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Love

Love
By William L Peace Jr

Love
Her flowered breath in my chapped ear
Love
His protective hands leading her forward
Love
The Eucharist of a morality tale for man
Love
A living sacred symbol of a Savior’s ransomed people
Love
A feeling
Love
A selfless action
Love
Denying his fleshly appeal for him
Love
Her valiant “no” to feelings for her
Love
Laying down one’s life for a friend
Love
That God is mindful of us
Love

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Push Forward

I read a book recently called “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield.  Something that he wrote stuck with me.  In order to do art, we must make war (his was more eloquently put).  We cannot merely sit at a computer and start typing out gold.  We cannot stand at a canvas and flesh out masterpieces willy-nilly. 

We need to make war.  We fight for every syntax, every color meld, every musical combination.  There is a huge resistance.

I will not steal Pressfield’s thunder but this resonated with me and struck my inner core.  So imagine my surprise when I heard the same maxim being applied to the Christian walk.

Hear me.  Not only salvation is under siege but also the walk, the journey, the quest for our Imago Christi, our Christ Image.

We read a book by Jerry Bridges in a study called “The Pursuit of Holiness” and this is where it was laid out most vividly for me.  I grew up hearing the Devil prowled and devoured.  I knew that there was an enemy.  I knew that he strives to accuse the brethren. 

But I did not live it.

I did not act it.

I acted as if I was on the side lines.  I was at home on the couch stuffing my face with cheese doodles and watching “Friends” or “Lost.”  I did not hold a sword in my hand, I held a remote.

I hear this is an epidemic in America.  I’m not sold on that but then I have only been to another country once for two weeks and stayed secluded in a compound.  What do I know?

While reading Bridges talk about justification and sanctification and what we need to be doing, I began to realize I needed to put to practice what Bridges and Pressfield were teaching. 

We cannot be unintentional with an intentional enemy.

This is important and the crux of our walk.  Our enemy is out for blood.  Our flesh tastes good and he will not give us so easily.  But we are not locked in an endless battle or fighting for a conquered kingdom.

We fight for King Jesus.  We strive to build into His kingdom.  We are fighting tooth and nail to grow in the likeness of His image.  We create, we preach, we share, we encourage, we push forward so that we might, as one Body, as one Bride, as one Church, go out into the world and preach the Gospel.  Make disciples.  Seek first the kingdom.

Life is hard.  There is blood, skin, bones involved.  Feelings are hurt, hearts are torn.  Friends leave and betray, leaders break your legs, followers push you from a cliff.  But keep pushing forward.  Fight the good fight.  Contend for the faith.  Do all of those actions the writers of scripture command.

Push forward.

Peace,

Bill

Let Us Begin…Again

It happened.  I fell into the trap.  I have not updated in a while.  At first, it was because I was waiting for inspiration for a post.  Then it was because I had not updated in a bit so I could go for a little longer.  Then, I was busy.

Then nothing.  Every now and then I would feel a twinge of guilt.  A “Hey, maybe I should… watch TV.”

Here I am, a little less than two years later.  I have envisioned a blogging project with a much cooler name than my initials.  But, ever the loudest critic of my work, I stop and ask, “If I cannot maintain a practice blog, how can I keep a larger than life, ultra-cool, widely read blog?”

Thus, you are stuck with me for a little while longer until I can prove to myself that I am worthy of running a blog.

Well then, let us begin…again!

Change

I have been through some switch ups recently.

I am working for a Bachelors Degree through Liberty University Online.  I am almost finished!  Then onto my Masters!

I upgraded my position at my job!  God has blessed me with a promotion over the past year, which answered a lot of prayers.

There has also been another development which I have been praising God for in the past year.

Did you know those kids in high school who knew exactly what college they wanted to go to, for which degree, for which job, and who they were going to marry along the way?  For instance, I knew a girl.  All she wanted was to be married and be a florist.  Well, let me tell you, she is now married to a really cool guy and she is…can you guess?  Yes.  She is a florist.

