I can’t believe I left my pencils at home. Now, I must buy overpriced mechanical pencils at the campus bookstore. The line could not be longer!
The song ‘Love is an Action’ blares from my pocket. The gf is calling for the umpteenth time. I pull my cell out reluctant to answer it. Seeing Melody a few weeks ago brought more to the light than I anticipated. I’m beginning to wonder if I truly love my girlfriend. Last month, I was certain we were ready for marriage. I have the ring picked out. I got permission for her hand. And God hasn’t told me not marry her. Double negatives really mean yes, right?
A small person abruptly runs into me from behind. How do you bump into someone standing still in line?
A panicked, petite voice shrieks, “I’m SO sorry!”
Rolling my eyes, I take a deep breath, I turn around and smile. “Don’t worry about it. I’m not bleeding.”
The pretty young lady laughs. She’s an African American woman, sporting a small afro. Her lime green and cream paisley go-go dress looks like it could be vintage and now a recreated fashion trend. She keeps her eyes closed enough to prevent anyone from actually seeing them clearly.
I haven’t felt this way since I was a teenager. That indescribable, yet cosmic proportion, sensation in my heart that I now set eyes on the ONE.
I’m craving to ask what her name is and to get her number. Then I remember I have a girlfriend, who I love, and I can plan a life with… Dang it, I’ve already started planning that life!
“Again, I’m sorry. I’ll buy whatever you’re getting in line.”
“No, it’s fine.” I turn away from her and face the front.
Only third in line from reaching the register, a slender hand grabs my forearm to get my attention. I look behind me and the African-American timidly asks, “Excuse me, but are you Asher Lucas?”
“Yes,” she holds out her copy of Everloving with a pen. She wants my autograph.
Cordially, I accept to fulfill her request. “Who do I make it out to?”
“Janet Washington,” she bops up and down ecstatically, holding her purse. She thanks me and says, “You may not be Melody but you’re the next best thing. Your role in her life encouraged me to invite every non-believer I know to church.”
Having signed her nearly purchased book, I hand it back to her, and yet she keeps talking.
“I wanted to buy the book a couple weeks ago at her speaking engagement, but I had zero funds… I barely meet my tuition deadline payments.” She smiles clutching the book to her chest.
Neglecting my burning desire to ignore her, I figure small talk can’t hurt. As we talked my admiration for her grew. Without understanding it, every part of my being wants to marry this woman. My head reminds me I have my dream girl. Eventually, I block out my head’s reasoning for the remaining duration of our conversation.
I purchase my pencils and she gets her book. We exit the bookstore together. Outside the front doors, I confess I must dart to class if I don’t want to be late. She admits she has a lecture to catch in the opposite direction. I defeat the urge to ask for her number. We wave goodbye to each other and I walk away feeling like I’m walking on the moon. I can’t remember the last time I felt this way, if ever after talking to the opposite gender.
‘Love is an Action’ rings loudly from my pocket. Like a man, I answer my gf’s call.
“Hey, what’s up?”
I’m genuinely worried about Melody. She hasn’t been in school for 3 days, and she hasn’t called or texted me since last Saturday. I’ve called her every chance I’ve gotten, but she didn’t pick up. Today, her phone has been disconnected. Every time I see Tenor and try to ask what is going on, he glares at me as if I’m possessed with the devil and barks that she doesn’t want to see me so leave her alone.
Rumors like wildfire spread throughout Redridge High that Melody tried to kill herself, others report she got in a bad car accident, and some say she’s bulimic getting sent to the Valley for treatment. No one knows what to believe. It’s a different story every time someone opens up their mouth to speak.
At lunch, Pernel plops in front of me, and spills the rumor from the football locker room. Apparently, Melody had to go to the hospital last Saturday night. Many reports claim she was there until Tuesday. She’s leaving for the Valley tomorrow to go stay with her aunt and finish the school year because she is having a baby out of wedlock.
Panic takes control of my heartbeat, making that muscle beat out of tune to an irregular fast pace. I can’t be caught up in this lie, if I am, my reputation will be destroyed.
“Who… who’s the father?” I gently plea to know what others are talking about.
“No one knows. Jon Hurst tried to blame you but Tenor stuck up for you. He said you were as virgin as the Savior Mother. Meaning you’d only have sex with God.”
We both wince at such horrific thought. The idea of God ever having sex with his creation is pedophile-level perverse or worse. Of course, not every Mormon believes Adam-god came down, had sex with Mary, which led to Jesus—Jehovah’s existence. Some believe very similarly to sound Christianity. Only Brigham Young followers, high up in leadership believe that about Jesus. I’m not truly certain of the consensus of Mormon Theology on Jesus Christ’s Birth.
I do know according to their website, ‘Jesus and God the Father are one in purpose but two separate beings’. Jesus the Son and God the Father are the same essence and two persons that belong to the same Godhead, which includes the Holy Spirit as the third person. By saying God and Jesus are two separate beings, there are diluting God’s identity and admitting to worshiping more than one god. Though the two concepts sound like they belong to the same school of thought they don’t.
