Keeping Up Appearances

He had a nice car…

Clean and spotless in the driveway. His yard overgrown, weeds obscuring the old forgotten toys, which were once just as shiny new.

He had nice clothes…

Name brand shoes and latest trends, all hung in a closet, doorless and alit by a flickering light.

He had a nice wife…

Curvy, beautiful—Fake. With eyes that reflected only cellphone screens and secret lovers. Ears deaf to the cry of her children as they moved from one new distraction to another, looking for something to fill the void.

He had nice kids…

They clung to his name brand clothes as he walked out the door, placed their handprints on the fresh gleam of his car as he sped off. Another night, another fight.

He had a nice home.

With trash piled high, broken glass. Repairs neglected, and the smell of drugs in the air. But, it had a big yard, fenced in, a “do not enter” sign nailed to the gate. Pit Bulls growling at all who passed.

He had a nice life…

Parties, laughter, drugs…all rushing to fill the void his own childhood had denied him. Washing ashore only to find that he isn’t satisfied. Jumping back into the consuming sea again and again until he inevitably drowns…

His kids taken.

His wife already leeching off of another while his home is bulldozed to the ground.

The neighbors shaking their heads at the state of his life. Their words vague and empty of compassion or knowledge of this man or his family.

Admitting simply as they parted…

He had a nice car.

One Wish

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An old man was walking by when he heard the voices of two young men. He pursued the sound and called out to them just as they were about to enter a cave.

They turned and waved.

“Hello, sir!” called the oldest of the two, no more than 30 years of age. He shook the old man’s hand and his eyes were alit with adventure. The youngest, a mere 18-year-old, stood back, impatient to continue traveling.

After all, the old man was slow going, with a cane and unconcerned with the passing of time, surely he would hold them back, and they wouldn’t make it to their destination.

“Where are you boys heading?” asked the old man.

“We have heard a tale about a magician who lives at the top of a cliff some distance away, if you can make it there before nightfall, he will grant you a wish, but only one.” The oldest smirked at his young friend, “no matter who is with you, after one wish has been made, he will disappear from sight, and you won’t find him again for some time.”

“I see,” said the old man in interest, “what is it that you hope to gain?”

The young men hesitated, not wanting to disclose such information to a stranger. At last, the oldest said, “I want a wife, I’m at the age where I want to start a family and begin a new adventure as a husband and someday, a parent.”

The youngest quietly said, “I want to know my purpose, why I am here, what I’m supposed to do….that’s all.” He glanced at his feet shyly.

The old man smiled, “great wishes, very wise. Is it alright if I come with you? As you can see I am old and nearing the end of my journey. The adventure you are going on may just make me feel young again.”

The 30-year-old shrugged, “fine by me, I understand.” meanwhile the youngest frowned but nodded anyway.

The journey was long and harrowing. There were many obstacles and times when everyone had to face their fears. The cave was dark, the forest eerie, the open fields never-ending, but finally the steep cliff stood before them.

They formed a circle at its base. “We made it, and the sun is just setting, we should storm up it as fast as we can!” The youngest said, his face red with sweat pouring down his brow.

The 30-year-old nodded, “okay, but we should still be careful, nothing is more important than staying alive, wishes or not.”

The old man smiled at them, “you can take your path or you can follow me, I am going around the cliff and finding an easier route to the top.”

The young men laughed, “that could take ages, and we don’t have enough time for that. Plus, if we go together, only one of us can make a wish and I don’t want to decide, so whoever makes it to the top first will get his wish fair and square.”

They shook hands and parted, each with their own plan in mind. The youngest made for a good start, but he exhausted himself and slipped, fracturing his ankle.  His friend saw him trip and cautiously climbed toward him, offering him a hand. From there they both climbed together as a team.

In his heart, the youngest had decided that his friend deserved the wish, but kept his decision to himself for the time being.

The 30-year old, though at first annoyed, now felt sorry for the younger and knew that he wanted the wish more than himself, so he decided that at the top he would give the wish to him.

Once they made it to the top, the sun was just dipping over the horizon and an old weathered hand reached down for theirs, they accepted gratefully as the old man pulled them up. The young men shook their heads in disbelief, “you won old man, the wish is rightfully yours.”

The youngest finally shook the old man’s hand respectfully, “you were wise and I was foolish, make your wish to the magician.”

They turned and saw not a magician but an image. A vision of both the young men, the oldest married with children in his arms, the young man a doctor in a mission field, reading a bible. The old man was nowhere to be seen in the image, they turned and looked at him in confusion, the old man smiled and tears rolled down his face.

“I already made my wish, and that is that your wishes would come true.”

The young men stared at him in shock and wonder, “why?” was all they could ask.

“I am old, and my time here is almost up, there is nothing I could want for myself, and everything that I want for others. I want you to have everything I couldn’t have. You see I never married, never had children of my own, and I went nearly my whole life without knowing my purpose, until now.”

He looked over the cliff at the clouds and earth, too beautiful to behold. “I wasted so much time, and I hope this small thing will make up for some of it…now I guess my wish is to simply go home.”

To the young men’s further amazement the magician, whoever and wherever he was granted two wishes that day…the old man disappeared from their very eyes and both knew that he was home.

Later, as they stood at the base of the cliff, the moon shining and stars filling the night sky, the youngest asked, “if you could make one more wish what would it be?”

His friend smiled, “that I wouldn’t take a single thing for granted…including you.” He threw his arm around him and together they traveled back to the beginning, forever changed.

What is your one wish?

 

The Glimpse

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Michael was 14 years old when he gave his life to God. He had witnessed something so profound that his heart was forever changed. It all happened on one Sunday night when all was quiet and a sliver of light could be seen through his bedroom door.

Previously, that evening at youth group, Michael had faced the topic of Heaven. Many of the other teens shared in his ideas of what Heaven looked like, and no one knew what they would be doing for all eternity. His friend, Chase, was with him, and though agnostic, he seemed least flexible in his beliefs about the afterlife.

Chase leaned over and whispered to Michael, “have you ever heard the quote, “I’d rather rule in hell than serve in Heaven?”‘ Michael shook his head, Chase smirked at the other teens who were deep in conversation and continued, “what about you? Heaven doesn’t sound all that great to me, I mean floating around on clouds with harps and such isn’t my style.” Michael frowned at him, “and burning in hell for all eternity is?” Chase scratched his head, “well no, not exactly, but you get what I mean, Heaven sounds boring, I mean haven’t you ever wondered why satan fell if Heaven’s really that great?” Michael didn’t have a ready answer to this, and couldn’t help but feel challenged in his Faith at the question.

That night he lay in bed staring at the small glimpse of light, like a beam, cutting through the darkness in his room. He imagined it was a doorway to Heaven and not just the doorway to the hall. Heaven is full of God’s light he thought, that much was certain.

The image of the doorway remained as he fell asleep. In a dream state, he floated from his bed and plopped gently upon the cold wooden floor before it. The light making him squint and strange smells and sounds greeted him as he stepped closer to the door, hand outstretched. This can’t be right? Maybe his parents were making a nighttime snack and watching a nature documentary, he laughed at the idea. No way! nothing smells this sweet and there’s even a warm breeze coming through! He pushed the door open and gaped at the sight before him.