I lacked that conviction, that surety in life during high school.  I assumed that I knew basically where I was heading and what I liked doing and that the rest would fill itself into my life along the way.  Fast forward nine years.  Nine whole years form graduation and I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  I was George Bailey, wanting to travel the world and getting nowhere fast.  I needed a job.  I needed to pay bills.  I needed a car.  And, before long, I was stuck.

Life happened (I love that euphemism) and God put some really godly men in my life.  I still did not have concrete answers.  But one of the guys, Mike, kept drilling in my head: Seek Ye First.  It’s almost a mantra now.  One foot in front of the other.  Follow God in the little things.  Show myself to be a good steward of Gondor…I Mean my talents.  The rest shall follow.

August of 2012 rolled around a couple months after my last blog post on, ironically, looking to God for guidance.  I had tried a lot in the course of the previous years.  Food services.  Computers.  Business.  Accounting (that lasted about two classes).  Teaching English as a second language (thanks to a group from my college year at Lancaster Bible College).

Nothing.  I had a long list of what I knew I did not like.  In the course of this time, I was serving in the church.  I always gravitated towards teaching.  I loved it.  I loved digging into the word.  I loved figuring out what God was saying through His people.  The elders at my church helped me with working out lessons.  They kept telling me to get at the application and to facilitate more than lecture.  I am still working on that.

I also knew I wanted to be in the mission field.  Ever since I read of Hudson Taylor as a kid, I wanted to smuggle Bibles into China.  Well, China has Bibles and there is a lot of good work over there right now (I even hear there is a rise in Calvinism!!!!).  In this vein I spent a summer with a buddy and a pastor at the boardwalk handing out tracts, witnessing, spreading the gospel, and street preaching.  From this I have determined that while I am to go out into all the world and preach the gospel, I do not have the gift of evangelism.  It does not come naturally.

Well, I was lost.  I was stuck at my job, praying for change or something to point me in the right direction.  God had started something and He had definitely forgotten about me, right?

Me and a group of guys from the church had read Radical by David Platt earlier that year and Mike told us how his son and a friend were going to Kenya for two years right out of college to preach the gospel.  Some men had stepped up from the church the two guys attended in the Carolinas and offered to pay for their tuition.

God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

Radical.

So I stepped out and, after prayer and talking with the elders at my church, I applied for Liberty University’s Online program.  I was working full time and could not afford to leave for college.  So, in the fall of 2012, I started taking classes.  God opened up doors so that I could finally move out and get a place with some roommates.  Full time job, full time classes, my own place.  God really blessed me and there was nothing that I could take credit for other than being faithful and trusting God.

Then it happened.  I’m not exactly sure what the date was or where I was exactly.  But I finally figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up!

There is a ministry that takes those with Masters or Doctorate Degrees and sends them to pastors who have little to no access to bible colleges.

My heart leapt for joy.  Even now as I write these words I rejoice that God would reveal this to me.  I had no idea this even existed.

Now I am close to the end of my degree.  I have 7 more classes.

In the past couple years I have not been even close to a role model.  I have raged and whined and worried at where God was leading me.  I still do.  I do not count it all joy.  I do not place my hope and anxiety in Him who feeds the sparrows and clothes the flowers.  But I am still young and God has a lot of work to do anyway so hopefully that will be taken care of down the road.

My prayers were not answered right away; my pleas were not met immediately.  Is there a time this has happened to you and later down the road you were thankful your prayers were not answered?

Peace,

Bill

The heart.  It is a symbol of Love, of Happiness, of a liking of something.  It is the picture of the word Love.

 

In our culture, Love has taken on several connotations other than strong, binding feelings between two or more people.  But this is nothing new.  “I love my wife” one might say.  “I love my Child.”  “I love my dog.”  “I love my couch.”  “I love that TV.”  “I love that movie.”  “I love the sunlight.”  “I love that joke.”  “I love to run.”  “I love…” and the list goes on and on and on.

