Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ponderings for an Autumn Evening

            A friend of mine messaged me a week or two ago with a link, and a comment that the article was another reason why he liked being a member of his particular religion. I won’t mention the friend’s name, nor the group he belongs to, as the purpose of this blog post is not to come across as slamming what he believes or his group. I mention his part in this because his message started me thinking about what I liked about being a Christian.
            As I considered this, I realized something else. I hear a lot of songs, and see a lot of comments, regarding what is great about being a Christian, but rarely do I see anyone mention what we don’t like about being a Christian. Frankly, there are quite a few things I don’t like about being a Christian.
            First, being a Christian means accepting the concept that God is sovereign. When the Law was handed down, it was not put to a vote. God didn’t propose the various statutes, and ask for our approval on each one. He didn’t leave it up to us to decide what was okay and what was not okay. He gave us only one choice in the matter – to accept that He knew what He was talking about, and to exercise the wisdom of obeying Him, or to reject His wisdom and trust our own inclinations instead, and endure the consequences of our foolishness.
            I don’t like that I am responsible for how I live His Word, while I don’t have the calling to enforce it on someone else. It’s certainly much easier to tell others how they should live, instead of demonstrating each and every day how I am supposed to live.
            I don’t like that God expects things of me. There’s a popular mantra that “God loves me just the way I am.” That’s true, but it doesn’t end there. Just as parents love their children just the way they are from the moment the child enters the world, so also God loves us just the way we are when we finally realize that love. But just like the parents expect their children to grow up, God also expects me to grow up. It’s one thing to have a child in diapers, needing to be fed, changed, and taken complete care of when they’re an infant, but what would we think if our children thought, “Mom and Dad love me just the way I am, so I’m going to stay this way forever”? Would my parents have been happy changing diapers on me when I was sixteen? Twenty five? God loves me when I’m immature and know very little about living the Christian life the way I should, but He doesn’t want me to stay that way.
            I don’t like that Christianity isn’t all about me. I want a God that caters to my whims and desires – a Heavenly Father that dotes over me and spoils me, but that isn’t what I have. Jesus said, “If any man comes after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” Instead of indulging myself, I’m supposed to deny myself. Worse yet, I’m supposed to take up my cross. Let me make this clear. I’m not being pressed by the Roman guard to carry Jesus’ cross up the hill. I’m carrying MY cross up the hill, and there was only one reason to do that. The condemned were expected to carry their own cross to the place of their own execution. Jesus is telling me that I’m supposed to follow Him to my own death.
            It should go without saying that I really don’t like that part. Instead of a God that blesses me with long life and an abundance of good stuff, I have a God that expects me to willingly give up my life for what I believe.
            As if that wasn’t enough assurance that this life isn’t going to be smooth sailing, Jesus also said, “In this world you WILL have tribulation.” He didn’t say I MIGHT have it, He said I WILL have it. I don’t see a lot of Christians joyfully claiming that promise, and I don’t blame them. I don’t like it, and I don’t want it. I don’t want tribulations and troubles. I want those wonderful, happy times that Christians sing about so often.
            I don’t like that I have to love other people, even if I don’t find them particularly lovable or nice to be around. I don’t like that Jesus commanded me to forgive them when they do something that hurts or offends me. I’d rather have a front row seat to that “vengeance is Mine” part, and gloat when God strikes them for what they did to me.
            I don’t like that there seem to be a lot of other Christians determined to make us all look bad, and that I get lumped with them.
            Most of all, I don’t like the fact that being a Christian isn’t something I chose because it suited me. I wasn’t sold on all the benefits and advantages it presented. I am a Christian because I came to the inescapable conclusion that I needed Messiah in my life. I am a Christian because I realized that, without Him, my life was nothing but a long series of days ending in a lonesome grave. I am a Christian because God is Holy, and I am not, and without the sacrifice on the cross, there would be no way I could enter into the presence of Holy God. My sin and His holiness cannot coexist. I am a Christian not because I like it, but because there was awareness that I was created to have fellowship with God, and there would always be a missing piece in my life without it. What I could not do on my own, God provided the means to accomplish.
            I am a Christian because, when God called, I stopped to listen, and nothing was ever the same again. I heard that it had nothing to do with what I liked, because, when it’s boiled down to its essence, it’s all about Him. It wasn’t about what I liked, it was all about who He loved, and He loved me enough to send His Son to die for me.
            That, my friends, is the only reason that mattered.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Friday Fiction for June 9, 2012

Welcome to Friday Fiction. Things have been so busy the last month or two, that I have not had much chance to write anything lately, and hence, have been rather scarce here as well. I’m hosting this week, though, so I need to do something. I WILL get “Mermaid Weekend” finished and posted soon, but for this week, I decided to not try and rush the next installment. Instead, I’m offering an excerpt from “Marta’s Pod.”

