“Four years ago, I can attest Luke Joshua Torwalt was born 7 lbs., 6 oz., and 19 in. tall in the Valley, Arizona. The Torwalts are the lead pastors at Faith Rising Church and they are full gospel, Pentecostal believers, and to this day I’m blessed to be a part of Luke’s like as ‘Mellie’.”
The auditorium erupts with applause. Happy to hear about the happy ending, to the personal testimony of Best Selling Author, Melanie Gartner Begay.
“And doctors say my ER visit was a misdiagnosis, because I did not have a vanishing twin. The placenta proved it.” The crowd explodes with various hallelujahs and praises to God. She adds, “I’m a firm believer God gave me back my baby because I asked Him to.” She smiles at everyone with her face flushing bright, lobster red. She lowers the mike and sets it in her lap crossed at the knees, where she sits center on a stool with a back rest.
Her husband, seated in a matching stool beside her, grabs her free hand that sports her sparkling, very visible diamond ring. He lifts the grill of his mike to his chin and takes over the spotlight, “Does anyone have any questions for my wife… or for me… since her book sort of is the story of us…”
I stand up raising my hand. Risking, looking like a total fool. With a shaved scalp, a full beard, and glasses on, I’m certain neither of them can recognize me.
“Yes, hipster that just stood up.” Mr. Begay calls on me.
“Melody states in the last chapter, neither of you believe in missionary dating, but did not missionary dating lead you both to salvation?”
The young Navajo man chuckles. He cracks his neck by jolting his head sideways and then back upright. “Uh… As she explains in the book, God is Everloving. His love is unconditional, continuous, ever present, all encompassing, constantly pursuing us because He has the singular goal of having a relationship with us, His way. Yet, He is such a gentleman, He pursues us by wooing us, and He uses any method we give Him permission to chase us. By grace and probably a little luck, Christ encountered us through a person we dated.” He gazes at Melody, completely spellbound by her, madly in love with her, and gives her a peck on the check. Majority of the audience gushes over the public display of affection. “And I got to ask that person to marry me. Thank God she said yes!” The crowd nervously laughs with the couple.
“To add to what Colton said…” She raises her mike back up. She gulps and explains, “Now, I obviously didn’t marry Asher, but it took his love for me to open up to Christ’s love for me…” She falls silently and stares at me. The look on her face is the classic expression of the Holy Spirit downloading fresh information into her spirit. “Sir, could you take off your glasses?”
I think I’ve been discovered. I comply interested to see where this will go. The moment I do, Melody gasps, leaping off her stool. “ASHER LUCAS!” Everyone reacts in various ways. Some are excited, others are confused, by some facial expressions of audience members they think this was planned, and Colton leaves his wife’s side and hurries up to me. He nearly trips half way up the steps by not paying attention to his feet, but he grapples me into a hug and the NBA’s first Navajo point guard won’t let go.
“How could you sneak in here all incognito?” Melody asks from the front of the lecture hall.
Rubbing my shiny head, Colton asks, “What happened to the curly fro, Bro?”
Colton holds his mike to my mouth for the whole place to hear my answer, “I was tired of everyone commenting I had chick hair.”
Taking the mike back, “So you’re not prematurely going bald?”
“No. I’m not.” I confess.
“Asher, can you come down and tell everyone why you d—,” she pauses and then she murmurs, “Okay Holy Ghost…” Again, she re-asks me, “Can you please join my husband and I upfront and explain why you did what you did?”
Following behind Colton down the stairs, and the crowd goes crazy with excitement, I think to myself: God, your sense of humor astounds me. Colton was my best friend in Sanders. He was convinced he’d never go anywhere or do anything with his life. He didn’t even want to go to college. Then he becomes a Mormon. Goes to Brigham Young for free and plays basketball. Helps them win enough to make it to the Final Sweet 16 in March Madness his Freshman Year. He convinces Melody Gartner to date him before being the number three draft pick and playing for the state of Utah. While they’re dating he rededicates his life to Christ.
Because yes, that is what Melody did, she went to Brigham Young not believing an ounce of Mormonism. At her graduation, she gave a speech preaching the true gospel and nearly everyone there dedicated their life to Christ. The Dean of Students and the Chancellor resigned from their jobs the next day. Brigham Young did not ratify her degree and to this day are withholding it from her. However, that’s okay. The Lord encouraged her to write a book, which she finished in a week living in the Torwalts basement, because her and Colton were still engaged, and Everloving is currently #1 on the New York Times Best Selling List.
I knew about the book prior to publication. She wanted me to have a 5% royalty from the sales, but I said no. When I went to the campus bookstore to buy a copy, and found out her book was sold out, I regretted not taking her offer.
Melody clarifies things for the audience, “We had no idea he’d be here tonight. What are you doing here? Didn’t you graduate already?”
“I’m a senior this year.” I state. Anyone who reads her book learns her pregnancy encouraged her to graduate high school early online and she began college courses at Brigham Young over the summer. Upon her enrollment she took 20 credit hours a semester and whatever she could every summer, determined to be out of there as soon as possible, which enabled her to graduate her Junior Year as Salutatorian of her class. She was chosen as the key speaker for her exemplary community outreach, on campus contributions, and sexual assault activism.
“Right, I forgot I graduated early.” She giggles. Clearing her throat, “Anyways, this is Asher Lucas, who was a great friend to me high school and even with all my tricks and schemes stayed by my side for as long as he could. Asher, please explain why you did what you did?”
Colton hands me his mike. The bright lights are blinding but they help make the audience seem non-existent, which makes it easier to speak to the crowd. I never set out to date Melody. It would be rude to tell the truth, wouldn’t it? That I never wanted to talk to her. That I had to force myself to be cordial to her.
What do I say, Lord? I ask Him mentally.
The truth… He answers in my heart. I should have known that. God is big on the truth and anything hidden only remains hidden if God intends it to be a secret, but at some point, He reveals things.
The longer something stays a secret, the bigger and fancier the miracle is, after all, Christ was planned from the foundations of the Earth. His birth, his life, his ministry, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, and his yet to occur second advent… Clearly, Christ is the biggest, greatest, fanciest miracle to ever exist. Yes, exist, because he wasn’t created. He always was and always will be, He is eternal and all things were created through Him. Truth be told. All truth already exists and has yet to be revealed. Lies are created based on the truth. Life is one giant journey that begins in the dark, where everything is hidden from us, and we are to find the light in the pillars of truth placed in our midst.
I think I know what to say now.
“Um… I totally didn’t set out to date Melody Gartner. I had a severe allergy to Mormons at the time. Every time I came in contact with one, tell-tell symptoms of fear, judgement, and a critical spirit made my spiritual heart sick and believe-it or not, brought me closer to Christ. Before I could defend my faith to anyone Mormon, I needed to be reassured by Christ’s love that I knew Him personally, and my faith revealed more and more of Him daily…”
Melody opens the door and leaps to embrace me. Dressed to withstand the outdoors, in snow boots and a huge, ankle length jacket over her flannel pajamas, she steps outside to join me. Stuffing my hands back in coat pockets, I wish I brought my gloves today, then again no one really believed the weather man when he said it would snow after lunch today. The White Mountain usually doesn’t see snow until after Turkey Day, but this year winter came way early in mid-October.
“Thanks for coming by. I would invite you in, but it isn’t appropriate for us to be alone together.”
It’s 4:15 according to my phone. I tried to be here earlier, but there was an accident on the main road by school, traffic was backed up for over an hour and it was the only way out.
“Grab some essentials and come with me right now.”
Melody stares into the distance contemplatively. Conclusively, she crosses her arms and shakes her head no. “I’m gonna stay, Asher. I’ll be okay.”
The ambient crunching noise of car tires treading over mulch and dirt means I’m out of time. One car door slam, several rushed heavy steps, and the hum of angered breathing behind us moments later keeps me put just a little longer.
“Go inside, Melody,” Adam sternly commands. Father like son when it comes to demands.