 

We can love people.

 

We can love animals.

 

We can love inanimate objects.

 

We can love actions.

 

All of this loving we show with the picture of a heart.

 

But what about the actions we don’t love?

 

When a politician lies, saying one thing before election and doing another thing after, how do you view this?  When someone cheats on you, how do you view this?  When someone steals from you, how do you view this?

 

Do we “Heart” a lie?  Do we “Heart” a cheater?  Do we “Heart” a thief?

 

Why would you?

 

Would you even associate a “Heart” with one of those wrong doings?

 

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus does.

 

Jesus associates the picture of the “Heart” with wrong doings.

 

The religious leaders of the day were concerned with actions.  They had the original law given to them by God.  They also had additional laws given to them by men that far outnumbered God’s laws.

 

They were looking at “Behavior.”  They were interested in “Behavior Modification.”

 

Jesus ripped that point of view to shreds when the religious leaders asked him why his disciples broke “The tradition of the elders.” (Matt 15:2)

 

Jesus turns the accusation around on the religious leaders, breaking down their dependence on law and tradition of men.  He concludes with the truth that “Out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.  These are the things which defile the man.” (Matt 15:19,20a)

 

I am not here to give a complete breakdown of this.  It is an interesting study but I’m not that humble or well versed to lead you through it.

 

What I want you to see is that Jesus takes our view from one’s behaviors and turns it to the source of the behavior, one’s heart.

 

When you lie, that is a sin.  But that is not the end of it.  There is something deeper than the lie.  The heart is the source of the problem.

 

This hit me when I read it.  “The fact that I get angry, tell a lie, gossip, is because of something in my heart?”  This is something I learned long ago but forget every day.  This is why we need Jesus.  We can’t modify our behaviors because we cannot get to the root of the problem.  Only Jesus can transform our hearts, making us more like Him every day.

 

So, the next time you lie, cheat, gossip, or sin any other way, look at your heart.

 

 

Psalm 51:10

“Create in me a clean heart, oh God”

 

Peace,

Bill

Gifts of a Divine Nature

Within the transparent frame of relevance is a picture that can be sustained only by the Divine.  He who moves, and breathes, and holds all things together.  It cannot be to anyone’s astonishment then when Christ graces His joint heirs with small sights of heaven.  Silent whispers that all is well.  To quote the great Spurgeon who was used mightily by God to proclaim the glory of God, “The cause is safe.  The King is on His throne!”

It was one of these moments that graced my friend.  She is Penny, for all intents and purposes.  She had been searching for grace, seeking for God when He spoke to her through another woman of high intellect.

Penny was reading a magazine when she noticed a book titled “A Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp.  Penny was inspired by the insight alluded to in this book and wanted to read more.

The story of how she obtained it is a small gift in and of itself.  But that’s not my story.

She showed the book to me and I glanced at the cover.  I am not sure of this has come across in my writing as of yet but I tend to be a snobby reader.  I dismissed “The Shack” for its reviews.  I have refused and mocked “Chicken Soup for the Soul” due to its “feel good message.”  I have looked down on J. K. Rowling for her use of the name “Light putter outer in the first of her famous novels, the first being for young readers.  I am cavalier in my reading habits at times.  I have probably hurt many with my careless critiques.

What I saw in the cover was a weak, sentimental, poorly thought out book based on drivel and emotions.  I saw the blue sky and thought weak.  I saw the birds nest and thought fragile.  I saw “inspirational” all over it, filled with white puffy clouds, rainbows, and bunny rabbits.”

Yet, because I trusted Penny, because I knew her reading habits were not to be dismissed, I opened to a random page of the book.  There before me read a quote by none other than C.S. Lewis.  I lifted my brow and looked farther.  There was a quote by Tolkien.  Two men I admired for their person and their writing were here in the same book by this Canadian woman of whom I have never heard of before.