“The ‘Eagans are talking though. Jon and Meaghan just broke up because Reagan and Teagan say that Jon is the father of Melody’s baby!” Pernel leans back laughing, covering his mouth with his hands. Then leaning back in, he pounds the wood picnic table like the tom of a drum set with a drumroll and states the obvious, “The Bishop of Pinetop is gonna be a grandpa out of wedlock!” If our peers weren’t busy gossiping too, many in the cafeteria would have heard Pernel. Clutching the edges of his tray, Pernel leans over his food, and asks me, “You’re friends with Melody. What’s the scoop?”
Realizing that Pernel isn’t a real friend, and no longer having an appetite for this mystery food, I drop my fork and make it very clear, “It’s none of our business Pernel.” Resisting the urge to throw my food on him, I pick up my tray, climb out of the picnic table, and I walk away.
After I toss my food, Tenor grabs me tightly by the shoulder, and escorts me down the hallway behind the trashcans. The nearest exit leads to the dumpster behind school.
Pointing his index finger in my face like an ice pick about to spear my eyes, he holds me by my tee at the collar, “My sister is getting treated like crap because of you!” He indirectly spits in face due to his hush-holler at me.
Pushing him away, I snap, “I didn’t do anything!”
Using his forearm, he pins me back up against the cold, tile wall. “Bullshit! She doesn’t believe like us anymore. She says the Book of Mormon is false. That everything Joseph Smith said and wrote are all lies. That the LDS President is no more a modern prophet than a pickle is… whatever that means.”
Putting my hands up in surrender, I hope he takes it as a sign that I’m no threat. I use all the self-control I must to keep my smile of joy concealed.
He lets go of me and straightens out my tee trying to smooth the wrinkles out that he made. As he brushes off my shoulders he explains, “My family is a mess.” He steps back from me and digs his hands in his pockets, staring at the scuffed tile floor. “Saturday night, after she tells us at dinner, she believes in the real Jesus Christ, we had to rush her to the ER. She had a miscarriage. A vanishing twin, or I guess triplet. I don’t know. She claims your God saved her baby and gave it back to her. We won’t know if the doctors are right or if she’s right until the baby is born and they can examine the placenta.” Gazing back up at me, he tells me, “Mom won’t be at the house at 4. Dad can’t make it home until 4:20. I’m going to the movies with my friends after school. You have 20 minutes to fix my family. To get my dad to stop being a jerk, making my mom miserable because she has to listen to him, and prevent my sister from ending up in the ER again.”
Shaking my head no, I admit, “I’m only going to support her new faith, not discourage it.”
“I don’t care what you do, but just fix it. Abbey said you could, so just reason with my sister.” Tenor orders like he’s my boss or commanding officer.
I don’t want to go. I don’t know what I could possibly do to help. Yet, my conscience compels me to check on her. That is what a real friend would do.
I stop my alarm, expecting a text from Melody asking if I’m up. Sometimes asking whether I’m awake refers to morning, but mostly it is an inquiry if I’m up in the middle of the night. She suffers from insomnia. A dilemma I didn’t have until lately. For some reason, I partially wake up a split second before my cell screen lights up and the whole device buzzes alerting me I have a new message. Last night I slept straight through until now, and there are zero text messages from Melody.
As I’m debating between Sunday’s Best attire or dress causal my cell rings. I drag myself back over to my bed to retrieve my phone thinking it is Melody and totally not wanting to go through our morning routine. To my surprise however, Natasha is calling me, not Mel.
“You can play guitar, right?”
“Yes, I can. Not ‘Zeven’ well though.”
“It doesn’t matter. Can you play today’s set list or do I need to make some changes?”
Talking under my breath, I say the set list in order trying to recall all four songs. “All but the third song on the bridge… That progression is too tricky for me in Eb Major.”
“What about D and you sing lead?”
The cell slips out of my hand from shock, but I jerk out of it and catch my phone against my abs. I’m not ready to lead worship? Not like Zev. I can’t do it. Negative thoughts cross my mind. Fear rises I my heart and gallops to its out rhythm in my head as more negative thoughts flood my mind.
“You’re ready Asher,” I feel the Lord speak to my heart. Determined to listen to God’s voice above all others, I nod my head yes. Then I remember Natasha can’t see me.
“Yes…” I say. I didn’t agree softly or firmly, just generally.
“Okay. Thank you so much, please be here at 9 am for sound check.” She says and then she hangs up.
Forget Sunday’s Best or dress casual. Jeans, black canvas shoes, Desert Streams graphic tee with my black leather vest. Lord knows I’ve been saving that outfit for the first chance I’m blessed to lead worship. I can’t think about it too much or I will psych myself out.
