One Breath Away

{this post is part of Five-Minute Friday at Lisa-Jo Baker, the last week Lisa hosts the party}

Five Minute Friday

How it works: Write on one word for five minutes. No editing. Then link up your post with the rest of the brave writers on Five-Minute Friday and encourage them by reading and commenting on what they’ve shared. {All the details for how to play along are here.}

Today’s word: Begin…

{Go}

And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Begin.

Breathe. The breath of God exhaling into man, into me.

Dust. Formed from the dust, formless, but waiting, ready.

Ready for life. Brought to life by His breath. Empowered.

Known before time began by the One who hovered over the surface of the waters, by the One who breathes life into my every moment.

Begin. His whisper in my ear encourages me to take that step, that first step, to begin. In spite of the fear and what I don’t yet know.

Begin my dream, my journey, my life.

With breath. With a deep breath. With God’s breath. With God’s whisper.butterfly wings

Just like in the Garden of Eden, God breathes his Presence into me.

Let us make men in our image. The power of those words.

God gathered the dust of the earth. And then, he breathed life into the man.

He breathed life into me. He breathes life into me still.

What better example do I have when I face each new challenge, each new journey, each dream than this? Before I begin, I must breathe.

I must breathe in the Spirit of God.

I must breathe in the Life of the Creator.

I must breath in His promises.

I must breathe.

Take that deep breath. And then…jump.

coastal watersTake that leap of faith.

Into the Father’s arms.

Into the unknown.

Into the dream.

Into my life.

Jump.

Leap.

Breathe.

Begin.

What an incredible image: the Spirit of God hovering over the surface of the waters before anything existed. Before God said, let us create man in our image. Before time and space and fear and doubt and worry. God was. God is. God will be.

And then he gathered the dust and breathed life into man.

In God’s presence, I breathe.

I leap.

I begin the journey set before me.

{end}

It’s Complicated

Writing Wednesdays & A Writing Sprint link up

Because I’m a writer & storyteller and enjoy weaving words together into tapestries of stories both real and imagined, I’ve dedicated Wednesdays to my novel writing. I am currently working through the revision of The Dream Quest, a story about a young man named Daniel who embarks on an incredible quest based on a series of dreams he has involving people he’s never met. And because writers need to hone their craft, it’s the Writing Sprint link up. The Writing Sprint prompt appears at the end of this post and offers a writing prompt that encourages you to freewrite for 15 minutes without the alleged help of your inner critic. No overthinking. No stopping. No editing. No worries. No inner critics. Daily writing exercises help writers grow, improve and free their writing. The only rule is that you must leave a comment for the person who linked up before you. That’s it. Other than, free yourself from your doubts, your fears and your inner critic and have some writing fun with us!

QUESTION FOR FEEDBACK: What is your overall impression of the story so far? Characters, pacing, developments?

serving God & others through writing

serving God & others through writing

Chapter 7: It’s Complicated

Daniel sleeps restlessly, entering the familiar world of his dreams. A world that has only become familiar in the last six months. But now it is so familiar it is like his real life. The people, the places, the ideas that he encounters are all intimately familiar to him. Tonight, he recognizes the street in the shadows and the dark shape of the church rising above him beneath the full moon. He stands and waits, anticipating Jonas’ arrival from the dark alley beside the beautiful stone church. But Jonas does not come. Daniel waits, sitting on the steps of the church and looking around eagerly. He wonders what is keeping Jonas tonight.

Finally, he catches movement from the corner of his eye. But, when he turns it is not Jonas he sees, but his dad. His dad. He stands and stares at his father. His dad smiles uncertainly. It’s been a long time since the two have stood face to face. Neither speaks. His dad takes a tentative step and Daniel waits.

“I can’t believe it’s you,” Daniel says.

“I’ve missed you, Danny Boy,” his dad says. Awkwardly, his dad takes Daniel into his arms and Daniel lets him, not pulling away. “Let’s sit.”

They sit on the same steps, in front of the same church, where Daniel has met and talked with Jonas. In fact, the same church where he met Jonas the night he got out of Keith’s car. It seems both perfect and strange to sit here with his dad. Daniel studies his dad. He looks exactly like Daniel remembers him. A bit older, but still tall and strong. His jaw strong and square, his dark hair cropped close to his head and starting to grey around the temples just a little. His smile is still warm and comes easy, especially when he looks at his son. They have the same hazel eyes with gold flecks and he’s glad for that. In fact he wishes he were more like his dad in other ways.

His dad looks him over, his eyes searching for answers to questions long unasked, too long unanswered. “How are you?”

“I’m doing well,” Daniel says.

His dad looks at him and waits.

“I’ve struggled here and there. I dropped out of college. I’m sure Peter told you that.” Daniel pauses to see if this is true. His dad nods. “I’m sure you were disappointed to hear that,” he says, not looking at his father.

His dad touches his shoulder briefly.“I wasn’t so convinced law school was for you,” his dad replies.