Not sure how to feel about the book now, I glanced down at her writing.  Mrs. Voskamp slowly wrapped me within her writing with words that flowed and sentences that breathed.  Her writing was exquisite and her prose beautiful.  Her imagery was captivating and her wisdom silencing.  I almost could see Selah after every paragraph.

I was expecting fluffy rabbits and saw instead what Christ could inspire, the beauty He could bring about.  The joy inside the words are not dependant on events but mere thankfulness of Christ, who He is, and What He has done.  My Pastor summed it up quite nicely, “For every thought of yourself, think ten times upon Christ.”

Look back at my writings and you will see that this is something that resonated with me profoundly.  In the darkness of my mind, joy had become a foreign entity.  It is only just recently that I have been relearning what it is to be “happy”.  Emotions have been finding their resting place ransacked and rifled through in my life.  They are just learning to settle.  And now comes a woman who shows me a book where the Author eloquently and succinctly writes that “We are not to base our faith in Christ, our Joy, our happiness on events or others.  We are to look unto Christ and base those things we search for most upon Him.”  How amazing is that?!  In a world where calamity and death are about every turn we can turn away from that and in our pain be thankful for Christ!

It hearkens back to “Desiring God” by John Piper (though her words are more beautiful than his).

This is something I feel my parents have been trying to drive home my whole life.  They have tried to raise me in God and only now are some of their lessons becoming reality in my life.  So, sorry Mom.  I was listening but I finally get it.

In Defense of my reading Habits

I don’t think anyone out there has really derided me for what I read or how often I do so.  There has been the inevitable “Wow, you read?  I just don’t have time for that.” Then I hear the popular “I’ve only read one book in my life,” or the variation “I didn’t even read the books in high school.”  And then I have heard “reading is pointless.  The only book you should read is the bible.”

If you don’t like reading, this is fine.  In fact, this probably means you have more of an interactive lifestyle, leading you to interact with more people (ever try reading with your friends?  Boring.)  But I do have to admit, the sin nature in me (pride, wanting to be right ALL the time, the search for ultimate knowledge), bristles at those statements.  “How can one not read?  How can one only read the Bible?”  This is not for selfless reasons.  Purely selfish in intent.

So I’ll knock that right out by stating this is not what this is.  I feel like enough time has passed since hearing this for this to be a post designed to glorify God, not glorify me.  So with this said, what is reading to me?

 

Growing up, there was not a lot of money and there were a lot of us.  So Disney was a guy who made cartoons and six flags were what those crazy neighbors decorated their houses with.  Our TV had two dials (not sure why) but there were only a couple channels it could get.  The houses we grew up in were mostly located on a busy street, making our experience of outside the back yard.  We did the parks, the boardwalks (love Jersey boardwalks before “The Jersey Shore” (Do I have to do that trademark thing or pay royalties for using that?)), the malls, and everywhere else you could go without using money.  They were good times.  But my favorite place growing up was the library.  One, I love the smell of old books.  ‘nuff said.  Two, I really enjoyed having all the options to choose from, all the ideas in one place, all the stories gathered together.

So, due to that environment, from watching my Mom steal minutes away in her non-fiction books between caring for us and the house, and watching Dad relax with a pulp fiction book with yellowed pages (why yellow?), I took to the written word easily.  I read whatever I could.  In fact, while other kids were banned from video games and TV for punishment, I wasn’t allowed to read.  Yeah, I’m a nerd.  I would get so desperate during those times that I would read the backs of cereal boxes, the warnings on cleaning solutions on the table, and the small print on medicine canisters.  Did you know that whenever you somehow got chemicals in your eyes, you would first want to flush your eyes out then contact your doctor?  I feel like that would be a natural response up to the “calling your doctor” bit.  Hopefully you had someone with enough sense and sight to, not call your doctor, but to drive your butt to the Emergency Room.

But I’m going off on a tangent.  Point is, I read a lot.  It got so bad that when I ran out of my books to read, I read my sister’s books.  Read all of Little House on the Prarie…Ok, those were mine.