It was a forest, no, a mountain range, or quite possibly a mixture of all the biomes combined but hardly comparable to earth. The trees were so large and thick that it made earth’s trees look like weeds, and the flowers so brilliant and colorful that Michael forgot to breathe at the display. He saw colors that had never been seen before, and smelled the greatest natural aromas, so pure and strong they put his mom’s case of essential oils to shame. “Where am I?” He asked aloud, amazed at the power and conviction of his own voice, no longer that of a young boy’s whose voice was going through its awkward stage.

He saw his reflection as he bent over a stream, the water was pure crystal and though Michael longed to drink it, he didn’t dare disrupt the image of himself that he beheld. It was a flawless him, a Michael that was more real and complete than he’d ever seen before. This is who I really am? He laughed out loud, unashamed to actually love who he was, possibly for the first time.

A voice called out his name, his real name. Michael’s inner spirit immediately responded and at that moment he was fully aware of who he was and who had spoken.

Jesus walked toward him, the grass and flowers almost bowing as he passed by them. His beauty and purity cast all creation into shadow in comparison. Michael fell to his knees before the Almighty, filled with awesome and all-consuming love. Jesus smiled at him and gestured to the landscape around them, “this is Heaven, the home I’ve been preparing for you.” Michael looked again and noticed more with each new glance, could I ever really uncover all its mysteries? In a place where to turn over a stone, merely opens a new world to explore… 

“This is what creation looks like when there are no limitations, the earth is a cursed land that is stunted by darkness. Heaven is free of such boundaries,” Jesus explained as he lifted Michael to his feet. The beauty was so captivating that Michael reached out toward a tree, whose tops shot straight up into the clouds.

He felt the rough skin of the tree, it felt more solid and real than anything he had felt before. Jesus laughed, “yes, this reality is more real than what you know. I created time, a space for my children to exist in, if only for a very short while.” He reached out and placed a hand on Michael’s head, like a father toward his son, he ruffled his hair and said, “that place is not your home, you were made to live eternally…here with me.”

Michael thought of his friend Chase’s words and wished he were here to see what Heaven was really like. If he only knew! Michael thought desperately, Jesus’s face grew sad, reading his thoughts, “Chase is my son too, and I’ve prepared a place for him here also, but he must choose it.” In Heaven, Michael couldn’t help but feel overwhelming hope and joy, and yet he was moved by the passion in Jesus’s eyes for Chase. He has prepared a room for Chase, one that may remain empty…forever.

The nagging question came rushing back, “Jesus, why did satan fall?” Again, his face became sad, “walking among mankind, I’ve seen many forms of evil…pride and selfish ambition being the most destructive, and quite common.” He bent toward a flower, cupping it gently in his scarred palms, it was a radiant flower that shimmered in the light of God, casting rainbows in all directions. Jesus continued, “he was given everything, beauty, power, talent, authority” He glanced at the stream Michael had watched his reflection in not long ago, “he didn’t worship God for what he had been given, instead he looked upon his reflection and chose to worship himself, he longed to become God.”

He’d rather rule in hell than serve in Heaven…

“Hell is a place without my presence, a place ruled by selfish pride. He chose self over God, hatred over love, pride over humility, and ultimately darkness over light.” Jesus turned to Michael, and he smiled warmly at him, despite the weight upon his shoulders, “do not pity him, son, he received what he wanted, and he is not the last…” The words were painful for him to say, and Michael noticed tears in his eyes.

Michael couldn’t imagine turning his back on this place, but most of all he couldn’t imagine turning away from Jesus. “I want to stay here, with you…,” Michael said surely, “but first, I want to lead as many of my brothers and sisters here as possible, so that no room will be empty!” Jesus’s smile grew, “you are such a delight! Do you know how much I love you?” Michael hugged him, and never felt more home in his life.

He opened his eyes and saw that he was hugging his pillow, laying in his bedroom, the light in the doorway, seemed lesser than before. He sat up, raised his hands, and gave his life to God. After that he prayed for Chase well into the night, believing without a doubt that everything, was about to change…

 

 

 

The Salesman Pastor

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Pete was a car salesman for many years. He learned from his father all the ways to rope people in, how to make something old and beat-up look desirable and affordable, and how to paste on a friendly trustworthy smile. The result, people liked Pete, no one felt like they were buying junk but that they were truly getting a good deal. In their eyes Pete was their friend, he was on their side and would do anything to help his customers out.

Strange as it may seem, one of his customers actually did become his friend. Pete was drawn to something in this man that he did not possess, if only he knew what that was. This man soon invited Pete to church, his church happened to be the largest one in town, a megachurch that Pete had often marveled at on his way to work. Pete sat open-mouthed as the pastor, clean cut and clad in a suit and tie entered the stage after an amazing worship set. He held everyone’s attention, his eyes swept the room and Pete noticed that this man too wore that friendly trustworthy smile he had mastered as a salesman. The pastor then went on to sway and persuade his flock to give their lives to Jesus. He painted a life of luxury, a life of constant joy and hope. The latter being a life of hell and emptiness. Pete couldn’t help but think, “what a deal!”

During the alter call Pete gave his life to God and decided then and there that he would become a pastor just like the one who stood on the high pedestal before him bathed in glory. At this moment, saving the lost wasn’t on Pete’s mind, only promoting himself and taking on what he thought was a better salesman job, one that would buy more people. Let’s face it, everyone wants a life of bliss!

Due to his skill and his outward charisma, Pete soon had a church of his own. Like his personality, it was outwardly desirable, the band that he had put together was perfect, the cafe room, warm and inviting, the sanctuary a throne room, with lights, cushioned black seats, New Testament Bibles, fog machines, the works. The entrance lobby held “freebies”, that helped to rope people in, things like coffee mugs, t-shirts, inspirational books etc.

As to his sermons, he plucked verses and hand-picked stories from the Bible that helped to paint a Jesus that everyone could relate too. He was warm and fuzzy and just wanted everyone to believe in him so that they could enjoy a life of bliss with the promise of an afterlife of more bliss. God’s people didn’t have to do anything but accept Jesus and support the church financially. That was all they needed to do to earn a ticket to heaven! the latter was simply a bad deal, as far as Pete was concerned only a fool would turn down the deal that he offered.

The church grew, quickly. People flocked to have their ears tickled with half-truths and to hear about hippie Jesus and a laid back God. Satan was simply the bad salesman, the one wanting to rope people into a bad deal. Pete failed to recognize that he was much like that as a car salesman, and just as vile as a pastor. He had mutilated the Word of God, had erased the need for true lovers of Christ, and had completely destroyed the existence of sin and the need for real repentance. The matter of life and death had been cheapened to that of a business deal. People were coming to the altar to sign this deal, picking up their “get out of jail free” card, and then going on about their lives…as lost and unchanged as ever, except they now had the assurance that “that” life was perfectly ok.

It was a Sunday like every other, Pete’s church was now officially mega. A small town pastor entered the front doors and beheld the scene before him with apparent distaste. The multiple tithing bins, the cheap-made freebies, the expensive books and merchandise promoting the church all lined before the entrance to the sanctuary reminded him of the time Jesus upturned the money changers tables in the Temple because they cut off the people from a relationship with God.