I arrive 15 minutes early to pray and to plea for peace to do what is asked of me today. I find Nicolette at the altar on her knees. Soft worship music by Desert Streams plays subtly in the Youth Sanctuary. Nicolette and I eerily dressed similarly. We have the same gray, blue, and black color scheme. I wonder if the rest of the team is dressed the same? That will be weird if we are, especially since none us discussed color coordinating today.
Put the guitar onstage. I think. As I do this I pray in the Spirit and a soothing peace sweeps over me. I put my electric acoustic guitar on the stand where Zev usually keeps his. Tash didn’t tell me to bring my guitar, I just felt I should since Zev got upset the last time I touched his guitar. I place my case in the closet on stage left, where we keep extra music stands, mike stands, and extra sound equipment and instrument pieces. I set my case on top of mangled chords, piled in a black plastic milk crate.
Offstage, at the base of the stairs, I get on my knees to pray, when I hear Pastor Chastity’s voice from behind me.
“I’m glad you and Nicolette came early.”
I stand back up, turn around and Nicolette comes alongside me to face our Youth Pastor. She seems a little heavy-hearted with something troubling her mind. Her droopy eyes paired with her downcast countenance says it all.
“Until further notice, the two of you will be leading our youth worship team. Natasha and Zeven were asked to step down this morning.”
What? This can’t be good. I begin to think the worst because it’s natural. With Natasha coming from the home of a teen mother, her odds of repeating the family curse is higher than other teen girls. And living on the Reservation where teen pregnancy occurs at an alarming high rate. Yes, I always wanted to lead worship, but not like this, not at the expense of someone else’s virtue.
“Will you be telling the rest of the team or will we?” Nicolette asks.
“How about after church? We’ll meet briefly. I’ll have Natasha and Zeven sit in with us and we’re going to go over the criteria for serving in ministry again.”
“Yes, Pastor.” I agree biting my lip. I try to quiet my worst-case-scenario thoughts, but they won’t quit.
Pastor Chastity leaves toward the prayer room and when she is far out of earshot, Nicolette whispers out loud what I’ve been thinking.
“I knew they were doing it! Do you think she’s pregnant?”
“That could be why Pastor Chastity is so sad… I’m sure the last thing she wanted was Tash to follow in her footsteps like that.” Now I feel worse for saying something out loud. This is borderline gossip. We aren’t certain if what we’re thinking is true. “Wait, how do you know they’re having sex or they had sex?” I ask Nicolette.
She looks over her shoulder to make sure Pastor Chastity is out of the sanctuary. She looks around and spotting Chlonelle in the sound booth, she leans in close to my left ear. She softly whispers, “That fight they had in September. Aden said he heard Zev at school talking to his buddies about going to Third Base with their girlfriends. Zev said he and Tash did all the time. He was working his way to Homeplate by homecoming.”
The front doors swing open and Wilma and Aden walk in. Nicolette walks past me and adds, “It’s so disappointing. No one ever seems to make out of here.”
I don’t even understand all the sexual connotations implied in the baseball plate metaphor. Homeplate would be sex all the way though, right? Zev better join the adults today for worship. If I see him, I will deck him… Okay, I won’t. I’ll do what most Christians will do. Stare at him with seething anger and monumental disappointment, which will equal the unveiling of pure disdain for the boy who stole my dream girl. Big fat, giant lesson learned, and huge, greatly important note to self: DON’T LET THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT STOP YOU FROM TRYING FROM GETTING WHAT COULD BE THE NEXT BEST THING IN YOUR LIFE.
Suddenly, my peace evaporates and restlessness forms in my core like raging seas. Guilt hits me heavy in the heart. I cannot not go onstage and lead worship like this… I can’t let Nicolette either.
Approaching Nicolette and the rest of the band, I overhear them gossip-guessing what is going on with Tash and Zev and why they aren’t singing. Filled with a little righteous indignation and I throw words to proudly monkey wrench this conversation, “Maybe none of us should lead worship today and make the entire Youth Group join the adults in the Main Worship Service?”
“What are you talking about?” Nicolette questions?
“We have no idea why Tash and Zev were asked to step down. We can guess all we want, but until we’re told or the Holy Spirit tells us, and even then, the last thing we need to do is talk about it. In fact, we shouldn’t be murmuring about them. We need to be praying for them. I’ll admit, I gave in to the gossip monster too, but Tash and Zev are family…”
“Good point, Bro.” Aden says.
I hold out my hands before me, one towards Nicolette on my left and one towards Wilma on my right. “Pray with me.”
The ladies take my hands and include Aden and Chlonelle. We bow our heads and close our eyes together. Nicolette leads us in a prayer of repentance for our gossip. Aden then begins to intercede for Zev and issues with lust. When he finishes Chlonelle prays for Tash about peer pressure and following the crowd. Wilma sings over our prayers with a song of praise. I close in prayer thanking God for the cleansing blood of Christ that purifies. I pray that we all have clear hearts and clean hands so the we may ascend the hilltop of God and receives all His promises. I pray for our worship to be pure and true, in Spirit and in Truth.
Together we say, “Amen.”