 

Tangent

One of my greatest disillusionments growing up was realizing that Laura Ingalls Wilder never actually wrote her books and they weren’t always historically accurate (they were written by her daughter Rose Wilder Lane who was a columnist or some such thing).

My second disillusionment was finding out Charlotte Church had morphed into a pop star, leaving her classical work behind…but that’s another post (please no.)

 

Back on Track

I love reading.  Always have, always will.  Even when my eye sight will go, I will have lived long enough for them to install artificial ocular implants (hopefully not in the form of Levar Burton’s VISOR (another royalty fee owed?)).  My favorite book that my sister lent me was Anne of Green Gables.  Loved it.  I actually loved it so much, I used my man card as a book mark.  Yeah.

Anyway, I devoured books from William Bennet’s collections, to animal stories, to pioneer stories, to ancient historical fiction, to sci fi to mysteries.  It took me a day to get through the abridged and condensed Great Illustrated Classics.  They had the hardcovers and the soft covers.  I could get the soft covers for a dollar each at…a store that doesn’t exist any more and I can’t remember the name of (my one chance to escape having to pay royalties and I blow it).  My favorite was The Count of Monte Cristo and The Hound of the Baskervilles.  When I grew up I actually read both in the completed form.  The count was rough, took me several months to complete.

With all of this reading though, I read little of the actual bible.  Oh, I devoured this one bible story book that we had but that was about it.  I could tell you about Old Testament dudes that a lot of people don’t even know existed.  But when it came to that guy Paul or Peter, not so much.  And I would feel guilty but not enough to actually pick up the bible.

My non-fiction reading was non-existent.  I feel as if there were a handful of biographies and non-fiction up to my first year of college.  Of course, during high school, I got a lot of my theology from studying apologetics which probably isn’t the best way to form a theological foundation but it happened.

Now, in my young adult years, I am taking back the opportunity and reading some heavier stuff.  John Piper, J.I. Packer, David Platt, C.S. Lewis, Josh Harris, Francis Chan to list some of them…most of them…all of them.  I’m working on it.  I’m waiting for the day when I can jump into Jon Edwards, John Owen, and John Calvin.  The three Johns.  I am finding that it is a different beast, reading for information than for mere story.  And I’m finding my memory needs some help.  So I’m going through more with a pen marking in the margins as I read.

 

Where am I Going With This?

 

As I come across people, there are those who read and those who don’t, as I stated before.  Here is my argument.  As a Christian, as a follower of Christ, one must become a reader.  I’m not saying always have a book on hand or an e-reader.  But we all must become, to one degree or another, a reader in our own way.

We are given the inspired word of God as a way to know and commune with the Creator of the universe.  Those who read it incorrectly go off and form cults.  Those who don’t read it are not going to grow spiritually as we cannot be always spoon fed.

Then there are books about the bible.  Those who read it incorrectly are well advised to read these books so as to correct and inform their thinking.  I am not taking away from one of the offices of the Holy Spirit in helping us discern the scriptures for ourselves.  But I am saying that there are a million helpful texts out there (Fee and Stuart come to mind in “How to read the Bible for all it’s worth”).

Then there are secular books.  I feel it’s important to read these at times in order to see man for who he is.  Also, I have heard it said before, God has not given Christians the market on truth.  You can find it outside of the Christian bubble…sometimes in a more potent form.  Stephen King and Lovecraft come to mind.

 

Reading is part of the Christian faith.  Its part of our walk.  So try it.  It cant hurt.  And there’s always books on tape.  Their fun, especially if it’s a good voice actor.  I don’t think I really ever read a “Borrower” book, just listened to them on tape.  On a walkman.  Wow I’m old.

 

Peace,

Bill

End of Writer’s Block??????