He stepped into the sanctuary and saw the bright flashing lights and fog machines and noticed the crowd moved by the sole experience. Where were the true worshippers of Spirit and Truth? He sat down and prayed till the music ceased as if on cue and everyone seated. He looked up from his praying and saw Pete enter the stage much like the President of the world would. His image screamed wealth and prosperity, and though he smiled warmly at them all, the small town pastor felt only a chill go down his spine.

The sermon was brief, it talked about a Jesus void of zealous passion, a God who only watched things from His distant throne, was He only the ticket master? And a devil that was in plain sight, a bumbling fool that people could easily avoid if they gave their lives to God? No, if they financially supported this church and joined its ever-growing country club. The small town pastor sat quite still and waited till the sermon closed, and everyone left, some having just bought their tickets to heaven. The pastor only then disembarked the stage, his smile turning to greed as his eyes beheld the money poured out before the altar. He then locked eyes with the small town pastor and approached him, his smile returning to its original feigned innocence.

“Hello, did you give your life to Jesus today?” He asked, the small town pastor chuckled, “son I gave my life a long time ago and it’s not supposed to look like this.” He gestured around the room, though he had spoken kindly, the words stung Pete’s ego, he had never dealt with a critic before and didn’t like to be called “son.” He straightened his tie, his smile grew tight and thin, “how do you know you are saved, my friend? What if you were brought here for a reason?” The small town pastor chuckled again, “oh, I was brought here for a reason alright.” He suddenly stood and his warm smiled disappeared, he gripped Pete’s shoulders like a man pleading for reason. “Son, what you have done here is a grave thing! You have made a business out of peoples fear and desire for security, you have robbed them of the truth and without out this truth, how can anyone really be free?!”

Pete pushed the man’s hands away and stood back, his anger was suddenly overcome with a grip of fear, the fear of God. He looked at his shaking hands and gasped, “I…I wanted to sell Jesus to them, make Him desirable…” the small town pastor shook his head, “son, Jesus is already desirable, He gave his life as a ransom for many, God is already all-powerful, and satan, though wicked is not witless but very cunning in his attempts to take the flock!” The small town pastor then rubbed his eyes, “…your flock son, is not saved, the wolves have entered your gates, have devoured your sheep and you have made them ignorant to this.” He pulled out his own Bible, worn as it was from being read over and over. He handed it to Pete who still stood shaking, confused. “Read it son, the whole thing this time, don’t leave anything out, that’s why I was brought here today.” With that the small town pastor turned and left, leaving Pete alone with his thoughts.

And Pete then read the Word of God, this time listening to every word, not scanning it for what he could use to create his own religion. He read 2 Peter 2:3,

“in their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” 

Pete thought of all the people who supported him and loved him, why only one critic? He found Luke 6:26,

“Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”

He had known the truth the whole time, deep down he knew what he was doing, and yet, he too wanted to believe what he taught. He flipped to 2 Timothy 4:3-4,

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit
their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
With tears in his eyes, he turned to Acts 20:28-30 and read,
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”

 

He closed the Bible and looked out upon the great sanctuary and wept. That day, Pete was no longer a salesman pastor, he truly gave his life to God and the end of his next sermon caused more than half the church to walk out. He called that small town pastor and asked to be mentored by him. In time, his smile grew truly trustworthy and kind, his flock grew slowly, but Pete was sure that all those who gave their lives to God truly transformed, picking up their cross to follow Jesus and not himself.

Pete stood upon the stage, no longer a pedestal, but in his heart, an open field, with a shepherd’s staff in his hand, protecting his flock from the cunning wolf who had proven himself a foe not to overlook. True salvation can’t be bought, a pastor’s burden isn’t light, and the truth cannot be divided.

 

 

 

The Journey

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The sun was beating down, sweat formed on my brow as I hiked along a wide forest trail. People passed by quite often, their numbers growing. Many looked around at the surrounding forest as if hoping to spot something of importance. Others kept their eyes on the path, oblivious to everything as they pushed forward, intent on reaching their goal.

I started to feel trapped, corraled like sheep in a pin as the path grew busier and the push of bodies kept me going forward, ever forward.

A noise suddenly lifted me from my misery…Laughter. It came from the forest, I tried to stop and listen, but the throng of people propelled me onward. Now I kept my ears perked, and again to my surprise, I heard laughter, and this time it was combined with the sound of a rushing stream. I instantly became aware that I was thirsty, so very thirsty!

It no longer mattered that a throng of people surrounded me, I turned around and fought my way toward the noise. My actions were met with angry glares and hurtful words, but they didn’t compare to the deep thirst I had. It was then that I noticed, hardly visible amidst the large green flora, a thin winding trail. Wonder-filled my soul as I took my first step, joy followed as I then ran, free of the crowd, feeling the leaves tickle my bare arms as I passed.

The stream was wide and the purest crystal clear. I jumped straight in and felt immediately renewed. Dirt and sweat washed away as I swam and drank and laughed. I was so immersed in the moment that I failed to notice a small group of people watching me. They smiled and waved from the shoreline. What a motley crew they were, the oldest looked to be in his 70’s, the youngest, no older than 12. They came from many ethnicities and walks of life, and yet they all wore the same joyful smile as I.

I climbed out of the stream and shook their hands, and then together we walked the narrow and lonely path. As time passed I got to know them, trust them, and even love them. So very different were they from the crowd of people before! So compassionate and so passionate about where they were going. I longed to go there too.

Soon, however, the beautiful forest began to thin, the hot sun broke through and the land appeared to be desolate. The youngest of our group frowned and sighed, “this isn’t fun anymore, it’s a hard path, I think I will try and find another.” Hanging his head he said goodbye and turned back. We watched for a while and the middle-aged one of our group lifted our spirits by singing. Our oldest companion reminded us of the joys that waited at the end of the trail. “Surely you aren’t done yet, this desolate land will again fill with life and beauty, just wait.” We smiled and kept walking.

But the promised beauty didn’t come, instead, rough rocks jutted from the dry, cracked ground and the land became harder to navigate. A strong wind blew and we shielded our eyes from the dust. I suddenly called for a halt, because amidst the swirling dust I spotted a long old bridge swaying over a deep valley.

Many in our group began to tremble at the thought of crossing such a bridge, with an old weathered rope and thin wood planks, seemingly held together by will alone. “Whoever built this bridge did a very good job, it has stood the test of time,” I observed. Many of my friends looked angry and confused by my words, “are you kidding? It looks weak and abandoned, I don’t trust it!” They took a few steps back and once their fear diminished they turned sorrowful eyes to those who were left, “This is as far as we dare go, we won’t risk any more.” I tried to plead with them but their minds were made up, “you know? The forest back there by the stream wasn’t so bad, we will return there and stay awhile.” They nodded farewell and left. Only a few remained. Upon seeing such a large group leave, one more left our group to join them, “I think they were right, I’m going to join them too.”

I now had to make a decision, “how far do I want to go?” The words came back to me, of how great the destination would be, I remembered the joy I first felt at finding this hidden trail. I set my gaze upon the land on the other side of the valley and stepped out onto the bridge. The elderly and middle-aged man fell in step behind me.