We release each other’s hands and we lift our heads opening our eyes. Pastor Chastity stands right behind me. With tears in her eyes and a feeble smile on her face, she hugs me. She whispers a thank you in my ears. She ends up hugging everyone, saying thank you and thank you again, to all of us. Chlonelle offers Pastor Chastity tissue paper to dry her tears, and as Pastor does so, she asks if we would be okay with cancelling the entire Youth Service and joining the Main Service today. The band looks around at one another with hesitation. I’m not sure whether to be relieved or disappointed, angry, sad, or happy. And I’m confused, I thought God said I was ready to lead worship today.
“Pastor Josiah has requested that the Youth Worship Team lead worship for everyone today.”
I titter, freaked out and excited simultaneously. God cannot lie. He is not a man that he should change his mind. Will his word not do what he says it will do? When he makes a promise, does he not keep it? My GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD! Somehow now, I know I’m ready.
All eyes are on me as if I’m the official authority on making this call today. I start nodding my head yes and the rest of band starts speaking yeah as if they’re expressing their approval with a ‘hell yeah’!
Two minutes to 10 am, we take our place. The church worship team sits upfront next to the Pastor and his wife. I go over the set list in my mind when the Holy Spirit lays on my heart to start off with Our God is an Awesome God by Rich Mullins. I tell Aden, who tells Wilma on bass. I whisper it to Nicolette and right at 10 am we intro with a classic oldie worship song. Ready for God to show up and show off!
Dad had repairs to oversee at the church. For once, I need my father both as a parent and as a pastor. I go inside through the unlocked side door and I follow the noise echoing through the empty dark halls. Dad and Elder Cain Blair are in the men’s room replacing the piping underneath the sinks. Immediately, Dad instructs Elder Cain to keep working and escorts me to his office.
To endure the trek, he makes small talk with me.
“We’re blessed God provided the means for these repairs. I’m tired of soaking wet floors, holy walls, and torn up carpet.”
“God is good.” I say, still analyzing in my mind the best way to bring everything up to dad and to get some direction.
Chuckling softly, dad says, “All the time…”
Sure that’s only half the saying but when you grow up in church, Christianese gets old and boring quickly.
Dad sits down in his brown leather, swivel chair behind his dark mahogany desk. The wall behind him sporting his credentials and awards over the years. I sit across from him, in a simple, armless green sanctuary chair, wide and sturdy enough to hold all sizes. To postpone the burden, I’m about to place on dad, I ask where Pastor Josiah is. Dad says the board decided he would handle maintenance needs for the church since Pastor Josiah holds many other responsibilities.
“Enough with the chit-chat, what’s troubling you?”
I want to cry, but the strength to fend off that urge sustains my plain countenance.
“Melody Gartner−,” I go to explain, but dad chimes in.
“The girl you bring to youth group sometimes?”
Dad chortles, “Son, I’m your father first and a pastor to you second. Drop the sir. Call me dad. What about Melody?”
“She’s my girlfriend.” I say.
The shock on his face could stop time with his wide-eye stare and slight agape mouth. I know my parents believe I’d follow in their footsteps and not date until college. My dad did a lot of research on youth dating and majority of the data reflects more negatives than positives.
Taking a very deep breath, as I exhale I confess, “And she’s pregnant.”
That knowledge causes his face to fall into the palm of his hand as a feeble attempt to hide his broken heart.
“She also wants to get married.”
Sighing as he wipes his face lifting his head, “When did it happen?”
I knew the it inquiry referred to the night of conception.
“She says the night of the homecoming dance…” Relief rushes over me. I used to think back on that night a feel ashamed, now I no longer do.
“You’re not so sure?”
I shake my head. Everything about her and me makes me completely uncertain. “No.” I say, but I explain, “Before I came here I was spending time with the Lord… I felt so guilty… I regretted going to that dance, I regretted becoming Mel’s boyfriend, and I deeply regretted creating that baby… I thought if I never went to that dance the kid wouldn’t exist and as clear as day the Holy Spirit told me that the baby would. If I never slept with Mel, she wouldn’t be my girlfriend. I would have never slept with her, if the punch wasn’t spiked, and−,” dad holds his hand up to stop me from talking.
“Are you sure you had sex with Melody? If you were drunk, do you remember that night?” Dad asks a justifiable question.
“The last I remember is getting in the passenger seat of my car…I felt so weird I just wanted to sleep it off…”
“How far along is she according to the doctor?” Dad asks a good question. “If it happened the night of the homecoming dance she’d be about 5 or 6 weeks”
“The dance was a month ago?” I say.
“Maybe you should take that sex ed class at school. Son, women are pregnant before they get pregnant. That’s just how the doctors count.”
Silence rises between us and creates a giant of awkwardness. It didn’t really matter how far along Melody is in her pregnancy. Dad and I had a mutually strong feeling the baby isn’t mine. When I muster the courage to speak up, dad beats me to it.
“Let me see if I understand why you’re dating her… You took her to homecoming, to be nice. Then you thought you lost your virginity to her, so you asked her to be your girlfriend?”