“What?”

“I saw some of your pictures. You have a real good eye, Danny.”

“I had no idea,” Daniel says.

After a moment, his dad continues. “Okay. So, you left college. Then what?”

“I traveled a little. I guess I was trying to find myself.”

“Or lose others.” His dad’s voice is serious, but not accusing.

“That, too.” He looks at his dad.

The two men sit quietly, each sifting through his own thoughts.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Daniel says at last.

“I didn’t like it. Still don’t. But I guess I understand. Lucy was trouble,” his dad says. ” She threw a wrench into the family.”

“No argument here.”

“Your mom eventually forgave me.”

Daniel absently twists the ring.

“Peter gave you the ring,” his dad says.

“What’s the story with it?”

Daniel senses movement in the growing shadows behind his dad and the air seems suddenly charged, as if a storm is building. His dad shifts as if he notices, too.

“We don’t have much time,” his dad says.

“Why the inscription?” Daniel asks. “Beware the wolf that roams about?”

“It’s complicated,” he says, “but I’ll give you my best thumbnail.”

Suddenly, an explosive crack fills the air and Daniel’s dad slumps forward, into Daniel. Daniel’s ears ring and sulphur burns his nose. In his arms, he feels his dad convulsing, gasping and gulping. A wet stickiness covers Daniel’s right hand, the hand that lays on his father’s chest.

“Dad!” Daniel screams. “Dad! Can you hear me? Dad!?” Daniel squints through the darkness and deepening shadows, trying to see his father’s face. He looks around them but sees nothing but darkness. Stillness settles around him and his father’s head lolls backwards.

Daniel moans, rocking his father back and forth and peering into the shadows that are getting darker, so dark he can barely make out the form of the church behind them let alone his dad. “No. No, no, no, no.”

Daniel looks around again and realizes he’s sitting up in his oversized bed in the penthouse suite at the airport hotel and he’s alone. He twists the ring around and around, shaking and his breathing ragged. Eventually he pushes himself and walks shakily to the window, taking in the city below. He stares at all the lights and the cars and wonders at the movement below him at such a late hour. He wonders where Peter is. He wonders what Jonas is doing. He thinks about Michael Atkins. His mind races until it stops at the memory of the dream, his father, the gunshot, his dad dying. Daniel looks at his hands as if he expects to see blood.

He forces himself to lie down and tries to calm himself, but his mind races. Tomorrow he leaves for another city and another person from his dreams. He drifts through his memories, memories of all the dreams he’s had and the people he met in them. He wishes now he’d taken time to keep track of  them. Of course he didn’t realize right away they would play out in his life. Peter, he thinks, and grabs his phone. It’s late, so he sends him a text: I need to talk to you. It’s urgent, so call me as soon as you get this. Daniel. He puts the phone down and wanders through his mind again, wondering about his dad, the ring, the dream, and, most of all, who killed his father and why. No matter how hard he tried, he cannot connect the dots between his dreams.

After a while he finally feels tired and hopes with everything in him he’ll sleep without dreams for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, even though it doesn’t involve his dad, Daniel floats into another vivid dreamscape. This one feels familiar; there is music, and colors, and voices singing but the words are not completely clear to him. The voices populate the periphery of his consciousness, an ethereal chorus. In the dream, he wanders alone down a country road with the sun shining brightly overhead and fields and trees all around. The trees are losing their leaves. They float on the wind, like me, he thinks, as he makes his way down the road. There are only a few houses and they are pretty good distances apart, many so far off the road all he can see is the steep driveways that lead off to the distant homes.

Off to his left is an abandoned house. It seems out of place here. It is diagonally across the street form a small three bedroom cottage and he wonders if perhaps the property belongs to the people in the cottage. There is a sign posted for trespassers to keep out and an abandoned car sitting in front of a leaning garage whose sideboards are mostly rotted through. The house is also falling apart, almost as if parts of it have disintegrated. A screen door stands open, falling from its hinges, the windows are broken out and the roof is partially caved in on one side. Even so, there is something about the house and its surroundings that makes Daniel wish he had his camera because he sees beauty here, something he wishes he could capture on film. It is life. Life lived. Life moved on. But life. He senses it as he walks slowly past.

Suddenly, he sees movement in one of the upstairs windows. He stops and stares. Surely he’s mistaken. But as he stands there a moment longer, he sees it again. A face peers from behind torn fabric hanging across the window like curtains. He takes a step toward the overgrown driveway and the face disappears. He looks at the signs again and decides to rest here on the road, at the edge of the drive. He sits and looks around the property, his eyes resting on a nearby tree where a spider in its web moves gently with the breeze, the web catching the sunlight every few moments. Daniel watches it through the lens of the camera he wishes he had and waits. When it’s pretty clear that he’s not leaving anytime soon, the person moves the board that serves as a door behind the hanging screen door. It’s a young woman, maybe about 18. He stays where he is and watches her. He doesn’t know how, but they know each other and so he waits for her.