After what seemed like a lifetime we crossed the bridge and stood on solid ground, knees shaking and heart racing. We smiled at one another and with a nod, I continued forward nearly gasping as my feet hit concrete pavement. The old man looked disgruntled, “I don’t understand, this can’t be the way! It’s too easy now, we must have wandered from the path.” I didn’t reply but knew in my heart that we had stayed true to the path we walked.

The old man walked with us a few more paces, looking all the more uncomfortable, “I’m leaving, this isn’t right, the path I know only gets harder from here, not easier, the very sweat on my brow has dried and my strength is returning. In time you will see that I was right and join me.” He sighed and hobbled away to the right of the path, pushing through branches and dry thorny vines, creating his own path. I reached out my hand toward him, desperate for his guidance and wisdom, yet knowing that in this matter, he was wrong. I felt a hand on my shoulder, my middle-aged companion smiled comfortingly, “come on brother, we have gone too far to turn back now.” I felt a wave of love and hope fill my being, I hugged him and together we continued onward.

Though the path was paved and flat it was tiring to walk. The dead trees were replaced with long rolling fields of green grass, but that was all that could be seen. I lost track of time and during moments when I considered the old man’s words, my companion would encourage me and remind me of what would soon be ours. To my surprise, benches and railings appeared when I was too tired to carry on and I would rest awhile with my friend, talking and laughing. I started to forget about the destination and simply enjoy the journey.

Then it happened, the hard pavement stopped and I stepped into soft grass, the trail had ended and out on the open grass before me was a long wooden banquet table lined with chairs. “I don’t understand,” I said aloud, despite my confusion I felt free. I turned to my companion and saw that he had transformed in some way. He radiated light and joy, his clothing had turned the purest white and His eyes reflected fire and water just like the stream.

I fell to my knees and asked, “who are you?” Memories swam through my mind of him trying to draw me from the crowded path, his laughter and joy as I swam in the stream. All the times he lifted our spirits by singing and sharing stories with us. His deep sorrow when the others walked away, and his hand on my shoulder when I felt that I was alone.

“I am Jesus.” He said, “and this is the awaited destination, you are home.” I began to cry, “you were with me the whole time, I thought I knew everything about you, and yet I had only just scratched the surface.” I covered my face and felt his hands gently pull them away. Before me, the table filled with food and a new crowd of people stood waiting with excitement, family and friends that I had lost long ago, and Jesus, lifting me to my feet replied, “Your journey with me doesn’t end here, in fact, the greatest journey is just beginning, and I will be with you, every step of the way.”

We are all on a journey, we all walk a path, and though narrow, long, and often lonely..we never truly are alone. Stick to the true path, no matter what obstacle you face, and you will reach the destination that everyone longs for, and only a few know how to find.

The Compass and the Clock

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“Where are you going, sir?” A street seller asked as a young man perused his many trinkets and tools. The young man appeared ready for a long hike, with mountain boots strapped high, waterproof jacket and clothing, and a survival backpack slung over his shoulders and fastened at the waist.

He smiled at the old seller and replied, “I must travel through the mountains, my home is on the other side.” The lad then squinted up at the stormy sky, and as if on cue a light rain began to fall, “my, my…what a time to travel,” the old sellar muttered as he rushed to cover his valuables.

The young man reached forward and lifted a compass from the table just as the seller pulled a tarp across, he then started to fasten the tarp to the ground unawares. “How much for this compass?” The seller turned startled that the lad was still standing there in the rain. “If you still want to travel in this weather you’re going to need more than a compass my boy!” The young man raised an eyebrow in apparent confusion, oblivious to the rain droplets now running down his face.

The seller beckoned the lad toward the shelter of an oak tree down the cobbled street. It’s branches drooping over the top of a bench. The seller sat down with a sigh, the young man followed suit, wiping his face on his sleeve. “Let me see the compass lad and I’ll explain.” The young man obediently handed over the silver compass, it’s arrows bouncing ever slightly but remaining true. “A compass is great for knowing which direction to go, but it doesn’t tell you how long you have to get there.” He gestured to the rainy skies, “if you are unable to locate the sun, how will you know when it will be dark? A compass is useless in the dark, you need the sun to light your path see?” The lad nodded, listening intently, “I can see that you haven’t packed a tent, so I reckon you plan on making this trip in a day, am I right?” The young man nodded again and replied, “yes sir, I’ve no time to stay the night, my wife and child expect me home before nightfall.” The seller reached into his pocket and withdrew a golden watch.

“Like the compass, a good working watch will never steer you wrong. No matter what the skies are hiding, you will know how much time you have left to reach your destination.” The seller chuckled, “no sense in getting lost, and no sense in arriving late, your wife would be worried.” The young man pulled out his wallet, “thank you for your advice, you have been very kind…what do I owe you?” The seller smiled warmly at the young lad before him, reminded of how he was at that age, “take them both so that you can find your way back to my seller stand again.” He handed both the watch and the compass over to the young man and patted him on the shoulder. “I’m open from 9-5 and not a second more!”

The Holy Spirit is our compass, guiding us to our destinies and encounters. If we remain focused on him we will know the path we are to take regardless of what lies in our way. And yet the night is falling all around us, and time is valuable. The Bible expresses this in that the coming of our Lord will be soon, and like a thief in the night. It gives us signs and wonders to point to His coming, each a tick of the clock, bringing us closer to the end. We must hurry and finish this race before time runs out!

Super Nova: Part 3

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Hannah’s Journal                                       Date: 2063 (on Earth), here, it is year 3.

Nova has discovered that she can lie, even though she isn’t very good at it. Pretty hard to hide a forest full of burning embers. It was an opportunity to teach her a valuable lesson about preserving life and controlling one’s emotions. She’s probably still planting tree seeds even as I write this. 

She call’s me “mom”, and I don’t have the heart to tell her the truth yet. Though, I love her as a daughter. (Nova, if you ever read this, know that I love you as my own, and I am so proud of you. You are growing, maturing, and even at three years old you love helping, I know you didn’t mean to destroy that forest. Your powers are great, too much for anyone to bear alone.) 

Anyway, at least Captain Thomas left us with enough supplies, and I have been able to cultivate this world’s soil. It is strange, being surrounded by mountains and forests, without the sound of bugs or the call of birds. It’s better this way, Nova is safe here, Earth is safe. Someday they will be ready for her, she will be a master of her powers then, I know it! 

Until next time, I hear Nova calling for me. 

Dr. Hannah Laurson closed her journal and sighed, a slight breeze blowing her long brown hair across her face. She pushed it back and peered out into the field, a small little golden head could be seen bobbing up and down as it darted across the tall grass toward her. “Mom! I’m done! I planted the seeds!” The little head called. Nova burst from the grass, literally, leaving small sparks and ashes in her wake. She looked behind her in shock, “sorry mom.” Hannah just smiled, “at least you’re noticing when you do it now.” She said as she took Nova into her arms.

Three years. Hannah remembered as if it was yesterday being aboard the spaceship, holding baby Nova, the only survivor. Her planet had been destroyed by a supernova only moments before Hannah’s ship arrived. It didn’t take long for them to realize that Nova had powers. Anytime she cried in hunger the ship became engulfed in a fiery cloud, as though a star had just died and it’s gaseous remnants remained. The closer they came to Earth the less likely it seemed Nova would be welcomed there, not to mention, the crew was afraid she would destroy Earth with her uncontrollable power. “If she’s this powerful as an infant can you imagine how powerful she will be as an adult?” They had exclaimed in growing apprehension.