Slowly, I turn around to face a mortal judge. A mortal judge that given the authority would kill me with a deathly glance.
“Adam, good afternoon.”
“Allow me to make this clear, you are no longer welcomed at our residence.”
“Sir, Melody is—,” Adam cuts me off giving me no room to speak.
“We will have papers drawn up relinquishing your rights to the child, so you don’t have to worry about anything. We’ll see to it that he or she gets a good home.”
“Tenor told me that Melody believes like my faith now, and—,” again, he interrupts me.
“Melody is just confused.”
“Sir,” I say and then regret it. He talks over me and hogs the attention.
“That night after she told us, I made it very clear, she wasn’t welcomed in this house if she didn’t respect our beliefs. She started packing her things. She set her cell phone, her driver’s and medical insurance cards on the table, and she was fixing to walk out the door with just a hoodie to keep her warm…” He pauses scratching the back of his neck, “She was mumbling that believing your way meant God would provide everything she and the baby would need. She wouldn’t listen to reason. She failed to remember the guidance of her religion…” Draping his head, he sighs. “I hate to say it, but that near miscarriage or that vanishing twin prevented my daughter from leaving my protection. That’s the providence of a god I serve.”
“But You can’t hold her against her will, Adam.”
Defensively, he jerks his head up and firmly aligns his gaze with mine, he states, “She is free to go whenever she wants, but if she is going to live in my house, eat my food, use my money, she is going to abide by my rules. She isn’t in school right now because the doctor prescribed bed rest. We talked it over, but when she is well enough, she will go be with my sister and her husband down in the Valley. We will place the child in adoption. The Bishop even has a few wonderful, faithful couples in mind. Then in the Fall, she will attend Brigham Young.”
Nothing can follow that up. He is in no positon to reason otherwise and for whatever reason Melody has seemingly agreed to his terms. Like I already knew, there is nothing I can do.
As I walk down the steps of the porch, Adam explains why I’m not welcomed in their home. Apparently, I’m home alone with his daughter too often, even though this is only my second offense, he is under the illusion we sneak around all the time.
Driving home I ask God why all this happening. Melody should be with me right now. If she went to all that trouble of lying in the first place, she wanted to keep her baby, and now her family won’t allow her to. She finally chooses Christ for real and now she’s trapped… I should be relieved. I should relax. I didn’t have to break up with her. I didn’t have to tell her I know she is a manipulator and a liar to her face. I’m entirely free from Melody Gartner drama in my life.
Yet, the burden on my heart for her is not lifted. Part of me wants to turn around, risk going to jail, and ask her to marry me just so has another option to leave. The other part of me realizes how dumb that would be… We’d be homeless and broke together facing the same issues she would out in the world alone.
These mixed emotions bring on tears, which blurs my sight, and therefore forces me to pull off on the side of the road to give me the chance to gather myself. I don’t even get why I’m crying. I didn’t even love Melody like that… At least I didn’t think I did. But it is true. I do love her. I care about her and I’m really scared she’ll go back to being Mormon. She doesn’t know enough about real Christianity to stay rooted in Christ. She doesn’t understand how to have dialog with God. She needs a body of believers to be her support system. She has yet to learn the power of prayer.
I jerk to look in the back seat but no one is back there. I rub my eyes dry and look around outside but cars pass by on the left and the snow-kissed forest sits on the right. I check my phone to see if butt dialed anyone, but my cell isn’t on the line with anyone.
“Asher…” the same voice calls my name.
Am I crazy? Am I having a psychotic break or am I hearing the voice of God?
“I Am, Asher.”
That’s definitely a God answer. I would never call myself ‘I Am’ and that is God’s true name.
“Yes, I Lord.” I say back.
“Melody is my daughter.”
“Do you believe that Asher?” The LORD seems to question my honesty. He’s right, I don’t really believe Melody is totally saved. Most of her theology must still be predominantly Mormon.
The LORD adds, “I’m also Qanna. Melody is safe with me.”
“What does Kahn-Na mean?”
“Look it up. Exodus 34:14 is a good place to start. Or Google it.”
“Why can’t you just tell me? I asked you.”
The atmosphere in the car changes. My overloaded heart feels like a lightweight now. A joy sparks in my soul. I have peace and somehow, I’m certain everything will work out. I don’t know how. I certainly don’t fully understand why.
I’m so stoked I want to speed home. Treat 77 like the Audubon, but wisdom convinces me to remain a law-abiding citizen. I get back on the road, blast the worship music, and enjoy the experience of this victory in Christ that goes beyond words.
Last night, I went to one of my dearest friend’s gender reveal party. As great as it was to be a part of that, for the first time I understood how unwed, childless women feel… People with kids talk about their kids mostly and it gets weird and awkward when you don’t have kids too stay share parenting war stories…
But it wasn’t all bad, I met a woman who was questioning the validity of the Gospel. She grew up in a Christian home but when she began to question if the Gospel was true, she was discouraged from raising those questions because “it would make her faith harder to hold on to”…?
I could relate to the woman because she was a fellow analytical thinker and counted on evidence to make a solid decision. For once, in my 26 years on this planet, I wasn’t nervous about discussing scripture, hearing her questions, and I had a lot of peace to share my experiences that strengthened my faith over the years.
Nowadays, we have too many people falling away because of experiences. They either have bad experiences with believers or whacky experiences with devils or themselves and credit such workings to God. The same factor lacking in the aforementioned experiences is scripture… what does scripture have to say in light of those experiences?
Then, we also have a bunch of people who worship the Bible and don’t rely on personal experiences with God at all! What a dry, dead life?!
We need a balance of everything. We need a solid foundation of scripture, we need a consistent prayer life to stay connected to God, and we need experiences with the Holy Spirit or orchestrated by God for our faith to grow and live fervently within us.
As I talked to this woman (that I am ready to friend), and we hit a really sweet spot where I can unpack all this evidence with science to support scripture, and personal experiences in light of the Bible, we get interrupted because the gender reveal party is over and people start to leave… so people come over to say goodbye…
If only I had two more minutes…
Then after I say goodbye to everyone, and I leave, on the car ride home I think about the things I could have said, or I think how I should offered to pray with the woman who had questions, but I stop my thoughts on that should-have, could-have, would-have train. Everything I said in that conversation wasn’t for nothing and God doesn’t separate cultivating relationships from saving souls (sometimes we do that in our ignorance and/or arrogance).
Therefore, I’m going to friend this woman. Not with the sole ambition to win her soul, but we have common interests and I know in God’s goodness He is going to reveal Himself to her. There’s a high probability I will be used as a vessel to connect her to God, but her salvation or reconciliation with God isn’t my mission. My mission is to love her as I would any other human being that is a dear friend to me, and keep my hope alive in Christ, that the Holy Spirit will draw her back to the Father’s Heart… because she once considered herself a believer. Is God not a jealous God and in the business of keeping us?
Never discourage anyone from questioning the Bible or the Gospel. Simply trust God will keep them in the truth. Be open to taking their questions and sharing your thoughts and experiences. Don’t be nervous. Don’t feel their salvation rests on your shoulders. Jesus saves, we are just the messengers.
Remember, our relationships with people are the most precious because our commodity is love. God loved us first so we could love Him. Humanity is driven by the presence of, or the absence of love, and the quality of that love. Humanity is at its best operating in love centered around the love of Yeshua-Son of Man (aka Jesus Christ).
Shine like a star, as yourself, who God is making you to be every day. Maybe people think you’re too religious, or not religious enough. Maybe you talk about Jesus too much or not enough, if you live at peace and know you’re in God’s will for your life, DO NOT CARE WHAT ANYONE THINKS!
We are not people on a mission, we are people of faith! Dr. Lester Sumrall said faith is knowing God. Yes, we must spread the Gospel, but notice how Jesus told the Good News… First, he obeyed God. Then, he made a group of friends and taught them what he knew. Next, he started sharing what God wanted him to do how the Holy Spirit led him to do it. When he healed someone or set them free, he sent the person to testify to someone else who was that person’s direct link to a community.