She walks slowly down the rotted wooden stairs and onto the driveway and stops closer to the house than the road where he sits. “This is far as I go,” she says. “If you got something to say.”

Daniel sits for another moment, then slowly pushes himself up off the ground. “I’d like a chance to talk to you, but only if it’s okay with you.”

She looks at him and then at the crow that is cawing overhead. Sadness radiates from her. She turns her eyes toward him and says, “Yeah, it’s okay.” She crosses her arms and adds, “As long as you got food and something to drink.”

As Daniel reaches into his messenger bag to get the sandwiches he bought, he senses movement from the shadows of the trees. The air is charged with the feel of a storm and Daniel turns around. In that moment, a loud crack breaks the stillness; he hears a cry ring out and sees a figure dart into the darkness across the street.

Daniel wakes abruptly feeling wrung out. He hasn’t had back to back to dreams before now and he realizes again how exhausting these dream visions are. Did I just refer to them as visions, Daniel thinks. But that’s what they are beginning to feel like. At least since he met Michael Atkins and realized that he’d met him in one of his dreams. But these are far more vivid and even more startling. If they’re visions, Daniel wonders what they mean? He realizes he desperately needs to connect the dots and hopes he’ll have a chance to talk to Peter, but when he checks his phone, there’s nothing from him yet.

He still has nine more people to find and talk to and decides to make a list of the people from each dream, like the girl he just left, Michael Atkins, an elderly couple, a fisherman. He tries to remember which ones he’s met more than once. Clearly, the girl was familiar to him, and he tries to remember any dreams with her in them. And what about Dad? he wonders. Does he factor in to all of this? But more than that, he wonders about the dream itself because up until now, his dreams have only involved people he believes are alive. And unrelated to him. His heart aches just a little as he heads for the shower.

__________________________

“Ready to continue the adventure?” Jonas greets him over scrambled eggs and bacon and a tall cup of steaming black coffee.

“My adventure doesn’t really seem to end, even when I’m sleeping,” Daniel replies.

“More dreams last night?” Jonas asks.

“As if you don’t know.”

Jonas laughs that now familiar deep laugh. “I know a lot of things, Daniel, but I’m not inside your head.”

“But you are sometimes inside my dreams,” Daniel says, looking intently at Jonas over his steaming coffee. He takes a sip and then adds, “Tell me how that happens.”

Before Jonas can answer, Sara enters the breakfast nook. “Good morning, gentlemen.” She smiles warmly down at Jonas and glances tentatively at Daniel.

Daniel nods. “Hey.”

“We were just talking about dreams,” Jonas tells her. “Are you one who recalls her dreams?”

Sara considers this a moment. “I don’t think I do,” she says. “Either that or I don’t dream. What about you gentlemen? Are you dreamers?”

Jonas nods. “Absolutely. And I can usually recall every detail, down to the number of turns in a spider web hanging in a tree along a path I’m walking.”

Daniel narrows his eyes. He thinks about the spider web in the tree to the side of the driveway where the young girl stood in his dreams last night. He wonders if Jonas is telling him something or not.

“What about you?” Sara asks, interrupting his thoughts.

“What?”

“Do you remember your dreams?”

“Depends on the dream,” he replies.

“That makes sense,” Sara says. When it’s clear that Daniel isn’t going to say anything more, she turns and heads to the buffet.

When she is out of earshot, Daniel turns to Jonas. “Spider webs?”

“Just an example to make my point. It’s a detail that most people wouldn’t notice, right?”

“Right.” Daniel finishes his coffee and the two clear their dishes. Daniel is eager to get on the plane and start piecing together his dreams. “So, when do we leave?”

“Right after breakfast.”

Out on the sidewalk, Daniel suddenly spots Peter.

“Excuse me,” he says and moves past Jonas and out the door. Daniel wonders if Peter and Sara spent the night together and his stomach tightens at the thought. Peter is checking his messages when Daniel approaches. Peter looks up and smiles.

“Hey bro,” he says.

“Did you get my text?”

“Just seeing it right now.”

“I need to know what happened to dad,” Daniel says.

“What?” Peter shifts his weight from one foot to the other and clears his throat.

“Dad. What happened to him?” He locks eyes with Peter and waits.

Peter looks down at his phone and then out at the line of cabs. “It’s complicated, Danny.”

Daniel nods. “Just give me the bare bones then. Heart attack. Stroke. Car accident. What?”

Peter clears his throat and hails a cab. “I’ve got a laundry list of depositions starting in fifteen minutes.”

“I saw Dad last night. Watched him die.”

“What?” The cabbie gives the horn a few quick beeps and Peter waves the cab on.

Daniel looks around and says, “I have these dreams–”

“Geez, Danny–”

“Hear me out.”