Hannah had not made the decision lightly, but in her heart, there was no other option. As they neared the planet they had sent the probe upon earlier, she whispered to Captain Thomas her decision. After many arguments, he had eventually accepted her choice. The crew stood in shocked silence as she departed the ship, holding Nova wrapped in a bundle. Captain Thomas gave her all the supplies he could spare and promised that he would find a way back to her someday. It was agreed that the crew would report to Earth that she had died, that no survivors came from the destroyed planet, and that this sector of space was thoroughly explored enough to ignore at present.

As to how Nova acquired her powers, little was discovered. Though a blood sample revealed mutated cells, unlike anything Hannah had ever seen before. It was as if the dying sun’s radiation had “improved” the cells instead of damaging them, though this change was not without consequence. The cells could generate great levels of energy sparked by Nova’s emotional responses. It was a miraculous thing and a very dangerous thing. And so, Hannah decided to raise Nova in an environment set apart from Earth, a place she could be taught and could grow without the risk of destroying sentient life. It was her only hope.

 

Hannah’s Journal                                                      Date: 2067 (on Earth), year 7 (on Tranquil)

I told Nova how I found her. She had been asking questions a lot recently and I knew it was time I told her the truth. It was a terrifying moment, and yet she only smiled at me sadly and said, “thank you.” We didn’t talk the rest of the day, but Nova has kept her powers under control which shows me that she has matured so much! I am proud of her, and I hope that Nova will still call me her mother.

Before this adventure, this trip into space, I was a scientist, it was never my dream to become a wife or mother. I was married to my work and when I discovered that small planet struggling on the outer fringes of Andromeda I felt like that whole planet was my children. They needed help, they needed protection! And yet we were too late to bring it. Little Nova is all that is left of an entire civilization, an entire world. 

I gave Nova the little bag that was discovered inside the pod we found her in. I imagine it was from her real parents. They left what appeared to be some toys, clothes, and a letter in a language we have no way of understanding. Nova stared at the letter for a while, I know she was hoping that somehow she would understand it as if she could conjure some long lost memory. It broke my heart that I couldn’t read it to her, that I couldn’t tell her about her world. Not one thing. 

In a few more years I know that Captain Thomas will be returning for us, whether Nova is ready or not he will bring us home. I must say that I have grown to like this little planet we share. Nova named it Tranquil, I didn’t even have to explain what that word meant to her, she said the moment she heard me read it aloud from a book she knew. What an amazing little girl.

Hannah stared out over the horizon, it was nightfall and not a sound could be heard. And yet she could’ve sworn she had heard something. Nova, age 14, rested peacefully in their wooden home near the woods, oblivious to the noise that had roused Hannah.

Never had she ever felt unsafe on planet Tranquil, except when Nova lost control a few times. However now as she stood upon the hill she felt as if eyes were watching her, unfriendly eyes. The hair stood on her neck, she backed away slowly and once hidden amongst the grass she ran back to her home. I need to wake Nova.

Suddenly a large shadow obstructed her path, and before she could scream the creature lifted her off the ground.

Tranquil was no longer a planet of two.

 

Hannah’s Journal                                                          Date: Earth year 2073, Tranquil year 13

Captain Thomas is on his way! He was just within range for my transmitter to receive his message. Nova even seemed excited as I cleared up the message and played it for her. She has never heard another voice but my own, and even I had forgotten what Captain Thomas sounded like. We played the message over and over, even though all he said was, “Hannah, I’m on my way.” I can’t wait to see him again. To see Earth. 

I have talked to Nova for many years about Earth, and about how she must control her powers. The message didn’t sink in until one day a few years ago when Nova accidentally burned my arm. How she had cried and hurried to get the med kit. Until the time I told her about her planet and how I found her I believe she had always believed that we shared such amazing abilities. She has never hurt me since, and these past four years I don’t believe I have seen a single fiery ember fall to the ground. She’s ready for Earth. We both are. 

One last thing, something that is probably nothing but my imagination. As a scientist, I feel I should keep a log of this just in case. I’ve felt a lot of anxiety lately, a feeling of dread that I can’t shake. Maybe it’s my fear of leaving the planet, I don’t know. But in any case, I feel that I should write something in here for Nova. 

Nova, I want you to know that though we have lived on Tranquil many years, Earth is your home. There you will find people who will love and care for you as I have. I know that I have stressed the importance of controlling your powers, but it is equally important to me that you go to school, make friends, and maybe someday fall in love. A mother’s greatest joy is that her daughter lives life to the fullest. 

No matter what happens, don’t be afraid, you are a gift and it has been an honor being your mother. I love you to Earth and back.

Love, 

       Hannah

A scream pierced through the still night, Nova awakened with a start. “Mom?” she called fearfully, She quietly climbed out of bed and peered out the window at the darkness.

Nova, age 14, was now a tall and beautiful young woman. Her hair was still radiant, so much so that is seemed to glow in the darkened room. Her light brown eyes that often shown with joy and wonder now widened in fear. What was this feeling she could not describe? It sent cold chills down her spine and made her heart race, she struggled to bind in her explosive power, a power that she had controlled well for some time.

A flicker of a flame danced across her fingertips and for once she didn’t hide it but used it to light her way to the door. To her horror, she took in the sight of several large dark shadows that weren’t there before upon the broad grassy field. She ran back into the home and slammed the door, pressing her back up against it, immediately she heard many voices and felt something slam hard into the door, causing Nova to let out a gasp.

At the third slam, Nova was losing her grip, she looked at the open window on the far side of the house and decided to make a dash for it. She braced as one more slam shook the door and took off toward the window, diving out of it just as the door exploded open. She heard feet chasing her through the grass and woods but fortunately knew it’s many paths and trails better than her pursuers. “Where’s mom?” she thought in a panic, she wanted to scream out her name but was afraid that she would be captured.

She was just feeling more secure, without the sound of feet behind her when she suddenly tripped on something soft. She rolled over and was about to continue running when a hand gently clasped onto her ankle. Nova almost screamed but a voice quickly said, “Nova, it’s me!” She let a small fire dance across her finger and took in the sight of Hannah on the ground. blood poured from her shoulder and side and yet she smiled weakly at her. “Nova sweetie, it’s ok.” Nova felt her eyes fill with hot tears, “No it’s not mom, your hurt!” Hannah shook her head and reached up to touch Nova’s face. “Honey, I’m afraid I…” she began crying, “I have to go Nova.”

It felt like her heart was being torn in two, Nova held Hannah’s hand and wept. Hannah was no longer crying but looking at Nova as if she was her very heart. “Nova, you must defend yourself, wait for Captain Thomas…explain what happened, and then go with him to Earth.” Nova shook her head, “I’m not leaving you!” Hannah smiled and said, “I will never leave you…you are my world.” As soon as the words left her lips, the light faded from her eyes. Nova had never seen death, but she knew that it was irreversible.