So it has been a while since I blogged (once again).  So, hopefully, no one is really following looking for new content.     I have been working on a manuscript lately and I’ve been plagued incessantly by writer’s block.  Then, while I wasn’t really thinking about, it started to fall into place.  So, in celebration of the end of a writers block, I give you an unedited (cuz I can) excerpt from the book.  Hope you enjoy it.

The first thing he noticed was the smoke.  The second was that he was getting better at this waking up from a KO than before.  The third was that it took longer for him to go down in a fight this time.  Probably due to all the fights he had been in recently.  The fourth thing he noticed was that he was alive.  Dirk looked up, eyes weighing heavy, crying to be closed.  The effects of the darts were still fighting against him but he tried to hold out.  His hands had been tied behind him, an arm on each side of the pole.  He felt the rope that held him.  It felt frayed, homemade.  He worked his hands back and forth, trying to loose himself.  Suddenly he heard a noise and looked up.  Through his misty vision, he saw a small child approach him from a flickering orange background that he soon discovered to be a large bonfire, the source of the smoke.  The child was about chin high to Dirk and his smile was comical if not for the blood dripping from the corner of his mouth.  Dirk felt a chill run down his back, the blood bringing back memories of Tsala.

A blade suddenly glinted in the firelight.  Dirk watched as the child switched it to his left hand and moved it in several different patterns.  Then he brought it to a stop a centimeter from Dirk’s face.  Dirk felt his eyes flinch but he quickly opened them again.  He saw the kid smile at his reaction, a not so nice smile, a smile that belonged to Lord of the Flies setting than anything else.

Dirk relaxed, letting his body hang from the pole he was bound to.  Then he remembered what Ismene had said about him melting the dagger.  Maybe he needed the motivation.  With that, two thoughts hit him.  One, Ismene had been with him.  Second, he felt like an idiot, trying to melt metal with his bare hands.  But he had remembered it from before slightly.

He looked to his right and saw a shadowy form on a pole similar to his.  He blinked several times, feeling the poison recede from his system like at the bar.  The person became clearer until he could see her face.  It was Ismene, like he thought.  He smiled.  She was breathing.  That was good.

He turned his attention back to the miscreant.  “Go ahead.  Use that knife.  What, are you scared?”

The kid smiled even more, his freakishly white teeth brilliant in the firelight.  “You would want the cold steel of Hades to run across your skin and loose your life?”

Dirk opened his mouth then stopped, surprise registering on his face.  “How do you speak my language?”

Creepy child lowered the blade and sat cross-legged beneath Dirk.  “I speak all languages and none.  All are my words, I have none.”

Dirk nodded.  “Sounds like…fun”

“It gets me places.  But I am curious.  I have never heard yours before.  What do you call it?”

Dirk looked at him.  “How about I tell you if you let me and my friends go?  How does that sound?”

Creepy child looked around.  “No, I cannot let you go.  He would not like that.”  He stepped up and reached out to scrape the sweat off of Dirk’s exposed shoulder with his knife.  “You are dirty though.  Oh well, nothing we can do about this.  I suppose you want to know why you are being held.”

Dirk looked at the kid.  He seemed perceptive for one so young.  “I think I understand the general picture.  You are using us for either sacrifices or hostages.  For the first, you would be sorely mistaken to let strong bodies like ours go unused where we could be useful for labor.  For the second, I have no money and neither does—“

“Do not waste your pitiful breath.  He has already decided your fate, something you cannot escape.  You will be used as a living sacrifice for god and he will grant us powers beyond belief.”

“You are sorely mistaken.  Your god does not exist.”

Dirk looked to the pole next to him and saw Ismene had awoken.  “Yes.  That would be wise.  Tell the one who is holding the knife that his deity does not exist.  This will solve our problem.”

Ismene coughed.  “I am only speaking truth to his people.  They need to hear it as do us all.”