I just nod my head yes feeling a little embarrassed.
“Why do you think you did that?”
The horrid sensation of my masculinity dissolving as I think of the real reason why, I slouch crossing my arms over my chest as if this position could protect how I feel inside… Sighing I confess, “I’m gonna sound like a girl if I tell you.”
“No, you’ll sound like my son. It’s just you and me.” Dad says.
“I want to wait or at least I wanted to wait until I’m married to have sex… Any kind of sex…” I shift forward and dangle my arms from my bent kneecaps. Scratching my head, I try to feel less exposed then I do right now. Why does guilt rack my heart with trouble when I’m just being honest? I go on to say, “I want to be like you and mom. You two waited until you met ‘the one’. And—,” before I could go any further, dad bursts into laughter.
“What?” I ask.
Cupping his mouth, he takes a deep breath. Shaking his head, he removes his hand and grabs a push pen from his desk. He presses the button again and again, and makes the pen click again and again as the ballpoint tip plays hide and go seek according to his actions.
“What makes you think I was a virgin when I married your mom? I never stated that and I hope I didn’t imply that.”
“You and mom both said several times you waited to sleep together until you married each other.”
Dad raises his eyebrows, stops clicking the pen and sets it down as he looks me in the eyes. He says, “Yes, we said that… So I guess I see where you get that concept from, but I had a few girlfriends before your mother. One reason why I allowed your mother to leave that bookstore without saying anything to her, is because I was in a long distant relationship with my high school sweetheart. She went to Liberty University. We did a lot of fooling around. The girlfriend before her is who I lost my virginity to. We were both so scared that she could have been pregnant… Luckily, she wasn’t… And before that girl, I fooled around girls all the time at church camp since 7th grade. I actually got caught in 9th grade making out in the boys’ bathroom with the hottest girt at camp. And what we did is not safe for your ears to hear.”
Dad gets real. He divulges the first time his eyes set sight on a dirty magazine when he was 11 years old. He admits that fantasizing and fondling himself wasn’t enough. He got the real chance to kiss a girl and explore the sensations of raging hormones. He added his middle school peers only inspired him with ways to explore the sexual desires within him without getting caught. In high school, his guy friends made it seem like a man was gay if he wasn’t having sex. For a long time, dad just flirted with girls on campus and went out on dates, and he allowed his friends to think what they wanted. However, it was different when he got a girlfriend. Making out and groping stories wasn’t enough to prove dad was a man. The pressure to prove his masculinity made him convince his girlfriend to have sex.
When I asked dad, what about church and God, wondering if he felt guilty? He said he wasn’t serious about his faith. He added his church just preached on burning in hell a lot. If you weren’t a drunk, a homosexual, or an adulterer… no one feared going to hades. His church growing up taught him how to be a church goer not a Christian.
His high school sweetheart, who was a different girl than who he lost his virginity to, was the girl who introduced him to the concept of a relationship with Jesus. They were never alone together. The only places she’d go out with him were to bible study, Sunday School, church, and church fellowship events. They would talk over the phone about the bible and he listened to what Jesus put on her heart. He wasn’t sure why he dated her for so long. He thinks it may have been because a few of his guy buddies were getting in trouble having sex. One caught Chlamydia, one got a girl pregnant, and the other got accused of rape, but was acquitted. All of them knew their friend was guilty, for he had no respect for women and was a very troubled young man.
Dad planned on marrying the Liberty University girl, but that changed on their third-year-anniversary. She flew out to Tennessee and visited him at Belmont University. He was excited to see her. They went and grabbed coffee off campus and she explained this dream she had to dad. At the end of telling him about it, she confessed the dream made her realize she wasn’t in love with dad and didn’t think it would be a good idea to be together anymore. Simply because God was leading them both in separate directions and dad didn’t disagree with her. The break up lifted a weight off his shoulders and he felt free. He told himself when he saw mom next, he would talk to her. Liberty University girl left as mom walked into the café. The rest I know.
“Looking back on things now, she showed me what it was like to personally know God. It was the process of growing closer to him, I thought about sex less, so I fed those desires less, and eventually, I didn’t think about sex again until your mom and I got serious. Then I had to practice self-control. It really boils down to where your mind is at, when you want God’s will more than anything else, because you trust God understanding that He knows what is best for you and that He loves you…”
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!
Sunday night, at dinner, when I planned to ask mom and dad if I could go to homecoming, before I told them I promised to take Melody, mom and dad sprung some surprising news on Abbey and me. Since mom didn’t have school on Friday, because of the parade in Whiteriver, she and dad were going to their friends’ wedding rehearsal that evening in Phoenix. They would be there Saturday for the happy nuptial ceremony, and then either late Saturday night or way early Sunday morning they’d travel home and be to church by 10 am. Since we don’t have school on Fridays (something new the school is trying this year), they figure they can leave Annika with us and we would share the responsibility of looking after her. It’s an ingenious parenting strategy. We can’t have guests over, or throw a wild party if we have to take care of a 16 month old. Well, now I have a legitimate excuse to bail on Melody. I have to babysit my little sisters. Let’s face it, as being the oldest child; I will mainly be responsible for the household while the parental units are away.