Peter checks the time and hails another cab. “It was a serious heart attack with no warning signs. The doctors said his aorta was a mess and his arteries showed severe damage,” Peter says. “I’m sorry, Danny. I wish you’d had a chance to see him.”

“Did he suffer?” Daniel presses.

“He was in a coma for a while –”

“What about the ring?”

“Danny, what’s going on, man?”

“Tell me about the ring.” Daniel holds up his hand.

“This is something we really should talk about when we have more time.” Peter begins inching toward the cab.

“Where’d it come from?” Daniel asks.

Peter says nothing.

“Where’d Dad get it?”

“I don’t know,” Peter says, looking over at the cabbie and signaling he’ll be right there. He gestures to his bag and lets the cabbie load it into the trunk. “I need to go, Danny Boy.”

“You never call me that.”

Peter seems equally surprised by the words. “It just rolled off my tongue.” He shrugs. “You okay, bro?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I’m finished around five, why don’t we grab dinner?” Peter asks.

“I can’t. We’re flying out shortly.”

“We?”

“Jonas’ plane,” Daniel says.

“Where you heading?”

“It’s complicated, Peter.”

This Week’s Writing Sprint: a ring

Write a scene, a poem or a story that involves a ring. Give us what you’ve got with as much detail and dialog as you can muster in 15 minutes. And most of all, have fun. Free your writer from your inner critic. When you’re done, come back and link up what you’ve got! And remember to give some encouragement to the person who linked up before you.

What Better Muse than Jesus

I am a writer and that means that sometimes, (well, probably too often, really) I get caught up in what I have to say. This happens for a variety of reasons. I want to inspire people. I want to encourage others. I want to share my journey and help others in the process.

Sometimes I want to be a messenger. I want to be a vessel. I want to feel, dare I say it, I want to feel important, necessary, worthwhile.

And sometimes, I get focused on feedback. I want comments. I want an audience. I chase statistics and popularity and validation.

And, then, I remember. And I pause. And I pray.

I remember why I write.

I pause and breathe and listen to the words that whisper their stories to my heart.

But most importantly, I pray.

I talk to Jesus and ask him to write with me. I tell him that he gave me this gift for words and weaving them together to create stories and I ask  him to be the mysterious muse that writers and artists seek out for their creative process. What better muse is there than Jesus? He was, after all, a master storyteller. He is the author of my faith. He knows the story of my life intimately.

And that’s where my heart and my mind have been the past several days. In prayer with my Muse.

With words swirling about in my mind, clamoring to get out and tell their stories, I’ve held back. I’ve held back because I’ve been too focused on me and what I want my writing to do or to be. As if writing is a performance instead of a weaving of story and sharing of truth and of humanity; glimpses of life told through the hearts of writers and their characters.

serving God & others through writing

I cannot be a writer and control the words. Does that make sense?

I think that the words must be free, the story organic, the muse my Creator.

And so, I sought out my Muse, the Author of my story, and invited him to work with me. I’m revising a novel that I started a few months ago and sometimes I feel a fretting building up inside me: is this right? does this work? will people like it?

So I paused. And I prayed: Jesus, you gave me this gift. Will you write this story with me? Can we do this together?

I prayed those words late yesterday and again today. And guess what happened?

He answered me. He showed up in an obvious way and spoke the words of my heart back to me through a ministry that I follow. And by follow, I mean that I’ve liked their page on Facebook, but rarely do I click through to their links. Until today.

Until today when they posted a podcast about Creativity and Story and how our love of story can draw us closer to God.

Friends, Jesus may just as well have been sitting beside me whispering in my ear. Writing, creating, is about spending time with God.

It’s not about writing about God or for God. It’s about writing with God. And with those words lingering in my ear and in my heart, I rediscovered the heart of my writing. I rediscovered my heart for writing.

Even if nobody ever reads a word I write, I will have spent time with God in a creative soul-filling pursuit, my life and my story weaving intimately with God’s greater story with every word that drips onto the page.

A Servant Prayer for Today

My prayer for this day:

Jesus, let’s make today about you. Help me to focus my eyes, my mind, my heart on you.sweet gum ball

Jesus, let’s make today about me and you, our connection, our relationship. I confess that I’m not holding up my side of the relationship but instead I am relying on you to do all the work. Help me to follow through on what we talk about. Help me to do the things you call me to do today.

God, help me to listen today, to listen to you and to listen for you. Grant me the wisdom and discernment I need to hear your voice above the world’s clamoring and above the enemy’s lies and above my doubts and fears.

Jesus, invite me to be still with you today. Remind me to seek you when life’s stormy circumstances rise up around me.

Jesus, help me to know you more. Not just know about you. Not just know what I think you expect of me. But to know you in my life, to see you in the moments of today. In the glint of sunlight through my bedroom window, in the ringing laughter of my little girls, in the music that fills my home and my heart.

God's beauty

God, grant me your peace that passes understanding as I face down fear and worry and doubt, which add nothing to my life but steal the joy and abundant blessing you offer me.

