and fired, but at such close range, he managed to kill two men with one bullet.  Terrified, Chaz did the only thing he could think of, he dumped both bodies overboard and hoped the alligators would do the rest.  Not knowing what else to do, Chaz drove back to Andy’s place, where he had left his car earlier in the evening.  Chaz didn’t think anyone could connect him to the night’s events and decided to leave Andy’s boat and trailer in his driveway and head home and try to forget about what happened.  


Meanwhile, the night manager at Lenny’s apartment building, having watched the attack take place on his CCTV, notified the police.  Able to identify Andy by the license plate on his boat trailer, the police sent a car to stake out Andy’s house.  Chaz never even noticed the police car parked at the end of the street as he pulled into Andy’s driveway.  Before he could get into his own car and speed home, the police were on him.  


Three years later, Chaz Lewis was walking past the prison cafeteria when  he noticed a small crowd gathering. Standing in the front of the room was a rough looking guy in civilian clothes who looked like he was no stranger to a prison jumpsuit. The man waved over to Chaz,  “Hi, I’m Chaplain Jack, come on in friend and have a seat.” 





To learn more about Writers 750 you can check it out here: https://writers750program.com/


The writing contest is open to everyone and happens every month. Also, if you are interested in becoming a better writer, I encourage you to check your my friend H.M. Shuldt's book.


Whatever you do, do it unto the Lord!

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Monday, May 10, 2021

$4.00 PER DAY! GET OUTTTA MY WAY!!

      What would you do for $4.00 per day?  How much effort would you put forth for $4.00 per day?  Imagine seeing this want ad: BACK BREAKING WORK - $4.00 PER DAY - UNLESS IT RAINS, HURRY, POSITIONS WON'T LAST!!



    As ridiculous as such an idea may seem to anyone living in an industrialized nation, if you happen to be a Christian minority in a primarily Muslim country, $4.00 per day could very well be your reality.  Many Christian families, in the nation of Pakistan, have been relegated to virtual slavery in brick factories scattered throughout the nation for a mere pittance of $4.00 per day.  If it happens to rain on any given  day and bricks cannot be made, no money is made either.  

    Before you say, "well the overall cost of living there is so much less," consider the Big Mac Index (yeah that's a real thing).  The Big Mac Index is an economic tool designed to gauge purchasing power of a nation's currency.  In Pakistan, the Big Mac is currently $3.58, about $1.46 less than an American Big Mac. So, imagine if your daily income was enough to buy a Big Mac and you could still manage to squirrel away $.42.  

    "Yeah, but a Big Mac is not really a necessity," you may say. Ok, no one really needs a Big Mac, I'll concede this point. How about a pair of shoes?  Shoes are not really a luxury item, shoes are pretty much a necessity.  A decent pair of shoes costs about $26.00. So the average brick factory worker can skip food for a week and afford a nifty pair of shoes.  

    Pakistan is only one of many nations where Christians are marginalized, persecuted and/or repressed.  The very least we should be doing, the bare minimum, is praying for our brothers and sisters around the world.  Not everyone is called to international ministry. There are plenty of ministry opportunities right in our own neighborhoods. Everyone is not called to everything, but.. everyone is called to something. 

    I have, inadvertently,  become an erstwhile WhatsApp missionary to Pakistan, and I really cannot explain how or why except it's a God thing. What started out as friendly conversations and occasional video chats over Twitter and WhatsApp has blossomed into a weekly class and sporadic preaching opportunities in various cities.  Through the wonder of technology, I, a guy who does not even possess a passport, get to interact with believers on the other side of the world.

    The last thing I want to do is fall into the trap of thinking everyone should be doing whatever I happen to be doing at the moment.  The Body of Christ is vast and diverse with each member equipped for a myriad of different acts of service.  In fact, no one should ever feel inferior to anyone else, as long as you are serving according to your calling. 

    However, if you are currently not serving, if you have been seeking God on what your calling may be, won't you consider international ministry.  Again, through the wonder of technology, you do not even have to leave home!  If you are frustrated in your walk and spiritual growth, ask God to help you think outside the box. You may be amazed where the Spirit leads you!

    A year ago, for me, Pakistan was just another country on a map. A country to which I gave little thought and the little thought I gave was not often good, given our current war on terror and the Pakistani government's role.  Now, I love my friends in Christ, whom I have had the joy of meeting and interacting daily.  I do not speak Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, and the attempts on my part to learn some words have not been very successful, even though I have a very patient teacher. 