Miss Combs, Lexi we usually call her, will check in on us around dinner time on Friday and around breakfast time on Saturday. She lives three doors down from us. She teaches second grade at Whiteriver Elementary, where my mother teaches fourth grade. Dad hasn’t gotten a teaching job here, even though the district could probably use him. Right now, he’s just serving as the assistant pastor at the church. Dad says God is teaching him to rely on Jehovah Jireh. So far, it’s not bad. We have a roof over our head, we have food on the table, and we get gifts for birthdays. God is providing just fine… perhaps more than fine.
I decided this morning, the first chance I get, I’ll break the news gently to Melody in person. The second I put the car in park, Abbey pops open her passenger door and springs out of the car. She doesn’t even say goodbye. She slams the door and in the rear view mirror I see her take off running. That can’t be good. Clearly, she has something sneaky in store, and I have a gut-wrenching feeling it’s related to the homecoming dance.
Walking across the parking lot, I noticed Melody in the distance arguing with her best friend Meaghan. I’m too far away to hear what the conflict is about. Melody’s in full fledge tears holding a single red rose as Meaghan hollers at her with a scowling face. Melody, in a begging manner, tries to hand Meaghan the rose, but Meaghan smacks the offer away causing the rose to fall onto the ground. Meaghan looks for it on the ground only to stomp on it. After yelling one last time in Melody’s face, Meaghan storms off without looking back at her friend once.
Melody flails her back against the huge black pickup truck I’ve seen her drive often to campus. Cupping her face with her hands, she wails in sorrow crying over her dispute with her friend, if they’re still friends at all.
She doesn’t notice me. I could keep on walking and maybe break my bad news to her tomorrow. I take one foot forward and the thought: Love her like Christ loves me came to mind again. Ugh! I don’t want to love Melody! I don’t even really want to be her friend. Because I’m tired of listening to her beliefs when she won’t sit and listen to mine. She just hums in agreement and nods condescendingly, with her ears closed and her eyes covered with blinders. Me on the other hand, like when Colton talked about the LDS church, I listen. I listen enough to allow doubt to creep into my soul. But after every time, God reassures me of truth, and then my heart breaks… I just want her to experience completeness in Christ… not the illusion of completeness in Christ.
I cautiously trek over to Melody. Seeing me causes her to latch onto me, and sob into the fabric of my green cotton, button-up shirt. Again, embracing her feels impeccably uncomfortable. Rub her back or don’t rub her back? When I finally decide to rub her back, she releases me from our embrace as she wipes the running mascara from her eyes. I thought they made waterproof mascara now? She looks at my chest, near my left shoulder, where she happened to be crying and she pouts her bottom lip.
“I’m sorry,” she says.
I look down and sure enough there’s a black, blotchy, spotty area of gunk on my forest green shirt. Luckily for her, I’m wearing a white undershirt.
“It’s okay.” I say, unbuttoning my shirt. I take it off, bundle it up, and stuff it in my backpack.
“You’re a real friend,” she pauses to sniffle, “You know that?”
Am I really? If she knew my thoughts she’d know I’m not really a friend of hers. I’m more likely a man on a mission doing what God told me to do.
As I suspected, she pulls a white handkerchief out the back pocket of her ocean blue, form fitting jeans. She finishes wiping her eyes and then she blows her nose. She folds up the handkerchief and stuffs it in her back pocket. That’s even grosser than when she wiped Annika’s nose.
“Could you walk me to class? I don’t want to be alone right now.”
How could I refuse her? We stop at her locker, before walking to her 1st period class. We both look down the end of the hall when we hear a group of people laugh. Jon Hurst, the QB and most popular guy in school (is that not textbook cliché?), is escorting Meaghan Holmes down the hall with their elbows locked together. Her brother, Charley, and Zander walk behind alongside Teagan and Reagan. Keegan trails the back with Tenor. Jon’s about my height, 6’5”, and his black hair isn’t as curly as mine. It’s more of a wavy quality than curly… in my opinion, its guy hair, while mine is total chick hair. His eyes are droopier than mine, but that’s probably a good thing. The vibrant hue of his blue-green eyes is eerily creepy. The more closed his eyelids are, the better chance not see the hue. Being an athlete he’s built with a sleek muscle tone. And for a white boy, he’s got a dark complexion, but at least it’s not blotchy. He looks complete… a look I wouldn’t mind having.
As they walk past us, something surprising happens. Jon doesn’t glance at Melody once. That’s a first. Since I went to Redridge, Melody and Jon ogled each other every chance they got. Melody’s doing her best to avoid eye contact with him too. The entire group ignores Melody and me… No glances from Charley or Zander? What’s going on? I have a feeling that fight between Meaghan and Melody was monumentally serious and it looks like Meaghan won. I’m MAJORALLY glad I’m not a girl. Girls are mean.