For example, when the lepers came to Jesus and begged to be healed, he healed them (Luke 17:11-19). Jesus told them to go show their priest that God made them clean. In that day, lepers were excommunicated from everyone. And lepers most likely lived in leper towns. It was customary to go to the priest, go through a ritual cleaning and to be forgiven by God to be made clean (learned this in Bible College from a professor, I trust this source), and only if the priest saw the leprosy was gone, could they go back and join the community.
Another example, when Jesus delivered legion out the Gerasene Man, Jesus told the man to return to his family and testify about what happened and to show the man was delivered (Mark 5:1-20).
The famous woman at the well (John 4:1-42), she went and told everyone she knew who Jesus was.
The over all point being is that God is in the business of relationship. Clearly, God reached out to Abraham and he answered the call. God could reach out to all of us one on one, but because God designed humanity to be a family and to build all sorts of communities, God calls us to cultivate our relationships. We are blessed to partake in spreading the good news not just by telling people about God and leaving them with pamphlets to know God, but through loving people and building our lives through the ties we have with people.
Paul said that our lives were to be letters from Christ to everyone around us. Writing a letter can be so intimate. Putting words on a page to pour out your entire heart without any interruptions. Without anyone twisting your words. Without anyone diluting what you have to say. Reading the letter is all the more richer when you know the one who wrote it. Jesus is the author of life crafted in the Spirit of God, and to the people around us, when they look at us, or talk to us, or spend time with us, they experience firsthand what God has done for us or is currently doing in us, and it is the experience of our company that probes them to connect to the Father. As they understand who we are as a person, they begin to understand God in part.
Not only are we letters from heaven to the world, but we are the translation of God’s love. A love that cannot be grasped or experienced in a fuller way until they believe for themselves… Jesus died on the cross for them and rose from the grave, just to connect them with an unseen God who loves them more than we ever could!
Take this year to love the people you know and get to know them better. This year, when you spread the Gospel, don’t just think about depopulating hell, but think about birthing new babes in Christ, and then commit to be there for as long as God will allow to mature them in the faith. And PLEASE, love your brothers and sisters in Christ like you love your blood family. Be quick to forgive, slow to anger, and even slower to speak!
Best of all, live everyday with God behind you, before you, and right by your side. Never try, but just be like Nike and do it! Live boldly and fearlessly!
When I give her the drawing at lunch, she studies it carefully. I can tell she likes it, but she’s partly confused.
“Why isn’t it colored in all the way?”
“I wanted the petals of the daisies to stand out… I think… I’m not really sure why. I feel like just the various shades of yellow say a lot.”
“It’s beautiful… thank you.” She smiles touching my hand. Retracting her hand she adds, “I love it,” keeping her attention on the sketch of her.
Having a muse is new to me, and I don’t know why, but being around Melody makes me want to draw. Not just her, but other things. I forgot the freedom that art brings to the soul. Fueled by a joy I can hardly grasp or explain, and my only driven desire is fixated on sketching all the ideas blooming in my mind.
I spend nearly all of lunch drawing a griffin flying through the forest with a living black smog chasing it. I’m not sure where these images come from sometimes. The ancient Greeks believed muses were actual spirits that influenced writers and artists, almost like the writers and artists were just instruments or tools for the muse spirits. Considering all the crazy tales and mythology the Greeks created, I believe one hundred percent they were influenced by demons.
“You should at least eat your apple.” Melody suggests, concerned about my level of food consumption, in particular my lack of food consumption.
“I don’t want to get apple juice on my sketch.” I say.
“Then can I have your apple?” She asks.
She’s already eaten my honey roasted, peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich, my bag of chips, my bag of carrots, and now she wants my apple? All she’s left me are my mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. Why am complaining about that? That’s awesome! Cookies for lunch…
“Sure,” I say reaching for the apple to give to her, but her zebra-decorated faux nailed fingers grasp the big, delicious red before me. Without thanking me for it, she bites into it. I snatch a cookie while there’s still one to grab, after she devours that apple she might want some junky sweet food next.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Jon Hurst plops down beside me.
“Hey I got a question for you Christian boy.”
“Jon, go away.” Melody snaps.
Jon ignores her and asks me his question, “If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why don’t you believe in prophets or the priesthood anymore?”
He’s asking because he’s curious and that’s good.
“In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.’ So he didn’t come to do away with it. He wants us to still obey the law and to respect our prophets; does the word not say so?” Jon reasons.
He makes a convincing argument, but the first thing that comes to mind is when Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. He used scripture trying to entice Jesus to bow to his corrupt will, and not to rely on God. I think I shock Jon when I tell him I agree with him, but only about Jesus fulfilling the law.
“While Jesus walked the earth, he did fulfill the law. He had to because he was a rabbi and to some he was considered a prophet, but he had to live by the law and the teachings to prove he was the Messiah, but after he died on the cross and rose again we were set free from the law and salvation was made possible for gentiles like you and me. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, but we are all children of God. The Book Galatians and Romans Chapter 8, explain it well if you don’t want to take my word for it, but God’s word for it.”
Without asking, Jon takes one of my mom’s cookies. While chewing, he says, “But Paul wrote that… Jesus didn’t say it.”
I want to say Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon and you take it as the word of God over the real thing, but I don’t say that. Instead I ask, “Is Jesus not the Word of God, who existed in the beginning, before all creation came to be?”
“But why would God change?” Jon questions.
“God hasn’t changed, but his relationship with man has… So you believe that every prophet in the church is appointed by God?”
“Yes.” Jon answers.
“Was Brigham Young considered a prophet of the LDS church?”
“Yes.” Jon answers affirmatively, very proud of the dead man.
“In Jeremiah chapter 28, the prophet Hananiah makes a prediction about Israel, and Jeremiah confronts him questioning whether that prediction came from the Lord. He basically said that a prophet of the Lord can be known when what that prophet foretells comes to pass.”
Jon and Melody continue to listen to me intently. Their eyes seem fixed on my lips instead at me as a whole. I pose this question, “Did Brigham Young not claim that the Lord told him Utah would not be accepted into the State of the Union unless polygamy was legal upon ratification?”
Neither Jon nor Melody says anything.
“Utah became a state, but polygamy was not legal.” Before I can say anything else, Jon quickly jumps to the dead man’s defense.
“He’s only human, no man is perfect. And polygamy protected women and children during that time because men kept dying from wars and quarrels with the Native Americans fighting over the land.” Jon says throwing my mother’s half eaten cookie onto the floor as he comes to his feet.
“Jonathan, if God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and He is love, truth, and just, why would he appoint a prophet who can’t tell the difference between his own inner voice and God’s voice?” I’m astonished by the rhetorical question that I spoke from my mouth. Who else could it be but the Holy Spirit speaking on my behalf… Thank you Lord.
Jonathan walks away faster than he appeared. Ever since we had that huge debate in Geography class last year over the introduction of oxen to the Americas, he likes to come up to me and ask theological questions. At first, it made me nervous, but every time the Holy Spirit always spoke for me. Like I know for a fact I haven’t read the entire book of Jeremiah. I didn’t even know there was a prophet Hananiah. Who else could it be other than He who is in me?
Melody stares at me quietly as she eats my apple. I finish up my drawing, well, I try. Melody staring at me wigs me out. Why is she staring at me?
“What?” I huff in frustration.
Munching on apple mush, she mumbles, “Nubbing…” as she conveniently stares up at the ceiling. Swallowing a large gulp, she raises a brow, staring at the table instead of me and says, “It’s just… I just realized… you always talk about God and what He does.”
Now I’m confused… We’re supposed to testify about what God does, not to boast about how He loves us, but to Glorify Him. Doesn’t everyone who loves Him talk about God and what He does?