      God has amazing plans for you, if you are willing to submit to His will. As my friend Jason said recently in one of his daily devotional videos - "God did all the heavy lifting," (If your not subscribed to his videos, you are missing out!)


    Jason works out of town and still finds time to record a quick devotional video every day.  How, because he is following God's calling, which means he is enjoying God's empowerment to do his calling.  The Lord's work is not work if you are doing the work you are called to.  

    As I said, not everything is for everybody but everybody is called to something!  What is God laying on your heart today?  Is it time to get out of your comfort zone? Nothing grows in the comfort zone!

    Whatever you are called to, please say a prayer for my friends in Pakistan, especially our brothers and sisters laboring in over one hundred degree heat for $4.00 per day!  


Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!


Friday, May 7, 2021

GYPSY ROAD TO REDEMPTION

    Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in a writing contest for Writers 750.  No, I did not win, but, it was fun!  Below is the story I submitted - Gypsy Road To Redemption.  


Gypsy Road to Redemption


     Antoine lay in bed, listening to the drone of his alarm.  Mondays were the hardest days to get out of bed for Antoine Levy, but this Monday, in particular, was more difficult than usual.  A late Sunday afternoon message from someone he believed buried deep in the past ensured this Monday would be filled with more dread than any other Monday.


      In stark contrast, merely two days earlier, Antoine awoke with excited expectation. The little ring box sitting on his dresser that fateful Saturday morning promised to change everything. On Saturday night, he proposed  to Sheila, the love of his life. And, as fate would have it, Antoine was not the only one waiting to spring a surprise.  Sheila also carried exciting news, only Sheila’s surprise was not in a small box in her pocket, Sheila’s surprise grew in her womb.



The message which sent Antoine’s happy life into a tailspin came the previous day, around 4:30 PM.  An email from a relative he had not heard from, nor even thought about, for his entire adult life shook him to his foundation: “Now that you are about to be married and have an heir, it is time you learned the truth about what happened to your parents and time for you to do what they could not, it is imperative you do not fail as they did. Meet me tomorrow at the bus station at 10:00 AM.  Come alone and do not be late. Uncle Val.”  


Uncle Val was actually Valentino Khmeleva.  Antoine had cloudy memories of Uncle Val showing up at various family functions prior to his parent’s death.  Uncle Val carried an ominous air about him and when he showed up for a family gathering, the older men would solemnly disappear into a back room with him for an hour or so.  What was discussed was never disclosed. Antoine remembered something which, at the time, held no significance, but now nearly choked him with foreboding.  The week before 8 year old Antoine’s parents died, under mysterious circumstances, Roman Levy, Antoine’s father, was for the first time, summoned to the meeting of Uncle Val and the family elders.  Young orphaned Antoine was shipped off from his home in New York to Aunt Lyla in New Jersey and had no further contact with any of the family he had known his first 8 years, including mysterious Uncle Val.


Antoine arrived at the Greyhound station five minutes before Uncle Val’s Bus, not really knowing how to respond to a man of whom he had very little recollection. He deduced, if his father’s family had a patriarch, it was Uncle Val. An inexplicable darkness gripped Antoine’s spirit, along with anticipation of secrets revealed, as the unmistakable sound and smell of diesel filled his senses.


Uncle Val was the thirteenth passenger to exit the bus.  Valentino Khmeleva was a man of not quite average height, yet, he cut a formidable image of dignified grace usually reserved for those reared among royalty, dressed in a black suit, complete with a black overcoat draped over his shoulders like a cape, accented by a blood red tie and pocket square.  Though Khmeleva was undoubtedly well into his seventies, his jet black hair, salt and pepper beard and regal bearing gave him the appearance of a much younger man.  The only accoutrement  hinting to his advanced age was a black, highly polished cane with silver wolf head handle, although, upon further inspection, the walking stick seemed more accessory than necessity.  


Somehow, Uncle Val knew exactly whom he had come to see as he walked directly to Antoine without a shred of hesitation.  In a heavy Romanian accent, Khmeleva dispelled any notion this was a warm family reunion,  “Come, quickly, we have much to discuss and you have much to do.”  Antoine, flabbergasted  by his Uncle’s direct approach, blurted out the one question, the only question which mattered, “What’s this all about?”  “Not here” came the terse reply, “you have a car, I presume? Let us go to a place we cannot be disturbed nor overheard.” 


