The Four Captains

Four ship captains set sail to go to sea. One captain let the wind and waves carry him and did not steer, and he ended up crashed on the rocks. Another Captain being nervous about the strong winds, rolled up his sails and made his men row the whole time, but the men grew tired, and the ship quickly turned back for home. Another captain had no compass, but he steered his ship towards any visible or imagined points on the horizon, but he ended up getting lost at sea. Still another captain steered his ship into the winds with sails unfurled, and used his compass to guide him, and he sailed to his destination over the horizon pushing through every wind. He reached his destination and all of his men and his goods made it with him.

The Scar Chapter 4

The Lava man and the gardener did their best to repair the wound to Zoe’s hand, but all they could do is put some salve on it to ease the pain and a great bandage around it. Her hand now looked like a molten cracked landscape on top, with some crusted scab and ooze in the cracks. Zoe was able to bear the pain of it better, now that things with her father were better. They went back and finished their dinner that the events with the stranger had interrupted.

Later that night, as she was getting ready for bed she heard a knock on the door. It was her Mom coming to say good night.

“Hey honey. How are you feeling?”

“I’m okay.” She said.

“Your hand?” She said motioning to the bandaged hand.

“It still hurts.”

“Try not to move it too much.”

“Yes Mom.” And with that, Mom leaned over and kissed her on the forehead and said, “Good night.”

“Good night.” Zoe said as she snuggled under the covers.

Her sleep was not to be. She blinked after a while in bed. The house was still and the lights were out. She rolled onto her back and stared up at the ceiling. She lifted her white-bandaged hand and wrist, and then placed it back down on top of her blanket and sheets.

She remembered what her father had said: to go to God as your Heavenly Father. She couldn’t sleep, so she just prayed.

“God, would you please heal my hand?”

No response.

“God, my Dad said that you would come if I called you.” But then as she said it, she remembered his words, “If you seek him with all your heart.”

She tried again. “God, will you please heal my hand?”

No response again. Maybe she wasn’t doing it right. Maybe she was still mad at her Dad, and God didn’t like that, or that made her heart unable to hear him.

A third time she persisted, “Father, I am sorry for what I did to disobey my dad. If you are willing, could you please heal my hand?”

This time, she didn’t hear anything, but she felt something. It was like the silence around her was full of something. It wasn’t bad, but it was . . . hard to describe except . . . peaceful.

Is this what her Dad meant?

She checked her hand unwrapping it from the bandage. It was still tightly curled in a fist of burned skin and oozed scabbing.

Then she heard in her head, three words that felt like they were “light” itself. They were:

Open your hand

Her inside recognized the voice. It was something she had heard in her father’s voice, but it was other than her father’s voice. She at first was delighted to comply. She stretched the un-wounded hand open and raised it up for God in Heaven to see. But the “light voice” returned:

Not that one

She then realized, he meant to open the burned hand. By now, the burned skin had hardened, and It stung and oozed and burned.

“But it will hurt” she said.

There was no answer. But a memory stirred in her mind. A picture of an old woman who said to a boy she had been healing. “It has to hurt if it is to heal.” That was the answer. She had healed enough wounds of others to know that it was true. But her mother had said, “Don’t move it.” She had asked God her Father to heal her. And he had responded with a command: open your hand. The same words her Dad had spoken to her when she asked him earlier. She knew it was the answer.

But now, the choice was hers. Did she want to obey God or did she want to leave her hand the way it was? Did she trust Him enough to go through the pain He asked her to? Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have one burned hand, she thought. She could still heal people. But her hand wouldn’t be able to feel as much as she needed to tenderly care for others. It would be a scar that she would always carry, but would not be one of the scars she loved.

She spoke to the voice, peacefully assured of Whom she was talking to, and said, “If I do it, will you heal me?”

The response was confusing. It was garbled with her own thoughts. It was as if, her own mind was speaking louder than His voice. It was not a helpful question.

She tried again. “If I obey you, will you do what I want?”

She tried to quiet everything else to hear what He would say, and a sad question came back,

Must I?

Her face grew puzzled, and she now wondered if she was truly speaking with her Heavenly Father? He’s All-powerful. He doesn’t have to anything . . . And then it hit her. She was trying to impose a condition on her obedience to God. As if she was saying to God, “I will trust you, if you promise you’ll heal me.” As if He had to agree to her terms before she would do anything. She knew she was wrong to say it. That’s why it was so confusing. She had to be willing to trust Him even if he did not promise to heal her. But she did have her Dad’s assurance that He would heal her heart.

“So that’s what this is about.” She breathed mostly to herself. “You want to heal more than just my hand.”

Yes

Then she felt it. She had come before the presence of the Almighty, and He did not crush her. He offered her a step of obedience to take. That was what she needed. And just like she trusted her father. . . maybe . . .