She heard footsteps approaching her from every side, but Nova was no longer afraid, instead, a terrifying fury filled her very being and she stood up with fists clenched and fire in her eyes. Flames seemed to spring up from the ground and surround her, causing her radiant hair to shine like the sun as it blew about her. In the great light, she finally saw what the creatures looked like.

They were tall and cloaked aliens, with black leathery skin and blue eyes with black pupils. They had barbed like protrusions jutting out on their heads like many small horns. And though humanoid in build, they seemed to walk like prowling cats ready to pounce. Under their cloaks shone armor made from meteorite, and they carried with them jutted spears made of the same material.

Nova didn’t care what they were or why they were here, only that her mother now lay dead at her feet because of them. With no one to protect but herself, Nova unleashed her power. The aliens had only a moment to stare in awe before vicious flames consumed them and everything else.

6 hours later:

Captain Thomas took a single step from his ship and surveyed the scene before him. He covered his mouth and coughed as a gust of ash-filled smoke blew in his face. From every direction, all that could be seen was flat charred ground. Bodies of charred aliens lay scattered amidst the burnt trees and burning grass. Captain Thomas then spotted a crouched figure, sitting on the ground a few yards before him.

Nova sat on a blackened log and was crouched holding the only unburnt thing around. “Hannah?” Captain Thomas asked aloud, fear and pain crashing into him like a wave. He ran toward them and fell to his knees beside the still form of his dear friend. He looked up at Nova and saw her face stained with tears. He suddenly knew what had happened, after seeing the alien remains, Hannah, and the burnt land around him he said, “Nova, let’s go home.” She merely nodded, and together they carried Hannah aboard the ship.

It was sometime later that Nova finally spoke to Captain Thomas, as she watched the many stars and distant planets out the viewport she turned to him and said, “what if they follow us?” Captain Thomas nodded slowly and replied, “then they will have you to contend with.” Nova’s face grew serious, “you know I can’t,” there was a moment’s pause as Captain Thomas considered his next words, “Nova, power is only dangerous when it is in the wrong hands, I believe in you.” Nova looked at him with a confused expression, “why? you don’t know me.” He turned from the controls and gently grasped Nova by the shoulders, “I believe in you because Hannah believed in you, that’s more than enough for me.” Nova smiled at him and turned back to the viewport in thought. “Are you saying that I could be a hero? That I could use my powers to protect Earth?” Captain Thomas smiled and replied, “You are definitely Hannah’s girl, she gave her time, energy, and her very life to protect you.” He sighed and continued, “You honor her by reflecting her heart for people, that Nova, is how you give back to her and your planet, that is how you make them proud.” Nova starred at her hands, finally understanding her purpose, her destiny.

A hero, I could be a hero. Suddenly she had a reason to go on and felt her broken heart start to mend. I don’t have to be a monster everyone fears. I can give back to my planet and my mom. I can protect the last home I have.

Captain Thomas chuckled, Nova looked at him curiously, “what?” He shook his head, “oh, just an idea, a superhero needs a name you know, what if we called you Super Nova?”

And that is how it all began.

 

 

Super Nova: Part 2

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Doctor Hannah Laurson gazed out the viewport, tears gathered in her eyes as she took in the destructive sight before her. She had come so close to discovering the planet tucked away behind the dying star on the outer edge of the Andromeda galaxy when it’s star suddenly went supernova. In a blinding white light, the star and the planet were gone and so was Hannah’s hopes, If we had only made it here sooner She thought desperately. Then again, what could we have done to save an entire world? With a sigh, she wiped her eyes and turned toward the silent crew, the greatest scientists, physicists, and astronomists on earth. Every one of them had longed to see the young planet and meet its inhabitants, to simply shake hands with someone from another world.

Captian Thomas broke the somber silence and approached her, hands clasped behind his back, an image of formality and control amidst so much heartbreak. His dream was to lead the first spaceship to Andromeda, aliens or not, he would go down in history for such an achievement. And yet, standing on the very edge of the great and glorious galaxy he didn’t smile, nor did his eyes shine with pride. “I’m sorry Hannah, everyone, I failed to make it in time.” The somber faces all turned in surprise. “You couldn’t help it, captain.” One man called, “we all knew the star was dying,” another voice added. Hannah merely smiled, it was a smile of thanks, that despite everything, the captain and crew had tried, wholeheartedly.

Everyone began talking and heading back to their stations, it was a long voyage back and preparations had to be made. Hannah squeezed the captain’s hand as he departed, he gave her his best smile. On earth, he had never seemed at home, from the time they had met she knew that he was an explorer, a traveler that would never stop moving. Once earth had been fully explored, it was only logical that such a man would reach for the stars. Little did she know, he admired her. She was much like a compass, set and determined to reach just one of those many stars, and reach it she had, even if it was a moment too late.

A sudden flash of red light brought everyone’s eyes back to the viewport. Before them, an angry chaotic display of power surged across the blackness of space. “Is that from the star?” A young scientist asked. Hannah shook her head in wonder, “no, it isn’t possible!” Captain Thomas seated himself in his command chair and began asking for readings, meanwhile, the fiery-like cloud continued growing and bursting. “Sir, I’m picking up something, there must be a mistake!” Everyone turned toward the voice, a wisened physicist looked up, wide-eyed, from his console, “What do you mean?” Captain Thomas asked. There was a moment’s pause as the Physicist re-examined his data, he stood up shakily and removed his glasses. “Sir, I’m reading one life sign in that cloud.” A few people gasped, while others laughed in disbelief, the captain remained serious. “Can we modify the scanners?” An astronomist scoffed, “you can’t be serious, what could possibly survive that?” The captain nodded, “yes that’s right, what? I want answers now!” Hannah’s fingers danced across her console in excitement, Someone survived! I don’t know how but here it is! 

Hannah clicked the audio button and shushed the crew, a sound like rhythmic drum beats met their ears. “It’s…a heartbeat.” The captain’s voice was barely audible and his eyebrows knitted together in both astonishment and concentration. He rose with a start and much like a military man he ordered everyone to ready a probe. They had already used two of them on their way to Andromeda, having sent one down upon an uninhabited planet to collect samples, and another into a black hole to gather readings until it was completely crushed. “Will the probe be able to navigate in that mess?” He asked, Hannah nodded and replied, “I designed the probe myself, it can withstand it.” She knew that it would locate the “alien”, and attempt to return it back to the ship. As long as it isn’t too big…or hostile. She added apprehensively.

With a hiss the probe was launched, everyone watched unflinchingly, as it soared straight into the fiery cloud and in a matter of minutes, everyone applauded as it came zooming out, pulling behind it a small, spherical black pod. And that wasn’t all it pulled, as the fiery cloud seemed to follow, shooting out explosions of white light, the ship shook under the pressure. “No! it will damage the ship!” The young scientist exclaimed, “just a moment longer, it can withstand this!” Hannah called above the shaking and creaking.