Dirk looked around and saw that Ismene was right.  More people had gathered for the ceremony.  He shook his head, feeling fear creep up into his mouth, a coppery taste.  He weighed the options and Ismene’s would not have been one he would have chosen.  Yet, he did realize the importance of sticking together.  This or nothing.  “So be it.  Yes,” he said, looking at the child, “Your god is imaginary.  He has no power.  He does not wish your sacrifice.”

“This is not something we can argue.  Your fate has been decided.”

A weak voice spoke from Dirk’s right.  “Our fates have been determined long before you were even born son.  There is nothing you can do to change that.”

“You shall see what we can do to your fate.”

A hush fell over the already quiet crowd.  The child went breathed in to speak again but stopped suddenly and spun around.  Through the crowd, Dirk could see six men, three on each side, bearing a large throne on their shoulders.  It was made from pure gold, reams of cloth seaming to flow from the seat, different colors melding into each other.  There were ornate carvings with pictures and glyphs that Dirk could not make out.

But it was not the throne that demanded attention.  It was the man atop it.  He was tall and huge.  Rolls of fat jiggled with ever movement of the men, of which there were few.  His hair was long and dark, silver strands weaved throughout.  His beard was massive, falling to his ample stomach.  His girth was such that Dirk wondered if he was able to remove himself from his chair.  One of his large hands rested by a palate of food resting on his stomach and the other held a large goblet.  The he spoke, his voice loud and reverberating into the night.

“Welcome to my home children.  Here you will be treated with exemplary care and concern.  Nothing will you lack, nothing will you want, nothing will you desire.  I will cause your cups to be overflowing and your tables to be ever stocked with fresh meat and wine.”  He lifted his goblet and, as if in example, drank.  A couple drops spilled onto one of his men servants and, with surprising agility, he leaned over and grabbed the man.  He clenched his throat and lifted him bodily from the ground, the man’s legs kicking in midair.  Then the servant fell to the earth, dead, strangled.  Dirk felt his heart stop.  Where the child was creepy, this man outright scared him.

The large man motioned into the crowd and another quickly took the place of the dead man.  “Like I was saying before my man stole my wine, I will grant you paradise.  All I ask is for one sacrifice.  Only one.  Choose among yourselves and the one chosen will be given to me to consume in heat and fire.”

Dirk felt a warm, sticky substance on his wrists and he realized he was bleeding from struggling against the rope.  This was bad, he knew that.  He looked into the fire, hoping it would be quick, whatever the outcome.  Suddenly, he smiled and, looking at Ismene, winked.  She looked at him, a quizzical look on her face.  He smiled.  “I am Gat’yun.  Watch me save you.”

Nathan had closed his eyes against the pain.  His left ankle was swollen and his mouth was dry.  He had passed out already but had come to around the time Dirk had.  He knew there were little options to consider.  Death was close.  If it was God’s will.  He opened his eyes and saw Dirk struggling, the blood dripping from the frayed rope.  He thought back to the story Hector had told him when they had brought this child in to care for.  A young child, barely a man, had taken on several bandits and had won.

Nathan had wondered at the strength there, his curiosity only raised by watching him handle himself in a local bar brawl he had happened to catch.  He looked to the heavens.  This was not something that was random or coincidence.  This was meant to be by God.  Nathan did not know what Dirk’s past was like, nor where he came from.  But the point was he was here now.  Here and now he was here bar nothing.  This was meant to be.  And he prayed.

The large man stopped talking and waited for a response.  Nathan lifted his head.  “You are—“

No one ever found out what he was.  The pole Dirk was on fell towards the fire.  It reached the flames and was doused instantly in fire.  As it fell though, it landed on a flaming log, flipping it into the air.  Nathan watched in amazement as Dirk leapt from his crouched position, reaching out for the flaming log.  Grabbing it in midair, he landed and switched his hold to a part that was not on fire.  He then turned to the throne.

The large man was staring in awe.  Dirk faltered, as if he was unsure of what to do next.  That was the worst thing he could have done.  The king stood on his throne, his men to fall to their knees, and he stepped to the ground.