The drive home was much more like a family reunion than the initial meeting as Uncle Val asked what Antoine remembered from his childhood prior to going to live with his mother’s sister, Lyla.  Antoine did remember the family gatherings being festive and he confessed to having a vague memory of the near stranger seated next to him.  During the drive, Uncle Val, jovially, recounted his memories of young Antoine and his parents, although there seemed to be an underlying bitterness when Valentino spoke of the late Mrs. Levy.


Antoine lay in bed pondering the life altering meeting with Uncle Val, a meeting which ended abruptly when a black limousine pulled in front of the house and whisked his uncle away to parts unknown. His uncle’s last words, as he strolled out the door were, “Do not fail as your father failed, I do not have another 20 years left to recruit your son, yes, my boy, you will have a son, I have seen it.”  Antoine Levy discovered his father’s true name was also Khmeleva, but was legally changed to Levy at the behest of Lillian, his mother.  Lillian did not want her husband and son involved in the vile business of the Khmeleva family, even if they were descended from an ancient royal bloodline.  


Antoine’s mission was to claim his rightful place as heir to the throne of a mysterious and ancient order ofGypsies in Romania. Roman Levy, Antoine’s father was recruited for this very task and failed because Lillian Levy insisted on traveling to Romania and provided enough of a distraction to prove fatal to both.  Antoine could not even begin to wrap his mind around the things Uncle Val revealed, it was madness.  His was to travel to the land of his ancestors, challenge the “usurper” as Uncle Val called him, and, if necessary, kill him.  The fact the Usurper was responsible for his parents’ deaths was quite an enticement.


Because Antoine had always been open and honest with Sheila, the next day, he shared everything with her.  As insane as the tale Antoine weaved sounded, Sheila knew this was just the opportunity she had been praying for.  While Antoine was busy learning about his past, Sheila had been busy dealing with hers and made a life changing decision. 


Sheila, days earlier, not really knowing what to do with the life growing inside her, found herself in a crisis pregnancy center, looking for options. This particular pregnancy center was run by folks from a local church and after a couple of hours of counseling and prayer, Sheila was not only committed to keeping the baby but made a commitment to give her life to Jesus Christ. 


After sharing her exciting news with Antoine, Sheila saw the turmoil in her fiance’s eyes. She shared everything the counselor had spoken to her, and, as a result, Antoine was more conflicted than ever.  On one hand, the things Sheila shared sparked a longing in his heart he had never experienced and on the other hand he was seriously considering the mission of vengeance and murder for which Uncle Val had recruited him.  


That night, Antoine’s dreams were fraught with images of death and life.  In his dream, his Uncle Val flew in like a giant bat, enticing him to give in to his anger and bitterness to claim what was rightfully his; while Sheila appeared as an angel calling him to a warm and glowing light promising forgiveness and freedom from the need for vengeance.  He did not realize this was more than a mere decision, this was a spiritual battle for his very soul. 


What Lillian Levy knew and Sheila suspected was Uncle Val was a master of dark arts and Antoine's birthright was to rule over a coven of witches.  Sheila prayed all night as evil fought for the heart of the man she loved. Antoine awoke in a cold sweat, crying out to a God he barely believed in, asking for a sign. Dimly at first, a light entered  his window and grew in intensity, lighting up the cherished photograph of his parents on the wall across from his bed. In the photo, his mother’s visage shone much like Sheila had in his dream. With an inexplicable urgency, Antoine jumped out of bed and for the first time in his life, knelt down and prayed.  As he prayed for forgiveness and committed himself to Jesus, he felt all the heaviness and darkness Uncle Val cast over his soul evaporate.  


A few hundred miles away, Valentino Khmeleva gripped at his evil shriveled heart as the dark spirit which sustained his life fled like a rat leaving a sinking ship. Khmeleva was no longer of any use to his dark master and was tossed aside like a bag of dung. His last thoughts were a powerless curse directed toward his still praying nephew.





If you are interested in learning more about Writers 750

you can check it out https://writers750program.com/


The writing contest is open to everyone and happens every month. Also, if you are interested in becoming a better writer, I encourage you to check your my friend H.M. Shuldt's book.


Whatever you do, do it unto the Lord!

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!



Wednesday, April 21, 2021

WAS THE ANGRY BANKER WORTH AN HOUR PER WEEK?