Jesus, let’s make today a day filled with thanksgiving and praise in every circumstance, in every moment.

God, let me delight in you today so that the things of the world grow dim in the Light of you and your love for me.

Jesus, remind me as I parent my girls that they are yours, that you gave them to me as a gift and a blessing to care for and disciple in this world and to point them toward you.

Jesus, let’s make today a day of grace and forgiveness for others and for myself.

Jesus, let’s make today about bringing you glory.

Jesus, let’s make today about you. Let my life reflect you. Let my life be a vessel for your unconditional and mighty love for the world.

Jesus, for today, let there be more of you and less of me.

I know I cannot do this without you, Jesus, so I call upon you and I confess my need of you and I claim your promise that these things are possible with you. Walk with me, Jesus, out into this day and let’s make today about you.

 

It Is Finished

{this post is part of Five-Minute Friday at Lisa-Jo Baker}

Five Minute Friday

How it works: Write on one word for five minutes. No editing. Then link up your post with the rest of the brave writers on Five-Minute Friday and encourage them by reading and commenting on what they’ve shared. {All the details for how to play along are here.}

Today’s word: Finish…

{Go}

It is finished.

Those three words, the last Jesus uttered before giving up his spirit to death, are three of the most powerful words to me.

It is finished. Said in anguish yet filled with hope.

It is finished. Ushering in death yet offering life.

It is finished. Seeming like defeat yet proclaiming victory.

It is finished.

The enemy has lost.

It is finished.

Death has been defeated.

It is finished.

My sin is forgiven.

It is finished.

the Grand Canyon

God is giving me the desires of my heart.

It is finished.

My hope is rekindled.

It is finished.

My life is abundant.

It is finished.

Victory is mine.

It is finished.

God has given me a dream.

 

Do you ever stop and think about what Jesus did in that moment? Because I don’t. Not really.

It is finished.

Oh, Death, where is your sting? Oh, Grave, where is your victory?

It is finished.

My sin is forgiven. My life is redeemed. My Savior prays for me at the throne of God.

Surely, the God who began a good work in me because of that moment will see it through to completion, to its finish.

As I consider those words, I am amazed at the gift Jesus gave to me. To me. To this flawed, stumbling, lost and wandering sojourner. That he invites me to live in him and to be made whole and to be overcome by his very presence.

It is finished yet all things are made new.

I am made new. Every day. His mercies are new every morning, and I am made new by his mercy.

May I live out this truth today.

The Man in the Mirror

Writing Wednesdays & A Writing Sprint link up

Because I’m a writer & storyteller and enjoy weaving words together into tapestries of stories both real and imagined, I’ve dedicated Wednesdays to my novel writing. I am currently working through the revision of The Dream Quest, a story about a young man named Daniel who embarks on an incredible quest based on a series of dreams he has involving people he’s never met.

And because writers need to hone their craft, it’s the Writing Sprint link up. The Writing Sprint prompt appears at the end of this and offers a writing prompt that encourages you to freewrite for 15 minutes without the alleged help of your inner critic. No overthinking. No stopping. No editing. No worries. No inner critics. Daily writing exercises help writers grow, improve and free their writing. The only rule is that you must leave a comment for the person who linked up before you. That’s it. Other than, free yourself from your doubts, your fears and your inner critic and have some writing fun with us!

serving God & others through writing

serving God & others through writing

Chapter 6: The Man in the Mirror

“What are you doing here?” Daniel exclaims.

“It’s good to see you, too, bro,” Peter says and smiles.

Daniel shoves his hands in his pockets and takes in the desolate surroundings. “What happened to you on the plane?”

“Why don’t we step in here,” Sara says, gesturing towards the warehouse behind her. Daniel looks from Sara to Peter and back to Sara.

“Sure,” he says after a moment. He follows them inside the warehouse. It’s bright but mostly empty. Only some remnants of wooden pallets and a few broken chairs. Sara heads toward an office area. At least in here there are a few comfy chairs and a space heater. From the looks of things, someone’s been here for at least a little while. The office is pretty toasty and Daniel guesses that the heater’s been running for a few hours at least. There’s also an empty pizza box and the office still smells like pizza, so he knows that it’s not something left behind from previous tenants.

He sits on the edge of the desk and lets Sara and Peter take chairs opposite him.

“So, what exactly is going on?” Daniel looks at Sara when he says this.

Peter attempts to speak, but Daniel waves him off and looks at Sara intently. “When I asked you where my brother was this morning, you said I was the only guy on the plane. You said you wished you could tell me my so-called dream was real or true or whatever word you used. Either way, you lied. Why?”

Again, Peter starts to say something but Daniel cuts him off.

“I really want to hear what she has to say.”

Sara and Peter exchange a look and Sara takes a deep breath. “The timing wasn’t right.”

“What do you mean?”