“Well, what has God done for you lately?” I ask, again sensing that question wasn’t all me, but more the Holy Spirit’s asking.
Melody’s gaze sinks into an expression of thinking. If you have to think about what God has done for you lately, you either have too much to testify or you have nothing. I can’t imagine what the latter is like nor do I want to.
The bell rings signifying the end of lunch. As I put the final details in the griffin’s feathers, Melody gathers our collective trash from lunch and throws it out. In gratitude for her gesture, I carry her books to class as we walk together since my next class is just down the corner from hers.
At the door to Mr. Thrall’s Government class, Melody takes her bundle of books from me. Clearing her throat keeps me standing by her, since I figure she has something to say.
“You have church tomorrow night, right?”
“Yeah,” I say.
My heart begins to pound fast. I think I know what she’s about to ask and I want to tell her of course before she even asks, but I speak in tongues mentally to stay calm.
“Can I go with you, if your parents are alright with you driving me home afterwards?” She asks.
A twinge of excitement surges through me. She actually wants to go to church with me. I didn’t ask. I haven’t ever asked her. Out of pure curiosity for herself she wants to go! If my parents say no, I may defy them. It would be worth it, just to give Melody the chance for true, freeing salvation.
“Yeah, I’ll check with them tonight.”
The bell sounds as she walks into class. Quickly, I zip around the corner into Mrs. Schuster’s for math class. Pre-cal is one of my favorite subjects, but if I ever admitted that out loud I’d be a laughing stalk. There’s something about numbers and complicated equations that soothes me and relaxes me. I’m so amped right now because of Mel’s choice to attend church with me; I could use something to bring me down to earth.
I wanted to write this post and defend persecuted Christians. I wanted to use scripture, scenarios, and comparisons to show why Christians seem like bigots when we take a stand of faith.
My first I idea, I talked it out with my dad and we got in the horrible debate and it concluded with him refusing to believe what I believe. My concept for this post did not play out well in a real conversation.
Writing something is easy because no one can cut you off in the middle of a thought. You don’t have to look anyone in the eye as you make your point through your opinion. You’re free to be open-minded or stubborn, considerate or not, essentially you can vent and get it out there in the universe without any accountability.
The Apostle Paul was known for boldness in letters and his meekness (sometimes weakness) in person. And like Paul, sometimes I can type something or write something more easily than I can say it to someone’s face. But that’s because I hate rejection. I hate it when someone I love pushes me away because they didn’t want to hear what I had to say. I don’t like appearing intolerant, judgmental, unempathetic, or prudish. Yet, if I must, I’d rather someone I love has heard the truth and be uncomfortable and than stay complacent in a sea of lies.
Now, I understand being too blatantly truthful can be too hurtful, but at least that is better than never learning the truth.
Every we do should always be done out of love, and love as my game is my aim 24/7 these days. However, sometimes people aren’t receptive no matter how kind you are. And we should take a page from, Jesus the Messiah. He didn’t let anyone walk over Him or make Him look like a fool during his ministry.
Below is an excerpt from scripture (taken from Bible Gateway), where Jesus didn’t waste his words with men who weren’t sincere in hearing what Jesus had to say. In other words, he didn’t let anyone treat Him like a floor mat.
Luke 20 The Passion Translation (TPT)
A Day of Controversy
20 One day Jesus was teaching in the temple courts and sharing with the people the wonderful news of salvation.[a] The high priest and the experts of the law were there with the prominent men of the city. They confronted Jesus and asked him, 2 “We want to know right now by what authority you’re doing this. Who gave you the authority to teach these things here in the temple?”
3 Jesus responded, “First, let me ask you a question and you tell me right now. 4 Did John baptize because of a mandate from heaven or merely from men?”
5 His interrogators pulled aside to discuss this among themselves. “What should we say? If we say that John’s mandate was from heaven, he will ask us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him and get baptized?’ 6 But if we say, ‘John’s mandate was merely from men,’ then all the people around him will stone us, for they believe John was a prophet of God.” 7 So they answered Jesus, “We cannot tell where John’s authority came from.”
8 Jesus said, “Then neither will I tell you where my authority comes from to do what I do.”
As believers why do we even bother to entertain conversations where an atheist, or a liberal, or anyone against us want to ensnare us. We are no one’s Savior, but Christ Jesus alone. And trust me, I as much as any believer with a desire to save lost souls want to “sow a seed”, but who says the seed sown must be words or scripture, it could be you’re behavior, and you can decline to speak someone. I wouldn’t be rude about it, but you can be blunt.
Many wandering souls are tired of feeling judged when they converse with a believer. The more you use scripture… the more they’ll use scripture against you or the more you’ll be antagonized, where sooner or later you find yourself in the trap acting like a hypocrite by having malice in your heart, saying hurtful things out of cowardice, and quick to anger like a lit matchstick. Thank God we serve a God who can turns those nasty moment to your good and at least one person may have been influenced by you in a positive way or will later, but why be a fool and act out.
Have you ever thought about this? Jesus only used the Word of God in synagogues. Amongst His disciples (that means His twelve and the thousands that followed Him around or came to a place He was speaking in town), he talked about godly concepts and precepts in stories aka parables. He would answer with the Word of God when asked directly about the Word at times, but often He would add a freshness to it.
Pharisees asked Jesus which was the most important commandment out of all God’s law. As Pharisees I’m guessing the Ten Commandments were as important as the 613 oral traditions they did their best to keep. And out of all of it, Jesus says, “Love the Lord Your God with all Your Heart, with all Your Mind, with all Your Soul (entire being), with all Your Strength (sheer will power), and love your neighbor as yourself.”
The love your neighbor as yourself part is the only part that is actually one of the Ten Commandments. The first part is the mantra Israel was supposed to keep in the wilderness, pass down generation to generation, and the mindset to keep once in the Promise Land, which if loving God so much is true, than it covers the first commandment which is to have no other god/idol than God.
A lot of pastors today, and a great one I know (of), keeps it simple and says, “Love God and love people”.
Many people have different definitions of love. The Greeks had four different types of love. Some churches are on a big kick about having agape love, which is unconditional love. That’s a great type of love, but if we don’t have a framework of what love looks like and how to love, than we could think there are a number of ways to love unconditionally which could just be the doctrine of tolerance in disguise.
Paul was great. He was able to put into words what love is supposed to look like for the believer.
1 Corinthians 13 The Passion Translation (TPT)
Love, the Motivation of Our Lives
13 If I were to speak with eloquence in earth’s many languages, and in the heavenly tongues of angels,[a] yet I didn’t express myself with love,[b] my words would be reduced to the hollow sound of nothing more than a clanging cymbal.
2 And if I were to have the gift of prophecy[c] with a profound understanding of God’s hidden secrets, and if I possessed unending supernatural knowledge, and if I had the greatest gift of faith that could move mountains,[d] but have never learned to love, then I am nothing.
3 And if I were to be so generous as to give away everything I owned to feed the poor, and to offer my body to be burned as a martyr,[e] without the pure motive of love, I would gain nothing of value.
4 Love is large and incredibly patient.[f] Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous[g] when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. 5 Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated[h] or quick to take offense.[i] 6 Love joyfully celebrates honesty[j] and finds no delight in what is wrong.[k] 7 Love is a safe place of shelter,[l] for it never stops believing the best for others.[m] Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.
8 Love never stops loving.[n] It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away.[o] It is more enduring than tongues, which will one day fall silent. Love remains long after words of knowledge are forgotten.[p] 9 Our present knowledge and our prophecies are but partial,[q] 10 but when love’s perfection arrives, the partial will fade away.[r] 11 When I was a child, I spoke about childish matters, for I saw things like a child and reasoned like a child. But the day came when I matured, and I set aside my childish ways.
12 For now we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries[s] as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face.[t] My understanding is incomplete now, but one day I will understand everything, just as everything about me has been fully understood. 13 Until then, there are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all.[u] So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run.[v] (Check out Bible Gateway for excellent footnotes about this scripture.)