Bill Williams is the FBI agent who makes his first appearance in the later part of “Cardan’s Pod.” As “Marta’s Pod” developed as a story, so also did Bill’s character, and he became a rather important member of the supporting cast, so to speak. This scene, from chapter 45, is a nice look at Bill through the eyes of his wife, Angela, away from his more official duties. I hope you enjoy getting to know the Williams a little better.

Please add your link to your Friday Fiction post in the Linky tool below, and accept my apologies for being gone for so long.

Saturday Morning

            Angela woke early Saturday morning.  Sitting on the edge of the bed, she retrieved her nightgown from where she’d tossed it on the floor the night before.  Shedding it in the night had not been a romantic gesture; she’d just gotten too warm in it with Bill close beside her.  The man could radiate an incredible amount of heat, and she’d found as she’d aged that her body didn’t seem to regulate temperature as well as it once had.  Some nights she could press herself against him and still never feel warm enough.  Other nights, he could be clear across the bed and she’d roast.  Sometimes she’d toggle between the two extremes several times in one night.
            Bill was in the process of getting his retirement from the Bureau arranged, and until he did they spent their weeknights apart.  When he arrived on the weekends he could not seem to get close enough to her as they slept, and hence she’d spent most of the night with him snuggled up behind her.  She’d gotten up to use the bathroom around two that morning and shed the sweat-dampened nightgown at that time.  Bill had stirred just enough when she crawled back into bed to mumble an approving comment at her nudity before he dropped back into a sound sleep.
            After all their years of marriage, she still enjoyed having her husband snuggle her and very much appreciated the fact that he still wanted to be close to her.  She just wished her body would make up its mind whether to be hot or cold.
            She regarded her nightgown, and carried it to the clothes hamper just outside the bathroom.  It would need washed before she wore it again. 
            The first order of the morning was a shower.  It wasn’t unusual during the week for her to spend as much as two hours in the evening soaking in the tub, but her morning routine always included a shower.  The hot water washed away not only the overnight sweat, but also the remnants of sleep and helped her start the day fully alert.  She shampooed her hair, then soaped up the bath puff and began scrubbing.
            Bill peeked around the shower curtain.  “Need a back scrub?” he offered.
            “Please,” she said, handing him the soapy puff.  One thing she looked forward to each weekend was getting her back scrubbed since Bill could put a decent amount of force behind the effort.  She liked a solid back-scrubbing to the point where he’d sometimes suggested that she wanted him to completely abrade her skin away.
            He stepped into the shower with her as she leaned against the wall, bracing herself with her arms.  Even so, her body pushed forward as he commenced the scrubbing with a significant portion of his weight placed behind it.  She sighed with contentment; it was much like getting a deep massage and her back washed all in one.  He finished with a bit of a flourish across her bottom and handed the puff to her.
            “My turn,” he said, turning around to present his back to her.
            “It’s my girlie soap,” she warned him.
            “It smells better than my manly sweat.  Besides, I doubt anyone will get close enough to my back to notice that I might smell like my wife’s soap, and if they do, so what?”
            She always attempted to put as much strength behind scrubbing his back as he did hers, yet for all the pushing she did, he never so much as teetered forward an inch.   “Ahh,” he breathed.  “Oh, yeah; right there.  I got an itchy right there.”
            She pulled the puff away and looked, seeing the angry red spot on his back.  “You’ve been feeding mosquitoes again?”
            “Probably a flea,” he said.  “I helped Stan out on a visit to this old gal that had a house full of dogs.  I think we were both itching before we got out of there.” 
            She finished up by wrapping her arms around him and rubbing the soapy front of her body against the back of his in a playful motion.  She brushed the bath puff up across his chest as her other hand massaged the soap into his belly.  Despite his age, his abdomen was still muscular and trim.  All that truly betrayed his years was the copious silver flecks that punctuated his jet black hair, and that just made him look distinguished.
            Holding him as the hot water pelted her back; she took a moment to count her blessings.  She had a new job with a boss who was as easy to get along with as one could wish for.  She had students who eagerly waited for their lessons five mornings a week.  She had two terrific sons who were pursuing good educations at esteemed universities; and she had one fine looking figure of a man who was a devoted husband, loving father, great friend, and frankly, a dynamite lover to boot.
            He’d even thought to stop on the way to the island the night before and buy her favorite bagels and cream cheese for their breakfast that morning.  The coffee maker in their room would already have clicked on automatically.  They had a toaster for the bagels and the cream cheese waited in the refrigerator.  All alone in their room, she would not even have to wait to get dressed to enjoy breakfast.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friday (Saturday?) Fiction for March 23, 2012