The probe and its pod reentered through the portal under the ship safely enough, the moment it’s doors closed the captain called, “Alright, let’s get out of here!” The ship began to move forward slowly, and yet the cloud followed, rocking the ship and causing emergency lights to flash. “How are we holding up?” The captain called over his shoulder to his engineer, “we can hold out for another five minutes before the ship starts overheating, it wasn’t made to survive inside an exploding star you know.” The captain nodded, “tell that to the star.” He replied in frustration. Hannah suddenly had an idea, “Sir, may I go below and see to our new guest, maybe he or she can help us.” A particularly strong explosion just outside the viewport caused the ship to lurch backward, “I don’t have a better idea at the moment Doctor, make haste!” Hannah took off as fast as she could toward the lower compartments.

After slipping and sliding she finally came to the compartment doors. She typed in the access code and waited while the inner room pressurized and filled with oxygen. A green light blinked on and the doors hissed open. Before her stood the rather beat up probe, and the sleek pod, smaller than she thought it would be. It came only to her knees and was only long enough for a small child to fit in. She felt around for a button to open the door and gasped when her hands found it. In fear, she paused, what if it’s hostile? Oh no, what if it doesn’t breathe oxygen?!” Her compassion for life won over her fear, she pulled the panel back and couldn’t believe her eyes. A crying baby looked up at her, with tears streaming down its face, and arms moving about wildly. The little girl appeared human, except for its brilliantly golden hair and fiery eyes. She lifted the baby out of the pod and began rocking her, “You poor sweetie, I’ve got you, everything is going to be alright.” Hannah whispered, slowly but surely the baby stopped crying and to Hannah’s surprise, so did the sounds of explosions and the creaking of the ship under stress.

Hannah walked back through a completely still ship, carrying the sleeping girl in her arms. Captian Thomas stood when she entered, everyone’s voices stopped as they took in the sight of the baby. The tense stress they had endured seemed to melt away as Hannah approached each crewman, the captain merely smiled and watched until she finally walked up to him, “what do you think of our newest crewman, captain?” she asked jovially. He took the child in his arms and Hannah felt that this was natural for him too, he chuckled softly and replied, “I think our newest friend needs a name,” Everyone nodded in agreement, he looked at Hannah, “you’re the one who saved her, what shall we call her?” Hannah remembered those fiery eyes, saw the beautiful colors of a supernova reflecting upon her golden hair, “let’s call her, Nova.” The captain gently handed her back to Hannah and replied, “welcome aboard, Nova.”

 

(Part 3: Coming Soon)

 

Super Nova: Part 1

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Author Note: This is a story about a superhero named Nova. Told from the very beginning, before hope, before life, and before redemption. Let’s hear her story.

It was a sweltering evening on Andromis, everyone hurried about with protective glasses and reflective coverings. A scientist sighed at his work station, he leaned back away from the computer console and rubbed his eyes. Yet the images from the screen could not be rubbed away. He felt a great wave of loss and fear, There isn’t enough time, he thought desperately.

Andromis was once a beautiful planet, tropical and full of life. Little had their ancestors known that their sun, Kritanta, was nearing the end of its life. It was only within the past century that the Andromisians were advanced enough to begin formulating a plan to save their planet.

Every child was taught science and brought up to become scientists. The need was too great, as the hourglass of time poured out with each passing year. The sun grew hotter and larger, the air became harder to breathe. Plants shriveled up and rain hardly ever fell upon the cracked soil.

It was with great sorrow that world leader Arkamin, stated that there was no way to stop the death of Kritanta, and that their energies would now be directed towards saving their people. Today, three years later, the planet had advanced enough to create space pods, large enough for an infant or child. They were prototypes, if they could send a small creature into space and it somehow survived, they would begin placing children in the pods.

It was their only hope, after all. Andromis believed that life existed elsewhere, they believed this out of necessity, nothing was left for their children here.

However, no one was ready to send their children away, not when they believed they still had time. And so, scientist Barak, had gone to work just as he always did, ready to study and perfect the prototypes believing as everyone else that the star had a few more years of life left in it. Until this morning.

Barak had witnessed an unsettling change in the sun, large solar flares had shot out away from it in angry bursts, it appeared to be expanding, and Barak knew that the final stage before explosion would be contraction. He figured that Andromis had only hours left now, the thought of his young daughter came to his mind. The pods will have to be ready tonight. He shot out of his chair and ran from the lab, he had to tell Control what he had discovered, even if it was too much to bear.

He grabbed the handle of the Control room, this was the very heart of the world’s science division, they called all the shots and had access to the world’s resources. Barak paused as he heard laughter and casual conversation behind the door. It was break time, the last one they would ever get. With great effort, he pushed the door open and sadly approached the team. “I’ve made a discovery, I’m afraid that it is the worst news I could ever bring you,” Barak said, his voice shook with emotion. Everyone stopped, smiles fell off faces and they turned to Barak in confusion. “What kind of discovery, Mr. Barak?” He told them his findings and using the Control room’s central computer he pulled up the file of pictures the telescope had recently captured.

There was a moments pause, the lead Scientist Sentek threw an arm around Barak’s hunched shoulders and chuckled, “Now Mr. Barak, we have seen the sun this active before, it always calms down again, surely this is one of its tantrums, but to say that it is dying today? Why that is quite an absurd assumption!” The other scientists nodded in agreement. Barak pulled away from his grasp in shock, “No, you don’t understand, this is different! I’ve studied these readings every day for 15 years, never has the sun made quite the demonstration that you see now, It is actually expanding, look!” Everyone reluctantly looked at the screen again, and yet Barak could see that they weren’t really looking. They are in denial! The fools will kill us all! Barak thought in anger, he clenched his fists.

He attempted a few more times to get their attention and was met with more head shakes and laughter. “Mr. Barak, go home won’t you? I believe you have worked too hard and are in need of respite.” He locked eyes with them all, hoping to burn the truth into them with his gaze, they merely smiled sympathetically. “Fine, you’ve made your minds up, I see.” He turned on his heel and stormed from the room, slamming the door behind him. I don’t have much time, I can try to tell the world and risk being locked up, or I can save my daughter, I must ready a pod for her. In that moment he hated being a scientist, calculations and numbers never left room for emotion. He knew that the percentage was low that the world would hear his voice, after all, it wasn’t the first time someone had claimed the sun was dying soon. Most people were in denial, he had only hoped that they could be reached.

The only one who would believe him without a doubt was his wife, Amara. How she ever fell in love with him he will never know, she was stunningly beautiful, with gold colored hair that reflected the sun’s brilliance. She had deep blue eyes that reminded people of Andromis’s past. When there were springs of clear refreshing water around every bend and the sound of waves crashing on a not so distant shore. Barak felt he was only average compared to her. He had dusty brown hair, dark eyes and black-rimmed glasses that slid down his straight nose. There was a time he had been quite physically fit, a time when he had hope that the world could be saved and that he could do it. I’m not a hero. Barak placed his hand on the cold pod before him, I am a coward. 

It was nearing sundown, the only time Andromis ever got a break from the heat. Amara looked at the horizon in confusion, the sun wasn’t setting as fast as normal. A baby’s cry drew her attention away from the kitchen window, “hold on sweetie, mommy’s coming!” She grabbed a fresh bottle and filled it with milk, shaking it slightly she left the kitchen and proceeded toward her little girl’s cry. A nursery painted to look like green forests and blue skies greeted her. She took in the sight of her baby, almost one-year-old, with golden hair and brown eyes like her father. She smiled and reached her little hands up to her. A front door opened, “Amara, where are you?” Barak’s voice called. She quickly picked up her baby and exited the room.