  


  Every once in awhile, I hear a story which not only blesses my heart but inspires my soul. When my friend shared this story with me, I knew I had to share it with whomever happened to stumble upon this blog.

     Each week, I have the honor of teaching a team of evangelists in a predominantly Muslim country.  There is a pretty sizable time zone difference, so the class takes place via WhatsApp video, very early on Sunday morning and the teaching is done through an interpreter.  This is one of those outside of the box ministry opportunities I love being a part of.  

    For the safety of the team, I will omit the name of the country and the name of my friend as the main focus of their ministry is in the Muslim community. 

    A couple of years ago, my friend became aware of a man, a Muslim Banker, who was feared by everyone around him as he was a violent man with a mean temper.  God laid a burden, for the Banker, on my friend's heart so, under the guise of wanting to open a bank account, my friend visited the Banker and began to ask questions about banking.  

    After several visits, my friend and the banker became friendly and little by little a genuine friendship developed.  Notice, my friend did not go into the bank and begin proclaiming Jesus right away, first, he developed a relationship.  Through much prayer and patience, my friend was, eventually, able to share with the Banker a little about his faith, not in a proselytizing manner, but in conversation, as friends would normally discuss their personal lives.

    One day, undoubtedly by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, my friend asked the Banker if he would be willing to hold onto his Bible overnight, as my friend walked home through a heavily populated Muslim section of the city and feared harassment for carrying a Bible.  The Banker agreed to hold onto the Bible.

     My friend did not suggest the Banker read the Bible, he simply asked him to hold onto it. Night after night, my friend left his Bible with the Banker and eventually, curiosity got the better of the Banker and he began to read.  Each day my friend would retrieve his Bible and eventually conversations about the Banker's nightly readings took place. 

    Over a period of time, the Banker became a believer in Christ and is now involved with the evangelism team.  A soul was rescued from the clutches of hell because a brave man cared enough to invest time in making a disciple instead of trying to make a convert.

    Jesus commanded us to make disciples.  Making disciples requires an investment of time in the life of another.  This may be the single biggest problem with the modern church today:  we are not committed to spending time making disciples.  

    Jesus invested three years in the lives of His disciples, Paul invested time in Timothy, Priscilla and Aquilla invested in Apollos, the list goes on and on.  True legacy is investing in the the spiritual growth and maturity of others. 

    "I just don't have time," you may say.  When I consider the time I waste pursuing worthless things, it truly puts me to shame.  Who in your life is God prompting you to invest some time? Is this person's soul worth an hour or two per week?  

    My friend is a regular person, just like you, just like me, yet he knew God could do something amazing through him. 

Matthew 28:19-20 - Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus commanded us to make disciples, but, He also promised to be with us. What are you waiting for, my friend? Let's be disciple makers!

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!


Thursday, April 1, 2021

DID I JUST MEET A TIME TRAVELER??

     

This past weekend, I had the honor of being one of the guest speakers at the Place of Skulls 20th Anniversary concert. 


     We had an amazing event and were blessed to meet some really great people.

                                             


      The trip, itself, was not without incident, but, the strangest encounter, by far was a reunion of sorts:


      As my wife and I pulled up to the venue, Essential Church in Huntsville AL, I noticed a guy waiting to cross the street and I thought, "I recognize that guy."  I have never been to Huntsville before, mind you.  

    As we walked up to the door, the guy I had seen in the street was standing there waiting to go in.  I was greeting the attendees and went up to the man and said, "we've met."  And this is where things start to get weird.  The man said, "yep, I remember you, it's been a lot of years!"  Because often I get mistaken for other people, I kind of dismissed the idea, welcomed the guy to the show and went inside.

    As scheduled events often do, there were some last minute changes and I was told I would be opening the show with a message, rather than closing, so I walked to a lighted area to review my notes.  Lo and behold, the same guy is where I was heading and he says, "You still got that same walk, huh?"  So, now, my curiosity is peaked, and I finally asked him, "where did we meet?"  He looked at me for a moment and said, ominously, "Chattanooga", then nodded his head for emphasis.  I thought, "no way, I haven't been to Chattanooga since 1986!"

   Dubious of the whole encounter, I asked, "where in Chattanooga?" and the answer was certainly not at all what I was expecting!  You see, in 1986, at the age of 18, I was in a tiny little bar outside of Chattanooga getting my first tattoo.  This guy, apparently, remembered me from that bar!  How? I can not even begin to guess.