Verses 4-8 are the ones people quote and preach on all the time. In another translation, it mentions “love keeps no record of wrongs”… Is there one person in your life, you give a difficult time because you think of all the times they hurt you and did wrong towards, and you treat them disrespectfully to protect your heart or you’re quick to accuse them of meaning to do wrong, when they haven’t yet or didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings.
My mom up until a few years ago was this person for me. Often, I have to really think before I speak to her or respond after she does something I perceive as hurtful… and I realize it’s my faulty perception, my record of wrongs toward her, that make me misconstrue her actions and I often discover her intentions were positive they just didn’t turn out as she planned.
Today, in our Digital Age, the world has created their own creed of love and it’s framework is not based on scripture, it is not based on relationship with God. This love mantra is based on selfishness and forcing everyone around each other to comply to set of beliefs to make flesh feel free and for the truth to feel like a prison. This is to be expected. The Bible says in numerous places that people will live according to their flesh, to what feels good, and members of the world will live in a perpetual state corruption and immorality. More and more what is considered evil according to the Bible will be thought of as good and what is considered good by the Bible, will be thought of as evil.
Immature Christians accountable to zero spiritual authority will critique and criticize the members of the world partake in the reversal of wrong-is-right and right-is-wrong. They may even get into arguments and quote a bunch of scripture bring down the hammer of God.
Adolescent Christians will go the agape love route. They’ll love so much they look like Bible-cloaked-hippies. And when pressure comes with big issues like: “Is homosexuality is wrong? Is cohabitation bad? Is sex outside of marriage okay? Is getting drunk alright? Is porn really a sin? Masturbating is better than having sex, isn’t?” The ones about to get their mature adult Christian cards will tackle these and will either succeed or fail. The fresh adolescent Christians will probably not rebuke, pass judgement, or forsake anyone who comes with these questions or practices, but they won’t confront and answer these questions. They will ignore and just love on people and that isn’t a bad thing. God still works in that.
By now, I how you realize I mean adolescent and adult (Christians) like levels not literal ages. You can be 66 years young and still be a babe in Christ Jesus. Or you can be 16 years old and be more mature in faith than a 40 year old. You choose how you grow with God based on three things: how much you trust Him, how in love with Him you are, and how well you listen to Him.
Like the word says we received the righteousness of Christ Jesus when He died on the cross… righteousness just means listening to God… so Jesus died for us so we would have access to relationship with God, so we can listen to Him… If you listen to God through the Word, through His Spirit, through the people you’re connected to, and through experiences you have… you are righteous… not a sinner… you may sin at times, but sin no longer defines nature. Christ does now and He was never a sinner. Forgive yourself when you miss what God was trying to say, repent (change your mind), and move forward with God. There’s literally nothing you can do (other than walk away from Him and even then He’ll find you) that will stop Him from blessing you and making you more and more like Him!
Now… let’s finish up on levels of maturity… and adult (mature) Christians will be prayerful so often that the Spirit of God will lead them how to loving guide or rebuke a questioning or stumbling believer. A mature Christian will not cower and stay silent because they love people so much, at the same time, they won’t be too rough because the anointing of God will be on them to love people properly. And if it is still too harsh, well thank God the believer still has Jesus to make it through.
Let’s face it, the further you are from God, the more you’re doing wrong, the truth will hurt way more. Anything unlike God can’t stand His holiness and we have to get realigned to holiness, the process burns a little.
We’re finally in a great place to get to the point of my article. I know this is long, but if you’re still reading, thank you!
Taking a Stand of Faith will make you look like a bigot at times, intolerant of their beliefs and philosophies, unwilling to listen to them in a way that embraces their ideology. There are two forces at work. God’s Kingdom and Satan’s Playground he tries to pass off as an empire.
These two forces repel each other. These opposites do not attract. The Kingdom of Heaven is based on community, love, and selflessness. The World is based on selfishness, greed, and pride. When God’s people come together it is for the sake of the world coming under the grace of God and His mercy. When people in the World ban together it’s to preserve everyone’s right to live how they want, even if it is wrong. God’s children come together in unity embracing our differences knowing that makes us stronger. Satan’s puppets ban together conforming to same hive mind and anyone who doesn’t fit in, is terminated.
When you are led by conviction and you take a stand of faith, let love be your motivation. Before you were a minister of the gospel, you were a sinner saved by grace. Before you are a believer, you’re a Child of God. Yes, your voice may be one for an entire generation, but it means nothing if you don’t have the Father’s ear up in in heaven.
Everything God ever did for humanity was out of love. Jesus came to earth out of love. The Holy Spirit dwells in believers because of love. We may never understand His love fully, but we can experience it to the point we are transformed by it and become a people of light that leads others out of the darkness and into the light like Christ Jesus did.
Jesus will ever be our standard. Who we are to model ourselves after. Not some great preacher or our mama or a celebrity. And Jesus stood up in faith daily, but not to make a point, not prove He was the Son of Man or Son of God, but He did took a stand of faith out of love for humanity and who we would all become one day! He did this before He saw what the church is today. Before He has seen the other side of this life and God’s final plan for this world completed.
I will confess this post went in a direction I did not expect. It is way longer than I wanted it to be. But I’ll conclude on this note:
Think before you post. Check your heart motive before your act or speak. And everyday, just find a way you connect with God best and ask Him what is He would like you to do today, and if you don’t get anything new, keep doing what you’re doing unless a fellow believer or a preacher or mentor say you’re doing something wrong. Then fix yourself by going to God, repent (I didn’t realize I was being a jerk towards my brother, forgive), and then most likely go apologize to the brother you wronged. Kingdom is simple. It can be hard because our flesh hates it, but one day it will get better.
If you’re an unbeliever and you read this whole thing! I’m convinced the Holy Spirit is trying to speak to your heart about Jesus the Messiah. My favorite thing about Jesus is that He is literally my best friend. At first, He was that way by default (I had zero to little friends growing up), but as of lately, He is the Greatest Friend I have and I don’t ever want anyone or anything to come between us.
He can become your friend today. You just have to believe by faith (like be convinced or just trust even if it doesn’t make sense) that Jesus died on a cross to kill the sin nature in you (that part of you that makes you miss following the rules God has for your life) and when Jesus rose from the dead in a resurrected body (you are born again in a way that gives you a heart and a mind to know God) and now the Holy Spirit (God’s very Spirit) lives in you to empower you with grace, mercy, and love to live according to the plan God has for your life as long as you agree daily to partner with God, and to trust His process of making you more like Him, and less like a lost sinner that will never know God deeply.
To insure you continue your process of transformation and sanctification (a term you learn more about in church), you need to find a church that believes in the Bible, believes in Baptism by Water and the Holy Spirit, believes in the Trinity (not modalism), and the people who attend treat you with love, kindness, and authenticity. You’ll know deep down inside you’re in the right place when you walk in because you’ll feel at peace. If you feel restless and uncomfortable, leave and don’t go back! If you feel nothing… revisit a few times if you can’t find a church and one day you’ll just know. Also, find a person willing to meet with you on a regular basis to talk scripture and pray with you and show you how to live like Jesus. Hopefully, this someone will find you, but be bold and find someone who look up to and want to be more like in the way they’re like Jesus. If the person says no or it never pans out, ask God to send you a mentor when you need one in the area you need one. In the mean time, go to God about everything and anything. That should be your rule of them anyhow. God first, His Word second, His people last.
If you’re in Tucson, I suggest some churches to try. Faith Christian Fellowship Tucson (that is my tribe), or Calvary East or Calvary West or a Calvary Chapel on Prince not related to East or West. Grace to the Nations or Passion Church. I’ve attended all these churches at one point throughout my life in Tucson, AZ and if God where to plant you in one of these places, it would be solid ground rich in what Christ Jesus has to offer.