She greeted her husband with a warm smile, but it quickly fell when she saw the look on his face. “What did you see?” She asked knowingly. He slid to his knees before her and hid his face in his hands, “our time is up Amara, I’m sorry.” He looked up at her and tears welled in his eyes. Their baby started crying again, and Amara held her close fighting back her own tears. She too fell to her knees and together they embraced their little girl and wept. After a few minutes Barak broke away, holding his daughter in his arms, he patted her back gently and hummed a lullaby. Her crying stopped and she rested her head on his shoulder. “My little girl, I’m so sorry I couldn’t make a better world for you.” Amara wiped her eyes, “when?” was all she could manage to say.

Barak stood and helped his wife to her feet, “tonight, it will just be us Amara, I tried to tell Control and they wouldn’t hear me.” Her face grew more hopeless, “What do you mean? Why haven’t you tried telling anyone else?” Barak shook his head in frustration, “They are blinded, if we tell them and they don’t hear us, what do you think will happen? I could get banned from the lab and our only means to save our child!” Amara stood in silence and Barak was surprised at her quiet reply, “Is our daughter’s life worth more than the lives of an entire world?” Barak looked into his baby’s innocent face peering up  at him, “Amara, she is my world.” Nothing else was said, Amara only nodded and after one last pause to look at her own world before her, she left the room.

It wasn’t hard. Packing a small bag to put in the pod, and closing the nursery door, driving through the night toward the lab. Outwardly they appeared set and determined, this isn’t hard, they told themselves. And yet, inside they screamed and cried with each step they took.

The lab was dark, Barak swiped his badge and motioned for Amara and the baby to enter behind him. The only sound that could be heard was their footfalls down the hall toward the pod room. Barak had secretly set it up, one pod out of millions stood ready to be deployed into space. He had checked and double checked it and had readied his station. “It’s all set Amara, all we have to do is place her inside and we can control her ascent from here.” Amara nodded and began crying. “Yes, alright.” A computer screen turned on in the far corner and began beeping, a red warning sign flashed across it.

Barak’s mouth opened in shock, “no, no, NO!” He called running to the console and grabbing the sides with his hands. “What Barak, what is it?” Amara dashed to his side in terror. “Put her in the pod now, hurry we are out of time!” They ran back to the pod and gently placed their sleeping baby in its compartment. Barak looked at her one last time, he didn’t cry but smiled and said, “I love you forever and always, remember that.” He went to close the hatch but Amara stopped him, she reached into the compartment and smoothed back her daughter’s hair and kissed her forehead, “goodbye, my heart, my life…my world.”

Barak closed the compartment and turned away before emotion could consume him. Amara followed and they each manned a station. The pod was lifted gently by mechanical arms and placed in a torpedo-like capsule. It rose up the shoot and out of the basement of the lab, it’s speed increasing with each floor. In seconds it shot out of the building completely and into the night sky that was quickly turning gaseous. Solar flares could be seen like fiery spider legs jutting out across the darkness. Their light grew brighter and stronger, fire began raining from the heavens as the pod’s capsule turned to rocket, with blue jets shooting it ever higher.

Barak and Amara watched it’s ascent, making slight adjustments and finally applauding when it broke the atmosphere into space itself. They turned their faces away from the screens filling with static and instead looked into each other’s eyes. Their hands reached out and intertwined and they smiled.

…and Andromis, was no more.

(Part 2: coming soon)

 

The Wind in my Sails

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A young, tan-skinned boy of seven hopped into the fishing boat while his father pushed it from the bank. He climbed in after his son and watched with a smile as the boy hurried to and fro getting it seaworthy.

The boy stopped and surveyed his work with a frown, the boat appeared ready to sail and yet it was as still as the waves. His father motioned for him to sit beside him, “come sit, and get a different perspective.” The boy trudged over and plopped down on the pile of netting. Together they went over all possibilities but one, “I don’t understand father, everything is right, why isn’t it sailing?” His father reached over into the water with his hand, he stirred it up creating waves in the stillness. “look at the water my son, and look at the trees on the shore, what are they missing?”

The boy looked from the waveless sea to the still trees and his face lit up with understanding. “The wind!” His father laughed and patted his son on the back in praise. “That’s right, a fisherman’s greatest friend is the wind.” He stood suddenly and took the oars, with each row the boat gradually moved out away from the shore, but the work was tedious. “A fisherman can row, but the effort is great and the fish may scatter from the noise he makes.” He called over his shoulder, sweat forming on his brow. “The wind will guide you effortlessly if you allow it to.”

A memory came to the boy’s mind, of a mighty wind upon a stormy sea. How he had clung to the boat in fear as rain fell and lightning struck. He plucked up the courage and said, “but father the wind isn’t our friend during a storm, it nearly pulls the boat apart.” His father ceased rowing and turned to his son, “Even amidst a storm, the wind is your friend son, it is the waves that betray you.” The boy shook his head in confusion, “I don’t understand father.” The boat was still again, but their minds were alight with thought and excitement. “Son, when a passionate man is met with opposition, do we blame the man?” His father glanced at the sky in thought, “the wind is passionate, it wasn’t made to be quiet and still, but to make its presence known.”

The boy suddenly understood, “father, you aren’t talking about the wind are you?” His father laughed and smiled proudly at him, “no Son, I am not.” He hugged his father around the neck, “would the Holy Spirit lead me into a storm?” The father tickled him and pulled him onto his lap, “where the Holy Spirit goes, storms will follow…however, He will always lead you safely through them.”

Satisfied with his father’s answer, the boy readied the nets and together they cast them over the right side of the boat. For hours they fished and filled their nets, soon the sun dipped below the horizon and the wind finally took hold of the sails with a gust. The father and his son cleaned the fish as the boat sailed back to shore. Suddenly the son asked, “father, what is Jesus like?” He smiled so broadly that the son couldn’t help but smile too, he pointed to the brightest star that was now visible in the sky above, “he is like that star, always burning and constant, a light in the darkness that can’t be extinguished.” The star reflected back in his son’s eyes, “did he teach you to fish?” His father chuckled, “you could say that,” he paused and added, “he taught me to be a fisher of men.”

On the shore, a fire was lit and the voices of people could be heard, laughing and singing, the father jumped from the boat and pulled it onto the shore, securing it to a rock. “Peter! how did it go?” called James who ran to them and threw Peter’s son upon his shoulders. “Look for yourself, the Lord is good.” Other disciples approached and retrieved the fish still squirming in their nets. “And what did you learn?” asked James placing the giggling boy back upon the sand, Peter and the disciples paused to hear the boy’s reply, “I learned that the Holy Spirit is the wind in my sails, and Jesus is the star that guides me home.” Peter beamed proudly while his friends clapped, “we will make you a fisher of men yet, my boy.” called James laughing.

The night was perfect, everyone fellowshipped together, telling stories and singing songs to Jesus, all the while a gentle wind blew, pulling at the sails and stirring up the once still waves, the Holy Spirit was present amidst the laughter and joy, and inside the heart of a boy, who despite having much to learn about sailing and fishing, had learned the greatest lesson that day.