    As we talked out the details, neither one of us looking anything like we did in 1986, it was clear, this guy knew stuff he could not have made up. My wife postulated an explanation as good as any other - This guy was a time traveler who came back in time to mess with my head!

    My wife mused, "what if he was you from the future having a good laugh."  I thought that would be something, maybe because of the Mandela Effect, time travelers are afraid to alter history so they only use the technology to mess with themselves and loved ones! 

    Because the man is 65, for my wife's theory to be true, we would have to master time travel in the next 13 years. Since the guy was a few inches taller than me, I thought, maybe it was my son Daniel, 48 years from now.  Daniel is the only person I know who would use time travel technology to go back in time just to mess with someone's head (my head in particular) and have a good laugh about it!

    Obviously, neither I, nor my wife, actually believe in time travel, but, what if...

    The point of this story is, there are plenty of events and situations we find ourselves in which defy explanation.  There is a whole unseen realm governed by the One who transcends time and space. We are mostly  unaware of what is happening in the spirit realm.  

    God is not unaware: 1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

    For us, what seems like chance encounters are often divine appointments. Followers of Jesus should expect the unexpected and realize, what we call supernatural is God's natural.  

    If your spiritual life is a little stale, a little stagnant you probably need to spend some time in prayer seeking God's power and direction. God has so much more for you than a mundane boring existence.  

    Learn to expect the unexpected and be prepared to go wherever God leads... you probably won't be meeting time travelers, but scripture says you may entertain angels! 

    I hope you are up for the challenge! 

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

MESSENGER - IN TO WIN - ALBUM REVIEW




Every once in a while, I come across a band I have never heard of and... really like.  Messenger is one of those bands.  I am pretty sure you will like them too.

    Messenger is a power/prog/melodic metal band with clean vocals and a fresh unique sound.  This is not, by any means, a "sounds like" or "if you like so and so you will love Messenger" band; Messenger has a distinct style blending musical influences from the 70's, 80's and today.  

    Messenger is based in Washington DC and is composed of Frank Clifton Herring - vocals/bass, Vlad Gurin - guitar and Michael John Hoover  - drums.  Studio musicians Rich Sandoval and Mike Zahorchak contributed bass and drums, respectively, for In To Win.

    In To Win, as an album overall, evokes the ethos of noble warriors who have been battle tested and stand firm in the knowledge theirs is a righteous cause.  Most songs on this album, according to the band, deal with "conflict and the response to conflict" and I would have to agree.  The listener cannot help but be inspired to aspire to something greater than the regular mundane day to day experience. Our Christian life should never be boring, and albums like In To Win remind us to not settle for mediocre.  

    From the first track, Time Machine, there is no doubt this album rocks.  Herring's call to "Kick it!" sets the tone and pace, not only for the opening, but for the whole album.  Immediately, the listener notices the care put into the musical quality.  Excellent guitar riffs, a driving rhythm section and top notch vocals are sure to please the most critical ear.

     The onslaught continues with Blind-Sided. A heavy hitter crafted around the inspiring guitar riffs of Vlad Gurin.  This song, both musically and lyrically reflects the the challenges we face when our plans are interrupted by unexpected circumstances.  Being a faith based band has it's definite perks, spiritually speaking, as the Holy Spirit certainly showed up in the lyrics, ministering, not only to the listener, but to the musicians as well.  

    The third track, Take Flight slows down the pace a bit, demonstrating the band's versatility and highlighting Herring's vocal range.  Vocally, I would put Herring in the category of  Rob Rock or Stairway's Graeme Leslie, for range and tone. Hearing Herring, dynamically paired with the uber-talented guitar work of Gurin, one can feel the chemistry, comparable to early Joe Perry and Steven Tyler.  

    The fourth track, Give a Shout!, is nothing but fun. I would expect this to be the opener to a live show. A driving onslaught which commands the audience, "If you like what you're hearing, give a shout!",  evokes a vision of hundreds of leather clad revelers raising a fist in the air and shouting along with the band. A perfect song, given the motif of the overall album. 

    The next track, my favorite, Crows and the Hawk, deals with the very sensitive and timely topic of racial unity in a world that seems to have forgotten we are one race... the human race.  Meticulously crafted, this song is backdropped by a single beat, enhanced by the intentional guitar work fashioned after Eastern European folk music. CATH highlights the international flavor and influences of Gurin, adding to the overall freshness and unique sound that is Messenger




    While every song on this album is worth a listen or ten, the last song I want to mention is Satan's Nightmare. This radio worthy song begs to be listened to at maximum decibels.  Starting off with an unmistakable modern sound, there are plenty of change ups and memorable riffs, along with catchy lyrics and chorus. The musical change up is reminiscent of Guns and Roses, where more than one song and style is detected.  