I'm running late this week, as I completely spaced on being the host. Thursday, when I usually handle the Friday Fiction duties on my turn, started with the alarm going off at 4:30 for an early offset shift at work. This was to accommodate an appointment at the hearing clinic to pick up my hearing aids, and then we had the general meeting for the Scuba Club that night. At any rate, I will be back a little bit later to actually post something to read, but for now, here is the Linky tool for the other participants. My apologies for the tardiness!

Mermaid Weekend
Part 3

Teresa tucked her wet hair up under a towel, and, before sitting, dropped the robe from her shoulders to help protect the chair from the still dripping bathing suit. Trevor stood just inside the door, still wearing an expression of disbelief. “If someone comes in that door, they’re going to put the doorknob right into your back,” Teresa said. “Why don’t you sit down on the couch, or one of the chairs at the table?”

He wandered absently to the couch, and flopped into it. “You’ve been to the Island?” When she nodded in response, he added, “I can’t believe you never told me.”

“Tell you? I might as well just post it on every single one of my friends’ walls on Facenet, and maybe buy some advertising time on the television. You’re almost as good at keeping secrets as the National Tattler gossip magazine.”

“Don’t know why you wanted to keep it a secret.”

“Because not everyone really finds being a part of the Pod is something they can live with for a long time,” Marianne said, crawling in from a side room. “Sometimes, it’s easier to decide what you want to do, when the world isn’t watching.”

Trevor stared, and stammered some gibberish.

“Sorry, Trev,” Teresa said. “I asked Marianne and Gretchen to keep the bathing suit tops on, since Mom commented that you have an obsession with breasts lately.”

“I do not!”

“Should I remind you of all the files Dad deleted from your computer, before he and Mom put all kinds of controls on your access?”

Marianne laughed. “Gretchen is going to have fun with this one, isn’t she?”

“Not in front of Mom, please,” Teresa said. “I’m not sure my parents are too happy with this as it is, and if she gets the full brunt of Gretchen’s humor, she may never talk to me again.”

“Now, I’m hurt!’ Gretchen said, poking her head around the corner from another room. “I have an excellent sense of humor!”

“You have a bawdy sense of humor,” Teresa said. “I’ve never met anyone that had such an easy time making a G-rated Disney movie sound like a dirty movie.”

Gretchen crawled into the room. “Oh, you brought me a new toy?” She pushed up with her arms on the couch next to Trevor, and leaned close. “He’s kind of cute. I promise not to break him too quickly.”

“He’s only fifteen,” Teresa offered, in a teasing sing-song.

“Oh, too bad,” Gretchen said, bringing her face close to Trevor’s ear. It was difficult to tell if he was enjoying the attention, or was terrified. “I could have just eaten… you… up.”

“I’m… a very mature fifteen,” Trevor blurted.

“Doesn’t matter,” Marianne said. “Pod rules, you know. Eva and Marta would not take any excuse.”

“But, I’m not a member of the Pod,” he objected.

“Ah, but I am,” Gretchen said. “And you are so delightfully gullible.”

All three girls shared a laugh, before Teresa asked, “So, where’s Timothy?”

“I think he was planning on having a chat with your father,” Marianne said.

“Oh, that should be interesting,” Gretchen said. “Hopefully, he isn’t like Emilio. I mean, if Suzanne were here, that wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m not sure Timothy is quite in Suzanne’s league.”

“No one is in Suzanne’s league,” Marianne said. “I don’t think even Eva would have handled Emilio quite that way.”

“What?” Trevor asked. “Who’s Emilio, and what did Suzanne do to him?”

“Let’s just say that, if you ever want to see just how close you can come to drowning without actually dying, just make Suzanne angry,” Gretchen said. “Which, incidentally, you might do, if she catches you staring at her breasts.”


Gretchen turned pleading eyes on Marianne. “Please, can I play with him? He is sooo gullible.”