Sara looks at Peter. “Because of Jonas.”

Daniel sucks in his breath and lets it out slowly. “What about him?”

She hesitates but before she can look over at Peter again, Daniel leaps off the desk and positions himself between them.

“What about Jonas?”

“He wanted you to think it was a dream.”

“What?”

“That’s all he said.”

“Why?” Daniel presses, “why would he want me to think that?”

“He didn’t say.”

Daniel turns toward Peter. “And what do you know about this?”

“Danny, listen–”

“You go missing on the plane and now the two of you are here telling me nothing.”

“We don’t have a lot of information,” Peter explains.

The good feelings of reconnecting with Peter earlier begin to fade as Daniel stares at his brother. “I really shouldn’t be surprised, should I?” he says.

“Danny, don’t–”

“I asked if you knew Jonas.”

“I couldn’t say anything to you on the plane,” says Peter.

“That’s why we met you here,” Sara explains.

“I need to get back to the plane.”

“What?” Sara looks at Peter. “But–”

“I’m going to see what Jonas has to say.”

“Peter,” Sara says.

Daniel’s phone buzzes with a message from Lucy. “It’s Jonas,” Daniel says.

“He needs to go,” Peter tells Sara. Her eyes widen as Daniel heads to the door. Peter falls into step next to him. “Look, Danny, I don’t know what’s going on and I don’t know Jonas. Sara approached me early this morning about doing this.”

“And you just agreed to it.”

“After the way we left things last night, yeah,” Peter says. “Yeah, I did.”

“I have to go.”

Peter grabs Daniel’s arm. “Danny, what’s going on?”

Daniel shrugs. “That’s the million dollar question.”

Sara approaches the two of them and addresses Daniel. “I work for Jonas and he needs to trust me. But Peter’s your brother. So we met you here.”

“I’ll see you on the plane.”

Peter takes a step closer. “Are we good?” he asks.

“I need to go,” says Daniel.

“Danny.”

Daniel turns to face his brother.

“Why don’t you keep the ring?”

“Call Lucy. She’s worried about you.” Daniel says and ducks into the limo. He twists the ring on his finger and looks out the back window as Peter takes Sara’s hand and the two grow smaller and smaller.

___________________________

Having checked in with the pilot in the charter plane passenger lounge, Daniel makes his way to the plane. Jonas is sitting in one of the chairs listening to Waiting on the World to Change by John Mayer and seems surprised to see Daniel.

“Back so soon?” Jonas asks.

“Well, time is of the essence, right?”

Jonas smiles his big, warm smile that conveys so much joy. “As always,” he agrees. “I just wasn’t sure how long you’d need with Michael Atkins.”

Daniel toys with the ring and realizes that the text about leaving within the hour wasn’t from Jonas after all.

“Where’s Sara?” he asks.

“Ah, yes. Sara said she was hoping to meet a friend while we were in Pittsburgh. Apparently, she has a friend in the city. So I told her she could take a couple of hours while you were gone. Heck, we might even spend the night here, you know, so everyone can get a good night’s rest.”

“I thought time was of the essence,” Daniel says.

“Well, yes, that’s true,” Jonas replies, “but we still need our rest. Besides, I hadn’t really planned on you getting back so soon.

“So, do we stay on the plane?”

“We can. Or we can stay in a nearby hotel. This is your quest.” Jonas smiles at him.

“It doesn’t feel like my quest, Jonas.”

“What do you mean?” Jonas looks at him intently.

Daniel shrugs. “I don’t feel like I have much control over anything.”

“Does anyone ever really have control over things,” Jonas says with a knowing laugh.

“You know what I mean,” Daniel insists.

“Why don’t you tell me.”

“I don’t know what’s going on let alone what I’m doing. I don’t know why I’m even doing this,” Daniel says. “What do I have to do with any of this?”

“Well, let’s see if I can provide any light for you.”

“We’ve tried this a couple of times.”

Jonas smiles. “Well, yes, but maybe there’s something I can offer nonetheless. What’s your most pressing question?”

Daniel thinks about this. His most pressing and most obvious question involves Peter: Why was he here on the plane and why did Jonas want Daniel to think it was all some kind of dream. What’s Peter’s role in all of this. Any number of these questions could easily be his most pressing, but he doesn’t completely trust the answers. He taps his toes against the floor in time to the music and looks at Jonas, meeting those blazing eyes.

“Okay. What are these dreams all about?”

“I think you know that already,” Jonas replies.

“What do I know?” Daniel raises his voice a little. “I know that I have crazy dreams that involve people I’ve never met and that they seem real. Like I can’t tell the difference between my dreams and my real life.”

“Exactly.”

“But that doesn’t tell me anything,” Daniel insists.

“Doesn’t it?”

Daniel slumps against the the back of his chair in disgust. “See, this is what I mean. You’re not telling me anything at all. This is just more of the same.” He glances at Jonas.

“Tell me about where you were today,” Jonas says.