    In To Win is a winner overall.  I tested this album by listening to it three times in a row and enjoyed it as much on the third listen as I did on the first, which is very rare for me.  Another thing I noticed is I did not find myself skipping any tracks on the third listen, also rare for me.  

     To learn more about Messenger or to order directly from the band, please check out this link  Messenger Official Site  

    If you are looking for a worthy addition to your musical library, you will not want to miss out on In To Win by Messenger.  Don't forget to play it loud!!

Now go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

    

Monday, January 4, 2021

THE WORLD IS IN CHAOS? STAND FIRM IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

   

 How well do you know Jesus?  Think about this question for just a moment.  Sure, you can read about Jesus in the Bible and listen to one of millions of messages or read one of millions of books about Jesus, but how well do you really know Jesus?


      Peter spent about 3 years with Jesus. Saw all the miracles, heard all the inside teaching and watched the Man live life, yet, Peter came to a stunning and devastating realization one morning, in a courtyard: he did not really know Jesus.

       Picture the scene, Jesus has just spent hours instructing 11 of His closest followers about what would soon happen. Peter declares, "even if I must perish with you, you shall not be taken away." Yet,only a few hours later, Jesus has been arrested and three times Peter denies even knowing Jesus. Why did Peter deny Jesus? Sure, he was afraid, but why was he afraid? Ultimately, Peter did not believe Jesus was in control of the situation.

      If we truly believe God is in absolute control, we really should never live in fear.  Remember Jesus' frustration when the Disciples were terrified of the storm while at sea? Jesus was peacefully asleep while his followers had a little freak-out because they thought the boat they were in was about to be destroyed by the storm.  Jesus spoke the words, "Be Still!" as much to the storm as He did to His frightened followers.  

      For God to be God, He must be all knowing, all powerful and good.  It is very easy to give intellectual ascent to the idea of an all powerful, all knowing, and all good God, but, putting intellectual ascent into practice may be another matter, entirely.  

      Currently, the entire world is facing unprecedented upheaval.  The COVID 19 pandemic has touched every corner of our planet,  changing how we do almost everything.  Geological events are ramping up as dormant volcanoes are rumbling to life and earthquakes are increasing in strength and frequency.  

    Politically speaking, uncertainty is the best word to describe current conditions. Who will be sworn in as President of the United States on January 20th?  It depends on who you listen to.  Undoubtedly, election fraud has been committed, however, can the level of fraud be determined and proven in time to overturn the election results?  

     Added to the mix is crazed legions of arm chair prophets, prognosticating the latest "message from Jesus, Himself!"  YouTube and social media are rife with the contradictory messages of  modern day, self proclaimed, prophets, as the faithful seek answers and order during increased turmoil and uncertainty.

     There is no denying, chaos seems to be the order of the day, however, seems is the operative word.  As faithful followers of Jesus Christ, we have certain assurances.  Right now, you may feel as if you are on a small boat ravaged by a ferocious storm.  You may be wondering if you will survive or if God is even aware of what is happening.  

     Having a solid personal relationship with God is paramount to standing firm during these times of upheaval and uncertainty. Remember the Disciples' fear and surprise in the storm tossed boat? Remember Peter's bravado turned to cowardice? All the result of not really knowing and consequently not trusting, God.  

     There are some practical steps to supernatural peace and joy, especially during trying times:

1. A regular and intentional time of prayer. Talking to God is the          best way to get to know Him.

2. A regular time of Bible reading, meditation, and memorization.        Learning key passages will protect you from fear and doubt.

3. A regular time of worship. Recounting the glories of God helps 
    us keep His power and faithfulness in proper perspective.

4. Fellowship with other believers.  Knowing you are not alone and      drawing on the strengths of others is essential. 

   God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, God's word assures us His perfect love drives out fear.  Nothing taking place in the world today, nor in your personal life, for that matter, has taken God by surprise.  Do you trust Him?  I mean really trust Him?  Are you assured God is in your corner?  If you know Him, you will trust Him.  If you trust Him, you will experience joy and peace, even as the world seems to spin out of control. God's got you and He's got this, whatever this happens to be in your life.  Fear not, for Christ is with us, even to the end of the age.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

WHY SHOULD I OBSERVE THE JEWISH FEAST OF TABERNACLES (SUKKOT)?