If you’re in Columbus, OH, you can dive into World Harvest Church… It’s good soil there too. It isn’t for everyone, but it is a good place to grow if God plants you there.
Warning… Satan will be upset you accepted the invitation to become a Child of God. He is going to tempt you to live, to deceive into thinking Jesus is not worth giving up the world and Satan hates you so he will try every dirty trick in the book, but if you meditate on God loving you and the love you have for Him. That is what keeps you linked to God and Satan can’t break that bond, no matter what. Trust God through every turn- good, bad, ugly, and indifferent and you will live life to the fullest and we will be together in paradise and on the New Earth one day. Becoming a believer is so much more than just going to heaven when you die, it’s living a life with purpose!
The day I first saw her, I swore she was the one. Before I learned her name or heard her voice, a shift in my heart opened a place for her, and somehow I just knew. It’s the moment men in literature and in films talk about. How they just looked at their future-bride-to-be and knew without a shadow of doubt she was the one. I was especially convinced, because as I looked at her, I recalled the story of how my parents met.
Mom and dad were freshmen at Belmont University. A week or so prior to the first day, they bought books at the same time. It wasn’t until they were in line, they noticed each other. Well, dad noticed mom first, because she stood in front of him in the checkout line. Her wavy auburn hair wrapped up in a bun, platinum three inch hoop earrings in her ears. Wearing a floral purple dress, with pink flowers, and pink leggings to match, and worst of all she wore big, clunky black boots. My mom’s fashion sense in the early 90s wasn’t the greatest. To her, that outfit was tame Madonna-esque.
Dad’s gaze gravitated to her. She must have felt him staring, because she looked over her shoulder at him, and nervously he shied away looking the other direction. When she had stepped up to the cashier, dad found himself watching her again. Supposedly, the way he felt in that instance was indescribable, but like me, he just knew… Mom was the woman he would marry. Of course, hearing the end of this story makes you wonder how they ever ended up together. Dad let mom leave the bookstore without saying hello or getting her name, but the thought of her and what life could be like didn’t leave his mind.
The first day of school, they had one class together: Bible History 1. They learned each other’s names by the instructor calling on them to answer questions, but still, they never talked to each other outside of class. The semester ended.
After winter break, the spring semester came. After summer break, Sophomore Year came. Throughout both semesters they saw each other on the campus and waved and said hello, but they never sat and held a conversation. In the middle of Junior Year, when dad saw mom at a café off campus, dad worked up the courage to ask mom if he could buy her a coffee. From then on, they became friends. About 7 months later, dad asked mom out on their first date. And a week after graduation, the two were married, and it’s been happily ever after ever since.
When we first moved to the Fort Apache Reservation on the White Mountain, the church my dad got hired at, wanted to show him the premises immediately. It was a Friday Night, the Youth Worship Team practices for the Sunday Youth Service. Then usually church members spend that night cleaning the church.
Mom, Annika, and Margret (the pastor’s wife), were off taking their own tour of the church. Dad, Abbey, and I were with Pastor Josiah and Pastor Chastity (the Youth Pastor) on our way to the Youth Sanctuary. We walked down the white-walled hallway partaking in typical small talk. The Youth Sanctuary doors were just ahead, when we heard a door open up from behind us. Natasha stepped out of the nursery room.
Her black hair, with crimson red highlights was bundled in a floppy, unorganized bun. Strands of hair draped around the crown of her forehead. Dressed in faded blue jeans, a neon yellow ‘EYE on IT’ TobyMac tee, and hot pink canvas shoes, she wore yellow cleaning gloves and she held a rag in one hand and a bottle of disinfectant spray in the other. With genuine happiness she beamed with delight as a smile that expressed her thrill to meet the new comers. Before I heard her voice, or knew her name, with one eye glance, and in that moment as her cool gray eyes met mine a shift opened a place in my heart for her and somehow, I just knew… she was the one…
I was so sure Natasha Lane was the one, but now I’m not very certain she is. She just got a boyfriend and he isn’t me. Zeven Thackett… now they have a storybook love story… if they’re met for each other. They’ve been bffs since they were toddlers. They grew up in the church together. They’ve served on the Youth Worship Team since they were 13. Now, in their Senior Year of High School they have become an item. It’s like their life has been perfectly designed for each other.
That’s what I get for waiting… Today, marks one year Natasha and I have known one another. Tonight, we’re going to the Lane home for dinner, and I planned to ask her out either before or after dinner. Last month, I even asked dad how you ask a girl out, and if I should ask Natasha out. The only tidbit of advice he gave me was, “Did you ask God?”, followed up with, “If it’s meant to be, sloppy or smooth, it will all work out.”
That’s the thing, I didn’t really ever consult God as to whether Natasha was the one or not. I think a part of me was afraid that she wouldn’t be. All my life, I’ve heard the story of how my parents met again and again, and every time I hear their love story the love I’ve reserved in my heart for my future wife gets stronger and stronger. And before we moved to the White Mountain, I heard about a couple that were brought together by God. They were friends for five years. They didn’t kiss until their wedding day. It was the sweetest thing I ever heard, more romantic than my parents’ story. I pondered if it was possible. Then God reminded me that in the OT, people were strangers when they got married. Or they knew each other through family for years before they got married. I slowly became a believer.
Not too long after hearing about that seemingly perfect couple, God told me to do something strange. Write a letter to my nameless, faceless, complete-stranger-to-me-currently, future bride. I wrote one without question. I talked about my dreams, my fears, and I told her how much I love her. It was the girliest thing I ever did, but I don’t regret it. Not long after that, God told me to pray for my future wife, and as I prayed I thought about her and our future together. And of course, I fantasized about our possible future as I prayed, almost every time. But I stopped praying for my future bride a year ago, when I met Natasha Lane. I prayed for Natasha often, but consumed by the crush I had for her, and still have for her, I have neglected my future bride in prayer. Some future husband I am.
It’s annoying when looking at something triggers a whole fret train of thought. Mom’s probably wondering where Annika and I are. I cradle her in my arms, with her back against my chest so she can get a good look at the flowers. I know she’ll want to touch them too. Her little fingers touch the daisy petals, and she’s cooing with giddy sighs and happy giggles. While Annika amuses herself, I try to eye the perfect bouquet of daylilies, well, at least close to perfect. I don’t understand why we have to bring flowers to dinner; well, I guess Christians don’t really bring wine. We could bring grape juice though. Daylilies are Natasha’s favorite so it’s cool the store has them. By getting daylilies, will Natasha think it was intentional or coincidental? What does it matter, Zeven will probably be joining us for dinner. Who cares, I’m still getting them.
“Hey there fellow red hawk!” I hear a high pitched, flirty voice say. I know who it is too: Melody Gartner, a girl that never ceases to puzzle me.
She doesn’t like me in that way, so she’s claimed, but she’s always flirting with me. I didn’t figure out it was flirting, until Pernel pointed it out to me. That’s one thing I don’t do… at least I don’t think. I don’t flirt because I sort of don’t see the point. If you like someone, why not just be straight forward about it.
“Picking out flowers for the dining table too?” She inquires as she picks up a bouquet of white daisies and then she smells them closing her eyes. Annika stares at Melody with her mouth agape. I think someone wants to learn how to do that.
“Ahh!” Annika moans reaching for the flowers in Melody’s hands. She gibbers some language only one-year-olds comprehend.
Melody’s light brown eyes, accented with bronze eye shadow, pop open, and her ruby red glossed lips coyly smile at Annika. Maybe that’s just how Melody is. Her mannerisms and attitude are flirtatious toward everyone. Come on, who smiles coyly at a baby? She puts the bouquet to Annika’s face and Annika plunges her face into the bosom of daisy blossoms. Just as quickly, Annika jerks her head back and sneezes a few consecutive times.