“Don’t change the subject.”

“Is it changing the subject?”

Daniel rolls his eyes. Sometimes he feels like he’s talking to a yoda character instead of, instead of what? Daniel asks himself. “I met up with a guy named Michael Atkins.”

“So, who is this Michael Atkins?”

Daniel looks at him for a long moment, narrowing his eyes. “Do you know who Michael Atkins is?”

“It doesn’t matter what I know,” Jonas tells him.

“Fine. Michael Atkins is someone I realized I knew from at least one of my crazy dreams.”

“What makes them crazy?” Jonas asks.

“Never mind.” Daniel says. “So I’d met Mike before. Of course he had no idea who I was.”

“Did he think you were crazy?”

“I didn’t say I was crazy. I said my dreams are crazy.”

Jonas winks. “I know what you said.”

“No, he didn’t think any of it was all that crazy. In fact, he was pretty reassuring.”

“So then what do you need from?”

How about how do you know Peter? Or who is Sara and what is her role in this?

“How about where I can take a shower.”

“Back that way, if you go through the galley, you’ll find a couple of showers. Just beyond that, there are sleeping quarters. Or, like I said, we can stay in the airport hotel.”

______________________________

Daniel kicks out on the bed and breathes in the quiet, the peace, the silence. He can’t believe that Jonas put him up in a first class suite at the hotel. Jonas is somewhere in the hotel, too. Daniel figures he wants to keep an eye on him. Of course, where would he go? Despite not knowing much about what’s going on, he feels strangely and strongly compelled to keep going. Whenever he questions or doubts, he feels a strange sense of urgency followed by a weirdly overwhelming peace when he decides to continue. That said, he tries to piece together what he knows and what might come next.

He thinks back to when the dreams started. He remembers his first one; but he doesn’t remember exactly when it was. Because it was the first one, he didn’t really think much about it except for how real it seemed. When he woke up that morning he half expected to see some of the people from that dream during his day. Of course, he hadn’t. It had just been another regular day doing photography, playing basketball out with the guys, having dinner with Isabel. That’s what has him so puzzled. There’s nothing special about him, so why him? It’s a question he comes back to regularly.

He remembers the first time he met Jonas in his dreams. It was almost an ethereal experience. As if he had taken some kind of mind-bending, mind-altering drug. There were colors and music and voices all around, but none that he could actually make out. They met on a street. An old street that was made of stone. There was a mist that floated around them. It was almost like the place where he met Jonas the other night. The church where they met and Jonas walked out of the shadows. But the dream was so much more vivid. The sound. Especially the voices. It was like a chorus and it was faint but also everywhere all at once.

And the moment he met Jonas it was like Daniel knew him. Even in the dream Daniel knew that he’d never even seen the guy before, but it didn’t matter. There was something familiar about him. He inspired a sense of calm in Daniel instantly. And he invited Daniel to come and walk with him and talk about things that would change the world. Those were the actual words that Jonas used: things that would change the world. Just like he and Peter often talked about.

He still doesn’t really get that part of it. He certainly doesn’t feel like he’s changing the world. He feels like some kind of errand boy. And yet, there’s that something in his gut the tells him to keep going. Something that tells him Jonas is trustworthy.

He wonders if he’s as good a judge of character as Michael Atkins claims to be. He thinks back over the people he’s known in his life. Does he have a good track record of judging people? He reaches for the hotel writing pad and begins a list of the times in his life when he was messed over because he wasn’t such a good judge of character. That list could get long, he thinks, but I’ll start with the obvious names.

He writes Lucy at the top of the page. He thinks about when she first became a part of their family. He was a junior in high school and she was a sophomore. Peter was already in college. He had no idea, Daniel thinks, but he still stuck up for her although he wasn’t even around. She came to them as a problem and she brought a lot of them with her.

He wonders what on earth possessed his parents, mainly his dad, to consider bringing Lucy into their family. For a moment Daniel considers his conversation with Michael Atkins. His dad, he thinks, was a lot like Mike and his wife where troubled teenagers were concerned. But Daniel’s mom didn’t share his dad’s dedication and Daniel still wonders how his dad convinced his mom to adopt Lucy after all the trouble she caused as a foster kid when she was a freshman and she played everyone. His dad. His friends. His brother.

That’s what he hated more than anything. Lucy had torn him and Peter apart. She’d come between them. It was Peter who stood up for their dad about adopting Lucy even though their mom was not on board with the idea. The stress that Lucy brought to their family and to their parents’ marriage was almost surreal. And eventually, Daniel’s mom couldn’t take it. She left. She left them all.

Life wasn’t the same after that. His mom was gone, Lucy was now officially his sister, and Peter was at college. Yeah, he and Peter hung out still from time to time, like that time when Daniel crashed on his couch after they drank that bottle of tequila. But it was never quite the same.