Both Marianne and Teresa responded in unison. “No.”

to be continued...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Friday Fiction for March 9, 2012

Welcome to Friday Fiction! I'm hosting this week, which gave me that extra kick to actually get some more written on the short-story I started last month. Things have been busy, and I haven't had much chance to write. I'm going to make a point of finishing this story in time for next week's Friday Fiction. Meanwhile, please join in and add your link to the Linky tool below.

Mermaid Weekend

Part 2

Timothy waited in the dressing room, still amused by having a “dressing room” assigned to him, when the most dressing he’d ever done was slipping on a t-shirt. The door opened, and one of the hotel maintenance workers showed Teresa’s father into the room.

“Where’s my daughter?” he asked, without preamble.

How would Eva handle this? “I don’t know how you do things in your world, sir, but I suggest if you ever come to the Island and meet the Pod, you don’t forget your basic manners. Neither Marta nor Eva will tolerate it, even from a guest. I’m Timothy Billings, and I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”

“Basic manners?” he said. “Do you consider it good manners to pop this kind of surprise on us?”

“Would you rather the surprise of learning after the fact that she had married into the Pod?”

“Is that what this meeting is about? Are you going to ask my permission to propose to her?”

Timothy resisted the urge to laugh. “Odd custom. Perhaps a bit better than an arranged marriage, but still rather archaic, don’t you think?”

“You might not think so, when you have a daughter.”

“I’ve seen firsthand that strange difference in how daughters are treated over sons. Perhaps it would help you to understand that dolphin pods are matriarchal, and with the way Dr. Marcel scheduled all of us, the eldest members of the Pod are all women. We don’t see being female as weak and in need of protection.”

“It’s not being protective. It’s a traditional courtesy. She is, after all, my daughter.”

“She’s also an adult, and we love each other.”

“Yes, Teresa is an adult, and as I’m sure you’ve already noticed, somewhat headstrong. She doesn’t get that from any stranger. As for you ‘love each other,’ I’ve watched a parade of boyfriends go through her life, since she was a teen-ager, and every one of them would have said the same thing. Many of them did.”

“And your point is…?”

“I’m not impressed with declarations of love. Feelings are fleeting, and, to be honest, she could do better.”

“I’d wager her mother could have done better, too.”

For a moment, the man looked angry, before a reluctant smile appeared. “Yeah, she could have, and I still don’t know why she didn’t. You’re not easily intimidated, are you?” He chuckled. “I always prided myself on being able to scare her boyfriends.”

“I spent most of my childhood afraid that if we were found, we’d be killed. We scrounged what we could from a wild ocean, and never knew when something else might be out there scrounging for us. The worst I have to fear from you, is that you don’t like me.”

He pulled a chair over, and settled into it. “Well, if I’m not going to scare you away, then you might as well just call me Jim. So, how did you and Teresa meet, anyway?”

“Funny story, that,” Timothy said, and thought about how best to start.

to be continued...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Friday Fiction for February 3, 2012

Welcome to Friday Fiction, which I get to host this week! Be sure to add your link to the list immediately following this header.

Things have been busy the past couple of weeks, and I haven’t had much time to write anything (and hence, my absence the last two Friday Fictions), but I really wanted to have something new and special for this week.

As I ready to post this, Nancy and I are celebrating our 32nd Wedding Anniversary. I’ve always enjoyed a good love story, and I have been blessed to be able to live one with a wonderful woman for over three decades. Therefore, I decided I wanted a love story for this week, and so I written a continuation to a story posted two years ago on this blog, Reef, Her Madness. Happy Anniversary to my wonderful Nancy, and I hope you enjoy this ongoing tale.

Mermaid Weekend

Part 1

“I’m confused, Teresa,” her father said, taking in the garish opulence of the resort. “Why would you want to come here for your birthday, and how on Earth did you manage to afford to pay our way as well?”

“You’ll see soon enough, Daddy,” she replied. She accepted their room keys from the desk clerk, and then followed the bellhop to the elevator.

Her mother and fifteen year-old brother looked over a brochure on the entertainment at the resort. As the elevator indicated passing the fourth floor, her brother pointed at one page excitedly. “Hey! They’ve got a mermaid show, with the real mermaids!”

“Forget it, Trevor,” their mother said. “I’m not letting you go see topless mermaids.”

“They aren’t topless,” Teresa said. “They wear bathing suit tops for the shows.”

“Huh. When did you get to be an expert on mermaid shows?” Daddy asked, his tone bordering between sarcastic and disinterested.