Melody and I happen to be laughing in sync, but Annika doesn’t find it so humorous with the wad of snot drizzling from her nostrils. Melody sets the daisies back, and then she pulls a powder blue handkerchief out of the back pocket of her blue, brown, and tan plaid patterned cream color Bermuda shorts, and she wipes Annika’s nose. Annika’s a pretty good baby, she doesn’t fuss when someone cleans her up, in fact, she looks like she enjoys it. She likes being pampered.
“Someone loves to be pampered.” Melody says after she’s finished wiping Annika’s nose. She folds up the snotty part of the handkerchief and stuffs it into her back pocket. Gross.
“I know it’s kind of grody, but handkerchief’s come in handy.” She says with a faint spirit of giggling in her tone.
Melody picks up the exact same bouquet of daisies and says, “Well, I’ll see you at school on Monday. I have to get back to dad before he finds me flirting with a boy unsupervised.” She winks at me walking backwards cautiously. The corner of her lip curled up in a teasing smile. Then biting her bottom lip she pivots on one foot, turns, and walks away from which she came.
The thought, how little she knows the love Christ has for her, crosses my mind. And I question, asking God, how can You help her Lord? And in that still, small, inaudible voice… not even in the tone of my own thoughts, I hear Him say, “Love her like I love you.”
My phone alerts me that I have a text message by blaring 20 seconds of Paramore’s Part II. I take it out of my pocket and its mom, wondering where we are, she says she’s in the meat section. I text her that I’ll be right there. I pick up the first bouquet of daylilies, I don’t second guess, and I speed walk with baby and bouquet in tote to the meats!
During my hurried pace to mom, I think about what the Lord said to me. Love her like He loves me. Then suddenly I panic. A fear I forgot I had, rises up in me.
Melody Gartner isn’t just some faithless, lost soul. She’s a faithful, damned soul. She’s a Mormon, like most of the people at my school. There are a few Methodists, Baptists, and Catholics, thank God, but for the most part… everyone’s Mormon. And even though the world considers us all Christians the truth is we’re not all Christians. Unlike us Methodists, Baptists, and Pentecostals and other followers of Christ, the Mormons are not who they claim to be. I know, because God never instructed me to read the Book of Mormon. I know because God has reassured me, I’m not crazy, that there aren’t many paths to God and that God may be three persons in one, but He’s not three deities that work together… Well, I’m not sure if they think the Holy Spirit is God or a god, I don’t know what they think about Him at all… I don’t know much about them and by secular standards it wouldn’t be right to judge them without knowing more, but am I judging them or observing what I see?
Back on the Navajo Reservation in Sanders, before my mom got hired at on the Apache Reservation in Whiteriver, my best friend Colton Begay converted to Mormonism. There was a girl, Kaylie Jenkins. They became friends quickly and Colton was really excited to share the real Jesus with her once he knew she was Mormon. Well, every time he talked about his faith, she shared hers. They never really argued, but at school we always heard them talking about her religion and his faith (or at least I thought he had faith to share). She made it seem like she wanted to date him and that they should be respectful of what each other believe. She came to our church and then he went to her church. He told me how weird and different it was. Every time he talked about anything Mormon I felt an ick feeling in my spirit, and I grew afraid. I saw my friend slipping away and I didn’t know what to do to stop him. I prayed and prayed and prayed, but my prayers seemed to go unanswered.
I watched DVDs talking about the falsehood of Mormonism, I read books about how to converse with (or witness to) Mormon Missionaries, if they ever came to your door, and I listened to everything Colton told me about Mormonism. Before he converted, I could already tell he was on the verge because he talked about marrying Kaylie. In his company, I spoke to his intellect trying to get him to see that he was being led into darkness, instead of relying on the Holy Spirit in me to do the talking for me to speak to his inner spirit man. I marginalized what God could do instead of trusting how miraculous God is.
It took only two hours after he made his conversion for the whole church to find out. Now I know, if my father was the pastor at the church, what happened to Colton, wouldn’t have happened. The entire congregation murmured and gossiped about his decision. His parents kicked him out of their house. And when he tried to come visit our church, when Barry Holiday, who was like a grandfather to all of us, passed away to see how we were holding up, the deacons swarmed like a battalion of soldier-bees and escorted him out into the cold, dark winter night. The Holy Spirit told me to go wait with him outside, but I was afraid of what everyone at church would think, and above all I worried most about my father’s image as a pastor. He wasn’t even a part of that pastoral staff… and I was concerned for his reputation… something that wasn’t my responsibility, my only responsibility was to be a son of God and act in love as Christ would have in that scenario.
Though God made it clear to me Colton’s choice wasn’t my fault and even if I had listened to the Holy Spirit that night, Colton is his own person and he has the power to choose: God or the World, and he chose the World whether he ever realizes it or not. I still talk to him occasionally, but not often does a day go bye I don’t think of him, and feel partly responsible for him slipping away.
“There you are!” Mom says dumping packets of red meats into the cart. The impact of the pounds she picked out rattles the cart.
Mom sees the daylilies and says, “Good choice. Those are beautiful.”
“Really?” I question with a nervous sense of happiness tingling through me. I’m probably blushing.
I put Annika in the provided baby seat, and set the bouquet inside the cart, on top of cereal boxes.
“Could you go find your sister? She’s not responding to my texts. I sent her off to go get pasta and marina sauce a while ago and she’s not back yet.” Mom explains.
“Yeah, sure.” I tell mom as I head to the pasta and sauce aisle.
It figures that Abbey is talking to a boy when I reach the location mom sent her. And of all boys, it had to be Miss Flirty’s brother: Tenor Gartner. He’s an Adonis to my sister. The type of boy she’s always pictured herself marrying. He plays wide receiver on the football team. He’s way taller than her standing at about 6’6”. She’s maybe 5’4” if she’s lucky. Like an Abercrombie and Finch model cut out of an ad, he wears the latest fashion gear: Faded blue, sagging, skinny jeans, a flamboyant, salmon pink, short-sleeved, v-neck tee, and loud, colorful kicks that match his outfit. His walnut brown hair is moosed in a statuesque hairdo like a Mediterranean work of art. And his wise, wide, glossy gold eyes look pensive and insightful with a charismatic smile that makes a sophomore girl melt. I may be a man, but I have to admit he’s handsome, if not gorgeous.
Mom says I’m handsome. That any girl would kill to have my tight curly, black hair (not sure why my mom compared me to the opposite sex). That she would give anything to have my relaxed, hazel-blue eyes, and my strong cheekbones. I look at my reflection and just see an incomplete person, but I guess that’s what happens when you have a biracial mother, and a pasty white dad. It’s hard to say what Annika will look like, but so far, Abbey’s the prettiest capturing most of mom’s beauty.
Brownish-red, curly hair, big dark brown, beautiful eyes, a cute button nose and full pink lips, and brown, olive skin… absolutely gorgeous if you ask me. Me… I look too white next to mom, and too odd next to dad. I’m odd… not handsome or ugly… just odd.
Tenor’s whispering something in Abbey’s ear that makes her laugh.
Mormonism can’t take my sister too! The thought blares in my mind. Anger lodges in my throat with a thick, hot energy I’m anxious to release on Tenor either with a fist punch or slew of nasty, awful words. Just as I open my mouth, Abbey’s eyes get wide spotting me and she pushes Tenor away.
“Asher, what do you want stalker?”
Tenor looks over his shoulder at me smugly. Like he knows he’s bothering me and he’s enjoying it. Without saying hello to me and before I can order Abbey to follow me to mom, he looks back to her and asks, “So will you go with me?”
Say no, Abbey. Don’t you dare go to church with him! I want to say aloud.
“Abbey, do you have the spaghetti and sauce?” I ask.
Ignoring me, she answers Tenor, “I don’t know… I have to think about it.”
“Abbey,” I snap and immediately, I feel bad for being short and impatient with my sister.
Then the Lord says to me, “What are you afraid of Asher?”
“Chill for a sec Ash,” she barks back. Talking to Tenor, “I already got a couple other offers and I don’t even know if my parents will let me go.”