Once he could leave, Daniel left and never looked back. So much of what he’d planned for himself sort of just fell apart. He never finished his portfolio for his photography program applications and after two and a half years in college studying pre-law because he and Peter were going to open a law firm together he dropped out and decided to go figure out his photography dream.

For years now, Peter has tried to bring Daniel back into the family. To get Daniel and Lucy in the same room and create some kind of reconciliation. The only person Daniel wishes he were able to do that with is his dad. And now, apparently, it’s too late for that. Yeah, maybe Lucy’s changed. And maybe she “owns” that, but that doesn’t matter to Daniel, because she screwed up so much before she “owned” her mess, that her change is a little to0 late for Daniel.

Daniel lays the pad and pen aside and closes his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose to stave off the dull ache he senses in his temples. As a reflex, he takes up his camera and heads out on the balcony. The moon is full overhead and there is a plane shadowed against its brightness. He clicks off a series of shots and lowers his camera, breathing in the crisp night air. Feeling slightly invigorated, Daniel takes his camera and heads downstairs to get something to eat and maybe a find a few shots for the show he’s hoping to book in Boston. On his way to the door, he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror and pauses, studying himself for a long moment, taking in the dark curls, his blue eyes, his set jaw. Just an ordinary man, he thinks, then lifts his camera, captures himself just left of center in the frame and releases the shutter.

 

This Week’s Writing Sprint: Dreams

Write a scene, a poem or a story that involves a dream. Give us what you’ve got with as much detail and dialog as you can muster in 15 minutes. And most of all, have fun. Free your writer from your inner critic.

When you’re done, come back and link up what you’ve got! And remember to give some encouragement to the person who linked up before you.

The 38-Year Instant Miracle

Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”

“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”

Instantly, the man was healed! John 5:2-9

There he was, lying by the pool of Bethesda, hoping for a miracle. History tells us that the name Bethesda means House of Mercy and that tradition indicated that an angel stirred up the waters of the pool and that those fortunate to reach the waters at that time were healed. And so the crowds gathered in search of healing.

And there he was, in the midst of the crowds of those who were blind, lame, paralyzed, hurting and in need of healing. Waiting for his turn. Waiting to be healed. Waiting for a miracle.

But when the waters moved, he never made it. Thirty-eight years he waited for a miracle. Can you even imagine? In this insta-culture of texting, tweeting and Insta-gramming in which we live today, can you even imagine someone waiting 38 years for something?

Did he spend all 38 years at the pool? Maybe it was his first day or week or month there, but I’m guessing maybe he’d been there for a lot longer. If there were no one to help him into the pool when the water bubbled up, could there have been anyone to help him get back and forth to the pool from somewhere else?

And can you imagine how discouraging it must have been, watching others come and go, getting healed, celebrating their miracles right there in front of him? Maybe he tried to be happy for them, you know? To celebrate with them in their victory. But don’t you think that a small part of his heart muttered his continuing disappointment to God?

Because 38 years is a seriously long time to wait, to yearn for something and not lose faith, to not lose hope in a miracle.

Or did he? Did he lose hope? Did he lose sight of God and his promises? Had he become so discouraged or so numb from the wait that when God showed up and offered him healing, he didn’t recognize the offer?

Do you want to get well?

Rather than a resounding, Yes! Oh, Yes, I do, I do, I do want to get well. Help me! He explains why it’s not possible, why it’s just not going to happen for him.

I can’t.

I have no one to help me.

Someone else is always gets there first.

Yes, but do you want to get well?

I’ve been here for so long.

I’ve given up hope that I will get well.

I don’t think it’s in the cards for me.

But do you want to get well?

cactus bloomHave you been waiting for a miracle and given up?

Are your finances so tight and bills piling up that you don’t think it’s possible to get out from under it any longer?

Is your marriage so broken, your relationship so screwed up, your heart so shattered that you don’t think it’s possible to redeem it?

Does your dream seem unreachable, too big, too hard, too far away?

Jesus has but one question for you: do you want to get well?

I know I do. And I’m tired of giving him excuses, tired of plying him with a long list of reasons why that’s just never going to happen.

Jesus isn’t asking you something that he can’t deliver on; he’s already told us that: With God all things are possible.

You can’t? God will.

You have no one to help you? God will help you.

Someone always gets there first? Not today they don’t.

Maybe the man had been waiting so long he didn’t recognize God when God showed up. But God knew him, didn’t he? Jesus saw the man and knew that he’d been sick for along time. And even when the man offered excuses, Jesus offered him healing.

Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!

And the man did. Immediately he was healed. Not several hours later. Not 38 more years later. In that moment.

Because there were no more excuses, no more reasons why he shouldn’t. Jesus stood before him and said, Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!

If he didn’t recognize Jesus before that moment, he definitely did in that moment. Because without another moment of hemming, hawing or hesitation, he walked away from the healing pool having never set foot in the water.

Instead, he has an encounter with the Living Water, with the living God. And what could be better than that?