The Vow (Historical Fiction)

Olive Grove in Galilea, Israel

Olive Groves in Israel (courtesy of 123RF/Noam Armonn)

The lanky, young Yitzhak scanned faces in the courtyard until his eyes locked on hers. The joy of life exploded from within the returning Israelite’s breast at the sight of Hayalah’s smile. He had been away such a long time.

“Hayalah, my beautiful gazelle! How empty my heart has been without you!” In four long strides, the joyful youth covered the distance, eager arms raised to envelop his beloved.

Instead of the warmth Yitzhak had so long anticipated, Hayalah’s outstretched palms resisted his embrace. “Yitzhak, oh my dear Yitzhak. You’ve not heard. Come! We must talk.”

Fiery Challenge

After consuming spicy meals twice-daily in Ethiopia, I began to pop my favorite Jalapeño peppers into my mouth, much like one might devour dill pickles on a hot, summer day. The intense spiciness of the East African peppers had peeled twelve layers of skin off my upper lip in just three months, so how much worse could the peppers of West Africa be? At least, that’s what I reasoned when accepting the kindly, African pastor’s challenge around our dinner table.

Hot peppers

Hot peppers

“You might want to re-consider,” his Swiss wife said. “Even the crushed version of those peppers is fiery hot.”

“It’ll be okay,” I said. “I’m used to eating spicy foods; I think I can handle it.”

Pastor Omar exploded in raucous guffawing. Startled, I dropped my fork, which poured fuel on his laughter. “You’ve never tasted the peppers from my country,” he said. “Most white men can’t eat them.”

“We’ll see tomorrow,” I said smiling, confidence rising up from deep within my being. I’d put myself on the line for my race and gender. I looked forward to his defeat.

Hot Dog Hallelujahs

When asked what they wanted to learn in fifth grade catechism, one petite ten-year-old girl said, “We want to learn how to pray, Teacher.”

Jimmy sneered. “Everyone knows how to pray. You just memorize a bunch of words.”

“That’s one kind of prayer, Jimmy,” I said smiling. Eager to share what I’d been learning, I continued. “Conversational Prayer is another kind.”

Thus began an incredible experience for two newly-saved university students and Sister Mary Margaret’s thirty hand-picked “Hot Dogs.” The class, made up of kids seasoned-teachers refused to accept, lived up to the nun’s label–until God touched them.

Each week Liz recorded and dated the children’s prayer requests on our special chart. As the Tuesdays passed, the answers and dates completed the line. We had only one hold-out. Prayer disgusted Jimmy, until one late-November day.

“Where’s the chart? Where’s the chart?” Jimmy ran into the classroom, shouting. “God’s gotta help me!”

Musings on the Lord’s Prayer Part II

In the previous post, I shared some of my musings from personal life and study of the Lord’s Prayer, recorded in Matthew Chapter Six. Picking up the passage at verses 11-13, I discovered some powerfully personal issues facing me.

Copyright: / 123RF Stock PhotoGive us this day our daily bread

God’s daily provision for His people began 4000 years ago. Remember the journey through the desert that lasted for forty years? No drive-through McDavid’s for burgers on any of their paths. No roadside convenience stores for snacks and tasty beverages at the rarely seen oases.

According to Exodus Chapter Sixteen, the daily diet for the millions of God’s trekking people had a name, Manna, which literally meant What is it? I remember in my university days, one menu item lived up to its name, Mystery Meat; but at least, we didn’t have it every day.

God provided food for His people every single day, though He had strict instructions that no Tupperware or Zip-Loc bags would be allowed. Those who broke the rule and took more than their family needed, storing up a portion for the next day—just in case—found the manna unusable due to the presence of maggots.

On the sixth day, the people were ordered to collect enough for two days provision for their family’s needs, because manna wouldn’t be provided on the seventh day—the Day of Rest. Of course, people being people, some ignored the instruction and found only dry ground on the seventh day. Oops, God really meant what He said.

Living in one of Africa’s most under-developed countries, our missionary community made it a practice to return from home assignment furloughs with special treats to share with others for those extra-special occasions. A box of Brownie mix is a treasure, reserved for such celebrations. The problem came when we repeatedly passed the box by, waiting for just the right time to prepare the chocolate treat.

At last, the time had arrived. We didn’t worry much about the long-passed expiration date; all of us had become used to eating expired foods. Lifting the packet out of the box squelched our joy; the bugs had already consumed our treat, leaving only a few bits of powder in one corner. However, this was better than the day we opened the lid on a white cake mix, only to find it filled with live spiders.

Everyone in our community is still working on celebrating special occasions a lot faster than we did the first few terms in Africa. Hard to break that hoarding habit, you know?

On one occasion outside of Africa, we saw the Lord supply our daily bread in an amazing way. We had a grocery list, but God’s provision to pay for the items hadn’t yet arrived. With the larder totally bare, the call to fasting seemed imminent.

Musings on the Lord’s Prayer Part I

Staring up at the beautiful bookmark displayed as the Sunday School teacher challenged our second grade class, I resolved to earn the colorful treasure by the following Sunday. I’d ask my mother to help me as soon as I got home.

Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

Praying Hands

I couldn’t read many of the words without help, but I memorized each word carefully. How I loved to look at that marvelous bookmark, earned by determination more than intellect or understanding.

I’ve grown up around the application of those profoundly powerful, yet simple words. I suspect I’ll keep maturing as I study the prayer, and interact with people this side of Heaven, but here are a few musings collected thus far. (Although the Lord’s Prayer can be found in other Gospels, I’m using the verses found in Matthew 6:9 and 10 for this post.

 

Our Father Who art in heaven

Though Jesus desired the opening words to bring a sense of security and being loved to his followers, the sad truth is that for many lost souls today, picturing God as our Father brings fear, anger, and mistrust. Because their earthly father fell short of what they needed him to be, there’s no reference point to see God as anything but cruel or uncaring. Their earthly father may not have been present in their lives at all.

One boy I met on Huntington Beach laughed bitterly at the mention of a father in heaven saying, “Oh yeah, I know about fathers I can’t see already; I never met my old man either. He don’t want me and I sure don’t need him.”

His implication clear, my heart ached for the young man so strung out on drugs that the mere mention of God as a father unleashed a fury of foul language. I longed for him to know the Father Who art in Heaven, but Whose heart dwelt with His children on earth. The lad desperately needed God’s peace.