Walking backwards, toward me, he bids his farewell, “You can text me your yes later. I gotta go find my dad and Mel.” Then he pivots quickly on one foot like he’s making a dance move, and he looks toward me with the same crooked, flirty smile his sister gave me as the aftershock from flashing it at Abbey. The smile shifts to an arrogant smirk when his creepy gold eyes catch mine. Our shoulders brush each other as he peruses past me. I know he knocked into me on purpose. Out of the corner of my eye, I watch him disappear to the left, and relief finds me now that he’s gone.
“Abbey, you shouldn’t go−,” I start to say but she just rolls her eyes at me.
“Don’t freak out Ash, I’m not going to convert… He just asked me out to homecoming, which you and I both know mom and dad won’t let me go to, especially with a Mormon.” She says, grabbing a box of spaghetti and a jar of marinara sauce off the shelf. The two items conveniently stocked beside each other. Sighing disappointedly, she walks around me and I assume she’s off to meet up with mom.
She’s right. Mom and dad won’t let us date anyone they don’t know, plus, Abbey doesn’t meet the minimum household dating age, which is 16 years old. The fact that Tenor is Mormon, it’s going to be an epic NO because my parents will just pull out the “unevenly yoked” card or use the “light and darkness don’t mix” statement. In my parents’ world, dating isn’t really a thing. It’s more of a courtship… But it’s not like once you start a courtship that’s the person YOU HAVE TO MARRY… it’s more like… MAKE SURE GOD BROUGHT YOU TWO TOGETHER.
As I turn the corner, coming out of the aisle, Melody Gartner reappears before me. Abruptly, bumping into each other was unavoidable. She laughs flipping her long, wavy-styled, sienna sand hair. Melody’s pretty tall for a girl at least 5’9”, 5’11” maybe. Her gaze up toward me isn’t long like it is for my sister and my mother. I didn’t notice until now, as she gapes at me, like her bother, she has similar wise, wide glossy eyes.
“Hey again, Asher,” she beams cheerfully with her grin showing the dimples in her cheeks and her bleached white, perfectly straight, teeth shining at me.
“Hi… again… Melody…” I say, as kindly as possible, trying to keep the restlessness within me at bay.
“Have you seen my brother? He’s supposed to be getting Alfredo sauce.”
Pointing left, I leap at the chance to say, “He went that way,” though foolishly I give a full report, “but unfortunately he had no sauce of any kind with him.”
“Oh that’s okay. I’ll get it for him.” She titters.
As she stepped around me, a powerful, grumpy, bold, and agitated attitude compelled me to tell her, “And tell your brother to ask someone else to homecoming. My sister can’t go.”
Melody freezes her feet in place and she cocks her head sideways glaring at me in disbelief. Like what girl’s parents don’t let her go to a dance? Pouting condescendingly, she asks, “Why not?”
Why not is a simple question to answer, yet I can’t bring myself to answer it, because the only thought that crosses my mind is: Love her like Christ loves me. Melody interrupts my thought process with her own words.
“Well, that’s a bummer. At least she got asked to homecoming. And there are plenty of girls from church and school dying to go with Tenor, he’ll be fine. See you later red hawk.” She says as she continues to walk by me.
At least Abbey got asked? Was Melody implying that no one asked her to homecoming? Jon Hurst and she nearly undress each other with their eyes from across the hall at school. Zander Arvizu talks about her being on his ‘to do’ list in the locker room at school after P.E. And Charley Holmes, her best friend’s twin brother has had a crush on her since elementary school, or so I hear. None of those three guys asked her out? Why not? They’re all Mormon, they’re all around her age, and Melody’s a beautiful young woman. What sane, teenage boy would not ask her out, especially to a school dance?
I can’t believe I’m asking her this, “No one’s asked you to homecoming, yet?”
For the first time ever, I see flirtatious Melody dissolve into the air around her, and the real Melody Gartner revealed her true colors. A young woman, with outer beauty a lot of girls are probably jealous of, burdened with low self-esteem as her disappointed gaze met the marred and scuffed tile floor of the store. Her feet were twisted inward, with the tips of her shoes overlapped, and her knees buckled in. The jar of Alfredo sauce nestled in her clasped hands as her shoulders slouched. Quietly, slightly below a whisper she utters something. I ask her kindly to repeat herself. Looking up at me, with tears in her eyes, she mutters, “No.”
Then she tries to speed walk away from me, but I end up getting in her way, blocking her clear getaway path. I want to ask why she’s upset. But that would probably just upset her more. The shock hits me after the words escape my lips, “Would you go to homecoming with me?”
Questioningly, she raises an eyebrow at me. If I could, I’d raise an eyebrow to myself? What did I just ask her? And why? WHY?! I can picture Abbey calling me a hypocrite right now. I can hear mom and dad telling me I can’t take Melody to the dance next Friday night. You can’t take her to the dance. I hear myself telling me not to take her.
“Seriously?” she inquires with a faint smile. If I say I was kidding… No… I won’t go there. I’ll be honest… At least I think I’m honest.
“Seriously,” I say in my most serious tone with a very serious expression.
“Oh my God you are so SWEET!” She shrieks as she reels me into a very tight, powerful hug. I feel awkward embracing her back, not really sure what to do with my hands on her back. Pat her or don’t pat her? By the time I make up my mind to do a quick pat, she breaks away from me demanding my phone number as she holds the jar of sauce in one hand and as she pulls out her phone from a back pocket, hopefully not the same one with the snotty handkerchief in it.
I can’t cease to amaze myself as I give her my number. She sends me a quick text.
This is Mel G. Thanks a billion Mr. Sweet Guy! XOXO
Right when I think we’re going to part ways, she ends up following me back towards my mother and sisters. Speaking like a motor mouth, she asks what color I look best in… Should we go out to dinner or just straight to the dance? At some point I tune her out. I know she’s talking, I just don’t know or care what she’s talking about.
My mom and sisters have made it to the eggs. As always my mother meticulously inspects as many egg cartons as possible so she can choose the right carton.
“This must be your mother, Becky right?” Melody double checks looking at me, I nod.
Mom sets her selected carton into the cart as her outstretched hand takes Melody’s and they shake introducing each other to themselves.
After Melody shares her name, mom wonders, “Tenor’s sister?”
Melody excitedly nods yes with humming a strong, “Uh-umm.”
How does mom know who Tenor is? Don’t tell me mom agreed to let Abbey go with Tenor to homecoming?
“Well it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Mom says to Melody.
Is it really? I think.
“You as well,” Melody says. She rests a hand on my shoulder, “You have quite the good Samaritan for a son… He’s super sweet.” Her hand slides down my back as she backs away.
What’s up with her and Tenor backing up? It must be a genetic trait. Do they think they’re cool or something?
“I gotta go, but it was lovely meeting the wonderful mom Asher talks so much about.” Then referring to Abbey and me she says, “See you red hawks Monday.”
Mom and Abbey stare at me not sure what to think. I imagine my countenance mirrors theirs. Normally, I’m calmer around Melody and not so edgy internally.
Last year, we were science partners in Chem. It wasn’t until that partnership we built a relationship that was more than an acquaintanceship. Occasionally, she invited me to sit and eat lunch with her and the ‘-eagans’: Meaghan, Teagan, Reagan, and Keegan.
In the beginning, she talked about being LDS and her church, and of course, she tried to get me to go with her, but I held my ground… I refused to go… in a kind way… When she realized I’d never go to church with her, we stopped having lunch together, but that didn’t stop her from saying hello to me in the hallway, or sitting next to me at sporting events and catching up. I wouldn’t say were friends, but we’re not not friends… if that makes sense?
We all opt not to say anything and we finish grocery shopping. On the minivan ride home, Abbey’s trying to sell mom on letting her go to homecoming. I know if I say I’m going, mom and dad will probably let us both go. But I guess, a part of me is hoping something comes up to where I don’t have to take Melody.