     

     

    Did you ever wonder why God gave His people feasts to observe for all generations? Each feast commemorates something specific and most have to do with agricultural events. There were spring feasts and fall feasts. The feasts were not suggestions for the children of Israel, but commands. In fact, for 3 feasts, each year, every Hebrew male was required to present himself before God, at the Temple in Jerusalem.

    Was this something God did just to keep everyone busy or was there a deeper purpose?

     As we study scripture, we quickly learn, from the earliest chapters of Genesis, the Bible is God's story of the fall and redemption of mankind.

     We are all familiar with the story of the fall of Adam and Eve. After Adam and Eve rebelled, God provided covering for them with animal skin and promised, in Genesis 3, the Seed of Woman would defeat Satan, once and for all.

      Next, in Genesis 6, man's bloodline was corrupted by rogue angelic beings who rebelled against God and impregnated human women, forming a corrupt race of giants. To preserve the human bloodline, necessary to fulfill His promise in Genesis 3, God wiped the earth clean with a flood and restarted humanity through Noah, a man, we are told, who was "perfect in all his generations." Perfect in all his generations was not referring to Noah's good behavior but, rather, his undefiled genetics.

     Not long after the flood, man rose up in rebellion against God and built a tower, in an effort to declare independence from God. God destroyed the work, confused the languages and ultimately, divided the earth into nations.

      Contemporary with the time immediately after the Tower of Babel debacle, God called a man named Abram and promised to establish a mighty nation through him and by this mighty nation, God also promised to bring redemption to mankind.

     Notice the pattern, man rebels yet God makes a way for man to be in fellowship with Him. In the same way, God gave us remembrances to remain mindful of Him and of the promises He made. The Feasts of Israel were given for just such a purpose.

     One feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, also referred to as Sukkot, is a time set aside by God for His children to commemorate. As Christ followers, we are not commanded, at this time, to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, but as Christ followers we get to keep the Feast!

You may ask, "why would I want to?" Well... let me tell you.

     For Israel, Sukkot commemorates God's preserving the nation through 40 years of wandering in the desert, on the way to the Promised Land. For the follower of Christ, it is a good reminder of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as God tabernacles with us through the indwelling.

     Many may not know this: the Feast of Tabernacles is the one feast every nation will be required to observe during the Kingdom age. Zechariah 14:16-19 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

     When Messiah comes, all nations will be required to keep the Feast of Tabernacles and every nation will be required to send a representative to Jerusalem for the feast each year. Any nation not sending a representative will receive no rain for a year.

     God, obviously thinks the Feast of Tabernacles is a pretty big deal. If God thinks it's a big deal, we probably should too. Unfortunately, many believers have no idea about most of the feasts of the Lord.

     The most exciting part about the Feasts of the Lord is the connection to the ministry of Messiah. The Spring Feasts: Passover, First Fruits and and Pentecost all found fulfillment in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. On Passover He died (Lamb of God), on First Fruits He rose (First born from the grave) and on Pentecost the Church age began (ingathering of the Wheat).

     It only stands to reason, the fall feasts will find fulfillment when Messiah comes to establish His Kingdom. Many scholars believe Messiah was born during the Feast of Tabernacles and will return on the Feast of Tabernacles to rule and reign for 1000 years. God's physical presence, in the person of Messiah, shall dwell, or tabernacle, with His people. Israel shall be restored - all twelve tribes. Peace will not only exist in Israel but will emanate from Jerusalem, the City of Peace.

     When one considers all the meaning God packed into the Feast of Tabernacles, it becomes apparent this is a feast worth observing. In a few days, Orthodox Jews all over the world will be putting up temporary shelters and enjoying a week of great fellowship and mirth. I still remember seeing booths made of palm fronds decorating the driveways of an Orthodox neighborhood I worked in, many years ago, in South Florida. The families observing the feast would eat meals in the booths and invite friends and relatives over for festivities.

    For 2020, Sukkot begins on October 3rd and runs through October 9th. If you get a chance, set aside at least one of those days, have a meal outside in a pavilion or under a dining tent and ponder God's promise to one day tabernacle among us. Spend some time in the Torah, have a little worship, enjoy a little fellowship and look up for our redemption is nigh.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!