Melody begins tearing up as she grabs what she needs out of her locker. Not being able to hold it together, she tosses her books and binder into my arms as she darts off to the nearest ladies room. Okay… now I’m full of curiosity itching to know what’s going on or what exactly took place to exile Melody from her beloved, chain link group. What could turn brother against sister? Best friend against best friend? Admirer against admirer?
Since I’m a student that’s never late to class, I figure I can handle the consequences just once. Melody looks like she could really use a friend right now. I might as well come to terms with it. Melody and I are friends, because by the looks of it, I’m going to be her only friend for a while.
A few minutes after first bell, Melody emerges from the bathroom. She looks like she just lost her breakfast to the porcelain throne seeing that she’s three flesh tones lighter and pretty ghostly looking. If I was a Ferris Bueller type of boy, I’d say let’s blow school off and go gallivanting around town, but I’m not. Wrapping her under the wing of my one armed embrace, I nudge her to walk with me.
“Maybe we’ll go off campus for lunch?” I say. In my cheesiest, raspiest, machismo voice I add, “Queiro Taco Bell.”
By a small miracle, it gets Melody to breathe one laugh. Who knew I could be funny? The second bell rings when we get to her class. I’ll be late to mine but at least she’s on time to hers.
We didn’t go off campus for lunch, because I couldn’t find her. I ate with Pernel and he gave me all the juicy details traveling through the grapevine. Apparently, Charley and Melody were dating, but they weren’t public yet because they were taking it slow. But Melody confessed to either Teagan or Keegan that she’s not over Jon. I guess her and Jon dated as well for years. From Freshman Year to Junior Year, they broke up a year ago because they were just tired of the drama between them. Since the beginning of July, Meaghan’s been dating Jon, and that’s been very public. Meaghan asked Melody if it was okay to go out with him and everything. Melody swore she was so over him.
Yesterday, after church, Meaghan caught Jon and Melody kissing in his red truck. Jon claims they were just talking and Melody kissed him out of nowhere. Whether that’s true or not, Meaghan took her boyfriend’s side. So this morning, the disaster I witnessed in the parking lot was Meaghan ordering Melody to stay away from Jon, Charley, and all their friends. If she bothered any of them, Meaghan would tell Melody’s parents something that would break their hearts. I asked what that something was, but Pernel didn’t know.
Abbey texts me that she’s going to the movies with a group of friends and that someone will give her a ride home after school. She claims she called and asked dad… I hardly believe it, but it’s her that has to answer to our parents if she didn’t ask for dad’s permission. Exiting school, I see Melody at the pick-up and drop off curb arguing with someone on her cellphone.
“Today’s my day to have the truck! How am I supposed to get home?”
By the sounds of it, she’s arguing with Tenor. He went all grand theft auto and hijacked the truck from his sister… Normally, I would laugh about this, but she’s having a really rotten day.
Angrily, and patronizingly, Melody barks, “I love you too Tenor,” and then she hangs up on him. Without thinking, she chucks her phone against the nearest redbrick school wall. On impact, the case pops off, the back falls off causing the battery to fall out, and the screen cracks as it flops to the concrete ground. Just looking at her phone in pieces on the ground, her face tears up as she breaks down crying. Clearly, she’s PMS-ing. How else could she go to blazing angry to weeping willow sad? Continuing her song of sobbing, I pick up her phone and put it back together as best as I can. It takes a moment, a moment longer than it should, for it to turn on. It will definitely be hard to check her text messages, but I think she can manage calls.
I place her cellphone in her hand as I again sweep her into a sideways embrace. I don’t even ask. I guide her across the parking lot to the car, and open the passenger door for her.
Shocked by my kindness, she questions, “Are you sure?”
“Not quite. I’m not sure where you live, but it will be a good practice run for Saturday night.”
Flashing me a weak, feeble appeasing grin, she gets into the car. Once I’m buckled in and I have the engine going, she says, “About Saturday night…”
“No. I’m not letting you cancel. You can’t let those… let’s not be mean and call them what they are… you can’t let them win and keep you down. You wanted to go to homecoming, now you got a date, so we’re going to homecoming… and you’re gonna like it!” I say.
My pep talk seems to assuage Melody a bit. She nods her head as I back up.
Natasha runs off to put the daylilies in a vase of water while Chastity escorts us to the dining area. The table is set with all the fixings, seven place settings, and a high chair for Annika stands at the end of the table where an eighth place setting would normally be. When Natasha joins us, she’s accompanied by Zeven holding hands.
We all take our seats, the way everything works out, Natasha ends up sitting across from me. Today she sports a blue, faux peacock feather in her hair. It matches her dangling, lab-made sapphire earrings. Zeven has frosted the tips of his black Mohawk with blue to match Natasha’s color phase fascination with blue. Looking at the two of them, side by side, they do look like a cute couple. Their features complement each other, and will one day blend well together… if… they’re meant to be together…
Chastity asks dad to say grace, we all take hands and bow our heads.