“Since I spent time researching this resort and booking the trip,” she said.

The elevator stopped on the seventh floor, and the bellhop rolled the cart with their luggage into the hallway. He led them to adjoining rooms – a single for her, and a two-room suite for her parents and Trevor, and used the keys to open the door for them. The luggage was placed neatly in a closet, and he took a moment to point out a few of the amenities of the room before turning to leave. When her father tried to hand him a folded bill, the bellhop politely waved it away. “Already taken care of, sir.”

“That’s weird,” Daddy said. “I’ve never known a bellhop to turn down a tip, even if they’ve already received one.”

“Don’t worry about it, Daddy. I told you – this weekend is all covered. All you need to worry about is enjoying yourself. It’s a gift.”

“Huh. It’s your birthday. The gift is supposed to be for you.”

She smiled at him. “Who says it’s not?”


The lights over the audience dimmed, and spotlights played over the surface of a large pool. Despite her mother’s objections, the four of them waited at one of the best tables for the mermaid show to begin. The look she kept shooting Teresa conveyed quite clearly that, if there were any topless mermaids in this show, someone was going to be in deep trouble.

A lively nautical tune played over the sound system, as three dark shapes converged on the center of the pool from three different entrances. Just before meeting, they turned sharply upwards, and broke the surface in a precisely choreographed leap. Their arcs criss-crossed in mid-air, and then they slid smoothly back into the water.

Trevor let out a loud, appreciative whistle, earning him a scowl from Mom. When the three performers rose from the water to tail-stand for the audience, Trevor’s enthusiasm diminished a bit. “Wait – one of those three is a dude!”

Teresa laughed. “One-third of the Pod is male,” she said. “Or did you conveniently forget that?”

“But it’s supposed to be a mer-MAID show,” he objected. “Who wants to look at a dude with a dolphin tale?”

“Maybe I do,” she said.

“Shh,” Daddy hissed at them.

An unseen announcer officially opened the show by introducing the three Pod members present, and offered narration at appropriate times during the first half of the show. After a short intermission, during which a round of beverages was obtained for the family, the lights lowered again and a single spotlight shone on a platform at the back of the pool. One of the mermaids rested on an inclined pad, which raised her head comfortably above the platform and freed her arms to hold a microphone.

“Good evening,” she said. “As you might remember, my name is Marianne, and I’m joined on this performance trip by my sister Gretchen, and our brother Timothy. This will be our final weekend of this trip, and starting next week, three other members of the Pod will be here to entertain you. At this time in the show, we usually take questions and requests from the audience, but tonight, we’re going to do something a little different. Tonight, we’re going to involve a member of the audience in the show.”

Trevor got an excited look on his face, which elicited an eye-roll from their mother. His arm was shaking with the anticipation that the mermaid was going to ask for a volunteer.

Marianne continued. “It’s very rare that any of us travels alone, but last year, Timothy decided to take a solitary vacation for his birthday. When he returned, he told us this amusing story about meeting someone he called, ‘Crazy Reef Girl.’ Ladies and gentlemen, Crazy Reef Girl is here in the audience tonight, and we would like to invite her to join us in the pool.”

Trevor’s expression dropped, and people started looking all around the theater for the mystery woman.

Marianne waited a minute, and then added, “Come on, Teresa. You knew we were going to do this to you, so you’d better have come prepared.”

Teresa stood up, and the spotlight caught her just as she slipped the loose dress over head to reveal the swimsuit beneath. She kicked her shoes off beneath the table, and took a step towards the pool.

Her parents looked confused, and Trevor had that, ‘I-can’t-believe-it’s-my-sister’ expression on his face.

Timothy swam to the near edge of the pool, and waited for her to climb in. She accepted a pair of goggles from him, and covered her eyes before allowing him to tow her into the deepest part. He locked his arms behind her back, and she wrapped hers around his neck.

Flipping backwards, he made an easy kick towards the bottom, and then powered back to and through the surface in a steep-arced leap. Teresa caught bits and pieces of Marianne’s commentary during their segment of the performance, but most of the time, all she heard was the rushing of water and splashes. He finished the routine by towing her around the entire perimeter of the pool, making only one quick bob to the surface for air, before finally floating together facing each other, just in front of the platform.

“I’ve missed our swims together,” he said.

“Me, too, but there’s something I’ve missed more,” she said.

“Oh? What’s that?”

In response, she pulled him close and kissed him, earning them loud applause and whistles from the audience.

To be continued…