“I have offered you life and you spit in my face.  You will regret this.”  With speed that left the dead servant in its shadow, he closed the distance between him and Dirk and grabbed at him.  Dirk dodged even quicker but snagged his torn shirt in the hands of the king.  He was spun around by the larger man who threw him to the ground.  The king then reached down and grabbed him by his throat, lifting him above the crowd.  Dirk’s feet struggled against the air as had the servant before him.  Suddenly, he seemed to find invisible purchase and pushed against the king.

The king kept his balance, a frown forming on his face.  Then he smiled as Dirk began to go limp.  He started to let Dirk fall to the ground but stopped when Dirk opened his eyes once more.  “Pride goes before the fall.”  And he plunged the flaming log into the king’s face.  The large man howled and brushed it away with a mighty swipe.

“You fool.  You pitiful mortal human.  You dare assault a god?  Die.”

Dirk was thrown into the surrounding woods with a loud shout of pain.  Nathan followed him with his eyes and winced as he heard him fall to the ground.  Then he watched as the king followed him into the forest.

Dirk pushed himself up and, smiling, waited for the king to reach him.  He had decided to let the big man make the first move.

“You have no idea what you have done.”  The King’s voice was loud and booming.  But when he reached Dirk, he lowered it.  “Do you know who I am?”

“No.  But I think you are going to tell me.”

He cursed in Greek, a word Dirk had only just learned from the sailors.  “I am the god of this world.  You, who are not even worthy to lick my boot, are to be my slaves.  This was my world and you have stumbled into it uninvited.  Now I will kill you for daring to touch me.”

Dirk shrugged, feeling his muscles bunch up.  “You can try.”  He heard his voice shake, fear evident.

“Brave words for a stupid kid.”  The king reached around to his side and pulled out a small metal disk the size and shape of a coin.  Then he reached to his other side but only pulled out an empty sheath.  A look of confusion swept over his features as he looked at the leather sheath.  “Where is my dagger?”

Dirk smiled and, as he stood, plunged the King’s dagger he had taken into his large chest.  Then he took it out and plunged again.  The king screamed with pain and Dirk felt fire burn his chest as the king touched him with a fiery hand.  Their faces were close together and Dirk’s heart stopped as he saw the King’s eyes turn a deep black.  Then the dark forest erupted with fire as the King died, engulfing Dirk in a strange energy.  Dirk started to black out but forced himself to stay awake.  He had to save Ismene.

He ran into the clearing, chaos ensuing after the late King’s subjects saw him, blood covering his hands, start to untie the captives.  Nathan stumbled off the pole, rubbing his hands and limping towards Jonah, who was starting to come to.  “Come Jonah, we have to leave.  We have to escape.”

Jonah mumbled something but stood when freed.  He started to help others to vacate the area.  Dirk held off the crowd, brandishing a large sword he had taken off the King, waving it at those getting too close to him and the others.  It was not until Ismene called out to him that all were free that he turned and made his way with the others to the shore.

*****

     Dirk leaned against a tree and vomited, the combination of blood, death, and smoke catching up with him.  He looked at his hands, once strong back there, now weak and shaking.  He felt his chest, where the king had burnt him, and felt small bumps.  He winced, not wanting to look at it.  The blood on his wrists was drying, crusting over into scar tissue.  He fell to his knees as more bile came up into his mouth.  He pounded the sand, sick and angry.  He hated throwing up.  I’m only 17.  why do I have to go through this.  I can’t do this.  Look at me.  I’m puking all over, making a fool of myself.  He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, something he would not have done weeks ago back home, and crawled to lie down.  He could feel his mouth, dry and sticky, the stomach acid making his teeth raw.  The after taste lingered in the back of his throat and he started to dry heave.  He felt mucus and tears all over his face so he took his shirt and tried to wipe it.

“For a kid, you are a beast, a lion.”

Dirk looked up and saw Nathan limping towards him across the sandy shore.

Peace,

Bill