“Dear heavenly father, thank you for this gathering of friends. Thanks for the food you’ve provided for the Lane household and we’re grateful they’re sharing it with us. We ask that this food be blessed, and especially, our time together. Thank you for all that you do. In Jesus’s precious holy name, Amen.” The rest of us follow suit and say a collective amen.
Chastity hands the main course, meat loaf, to dad and allows him to serve himself. Natasha picks up the basket of crescent rolls and takes one as she passes the basket to Zeven. Zeven does the same, continuing to pass it on to Chastity. Zeven grabs the bowl of green beans and serves Natasha a few spoonfuls on her plate. Graciously, she thanks him with a peck on the cheek. They’ve been dating for a week, and they’re already at the kissing phase? Getting through this dinner is going to be harder than I thought.
Chastity kicks off the table talk by telling my mother, “The flowers are gorgeous Becky.”
“They are, aren’t they? Actually,” mom starts to say.
“Daylilies are my favorite.” Natasha interjects.
Zeven looks to Natasha surprised, “I thought wild, yellow daisies are your favorite.”
In unison, without intention, Natasha and I say, “They were.”
She looks at me caught off guard. She further explains without breaking eye contact with me, “But once I saw and smelled my first daylily back in June, daylilies are my new fav.” Clearing her throat, she directs her attention to Zeven, “I thought you were around when I talked about it at Worship practice?”
Zeven shrugs his shoulders as he takes the dish of meat loaf from my hands. “I guess I need to pay more attention to my girl.” He remarks.
Mom finishes what she meant to say earlier, “Actually, Asher picked out the flowers.”
Both Chastity and Natasha look at me, but with different opinions displayed on their faces. While Chastity’s expression reads as impressed, Natasha’s expression seems conflicted. Getting the daylilies was a good move… Natasha knows my selection wasn’t by chance.
We move on to another subject: Chastity’s upcoming sermon series for Youth on Sexuality creatively titled Knowing Him and Her. She came up with that title from the scripture Genesis 4:1a from the New King James Version, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife…” More modern versions tell how it really was by replacing “knew” with “made love”. Since Chastity was a teen mom, and based on the high rate of teen pregnancy in America and on the Res, and some of the concerns parents have brought to her, she felt God placed on her heart to discuss sexuality with the youth of the church.
In actuality, it’s more about God’s design and purpose of marriage, and how Christ comes first for both husband and wife. She’s hoping that through the message God will instill in the youth a desire to do things God’s way, and that each young man and young woman will feel precious in the eyes of God. And as current temples of the Lord our God, we’ll respect that honor and choose to do it God’s way… by waiting to have sex until we’re married.
Mom and dad are impressed. They agree that the youth are in need of such a message and they are glad to hear she’s doing it. Showing the sliver of uncertainty left in her, she asks dad and mom for their prayers that when she begins the message the Holy Spirit leads the series. Proudly, my parents accept the request and promise her they will do so.
After dinner, Zeven shares the new worship song he wrote in the living room with everyone else while I help Natasha stack the dishwasher. Natasha isn’t her normal, snarky, talkative self. Deafening silence builds a barricade between us. I can tell she’s deep in thought. I want to speak… but I don’t know what to say. The song of Zeven travels faintly into the kitchen. I listen to what I imagine the chorus is… it sounds like it’s in the Key of E or maybe C.
“We will shout on the hilltop.
We will sing in the streets,
And dance in the yard.
Praising the only worthy-
Of our praise- Jesus Christ
Lifting our voices
We sing- Hallelujah
To our King-
As we band together
In unity not conformity
The light that’s in us
We let it shine
As we lift our arms
Lifting praise we sing
To our king
As the body of Christ
We will shout from the hilltop…” he continues to sing on, singing the chorus again.
Now I have a talking point. “That’s a pretty good song.” I say.
Natasha winces, “It needs a lot of work. The words don’t flow. They’re good, but the song needs to be fluid, not forced. I’ve tried to help, but he’s too proud of it. Maybe now that I’m his girlfriend he’ll let me revise it.”
“Musically, it’s perfect though.” I comment.
Smiling in defeat, “True, when it comes to notes Zeven is a genius.”
“So maybe he’s the music and you’re the lyrics,” I say. Wow, I sound supportive of their relationship. I know I’m kind of coveting my neighbor’s significant other, it just feels like she’s been taken away from me, and I didn’t ever really have her.
Her whole face lights up with excited joy as if I prophesied to her. “You’re so right!” she closes the dishwasher, now that it’s stacked full, and then gives me a quick hug. Every hug from her is magical and heart-warming. As she slips out of my reach I wish the hug could have lasted a second longer, and I wish I had the guts to reel her back in, but I let her walk away. I follow her into the living room, where we’re all about to enjoy a game of Bible Trivia. Well, Annika’s gonna watch.