She let out a deep breath and said, “Okay, God. I will.” As she took the bandage completely off, she held her burned hand in her good hand. She first tried to see if there was any painless way to pry apart the fingers, but all she could do was pick at scabs and cause bleeding.

She sighed. Her gift was so helpful in situations like this. If only she could heal herself. But her gift didn’t work like that. She couldn’t heal herself. She needed someone else to take her wound.

She took a deep breath then put her muscles in her hand and forearm to work. The tearing, the stinging, the burning feelings all made her whine and cry again. She remembered the initial pain when it happened as her fingers out-stretched and moved around. It was like her whole hand was an exposed nerve. She felt the air brushing against it chilly like a knife.

And then again the voice came.

Give Me your hand.

Tearfully crying afresh, she extended her hand out into the air above her bed in the dark saying, “Where are you?”

Right here.

And then though she could not see anything, she felt a warmth surround her outstretched hand and grow hotter. It was like her father’s fire, only it didn’t consume her skin. Instead, it comforted it. It hurt good, like the salve they had put on her hand earlier. She held her hand out for as long as the warm process in the dark was going, and when it was over, she pulled her hand back to her and felt it with her good hand. And to her amazement and shaky gasps of laughter, the difference between her good hand and the hand that was burned was no more. She kept feeling around the skin of that the burned hand, but she felt no pain.

Suddenly, in the midst of her delight and amazement, she realized that she for the first time in her life, she was now on the receiving end of her own gift. And she knew the cost of what it must mean to the one who heals. She wondered, and asked aloud, “Father, does this mean that you have to deal with my pain in yourself?”

His response came almost as if with a smile: I already did.

She remembered that Jesus had died on the cross, and carried all sin and causes of sin, all infirmities on himself in the Cross. He bore her pain out of love for her. And now she loved Him all the more.

Then, as she felt around her hand that had been burned, she felt a patch of skin that was still rough to the touch. She turned on her lamp by her bed, and looked at her hand. It was like new, except for this small patch of a scar on the back of her hand about an inch wide. And she said,

“Lord, why did you leave a scar?”

I have scars too.

At this, she responded with something between crying and laughing, because she understood what He meant.

The next morning, she told her parents how God had met her. The father and the mother were amazed at the scar and they rejoiced. And that is how Zoe got her favorite scar of all.

The Scar Chapter 3

After a while of lying on her bed, she now stared over the edge of her pillow until her Mom came in the room. She immediately felt like her Mom could not help her, so she stiffened.

Her Mom sat on the edge of her bed next to her daughter, and like nursing a wilted sapling she stroked her daughter’s back.

“I’m so sorry, honey. I know it hurt terribly what your father did to you.”

She said nothing.

“We both been trying so hard to protect you, and he went too far.”

“Yeah, well he’ll never want to protect me again.” She said bitterly.

“Why?” asked the mother.

“Because I broke his mold around my hand. I know he felt it. He’ll never forgive me for causing him that kind of pain.”

“Oh, I think you don’t understand your father at all.”

“And you do?” shot back the daughter and hugged her pillow and turned her back toward her mother.

The mother lay down on the bed beside her and reached her arms around her jagged daughter.

“Your father does love his creations. But there’s no creation He loves more than his child. He feels like he has hurt you so badly that you can never forgive him.”

The daughter was surprised at this. “Do you think he would forgive me?”

“I know He already has.” She said. “And if there’s anything I have learned about your father being married to him, he is usually willing to admit when he’s wrong. It just might take him some time to see it. Now, if you want things with your Dad to be fixed, I am going to tell you what you need to do.”

Meanwhile, the dad had called the ambulance to come pick up the man at his house, and the man had just left on his way to getting some help in the hospital. Inside though, his heart was like an iron ship that had been sunk. He knew his daughter was hurt more than her hand. Her heart was in her hand. . . and he had burned it. How could she ever trust him again? He worried that maybe he would hurt her worse with an apology, as if it would take away the meaning of what she had suffered. But he also knew that he was wrong, so he got up and walked toward Zoe’s door, when suddenly, he stopped.

The doorknob slowly turned, and Zoe stepped into the living room toward her father. Her hand was badly burned still. Slowly and with a slight shudder she walked up to her father and slowly lifted her eyes to look into his face. The father was mystified. Her daughter was not angry. The look in her eyes was more unbearably breaking. Her eyes were full of trust.

She reached out both her hands toward him and said, “Papa, I know you love me. If you want to rockify my hands again so that I never heal another wound, I offer them to you. I promise I won’t break the rock again.

At this, her father sank to his knees. He held out his hand to take her unburned hand. She gingerly held it out, hoping that he would not encase it in rock, but still trusting him. When he took her hand he gestured to her to kneel with him on the floor. She did.

With difficulty he got the ability to speak again. “With your confidence in my love and your trust of my goodness, you have overcome me, my amazing Zoe.”

He took her into his arms and embraced her, and she cried as they squeezed one another. He released his grip to look her in her eyes, and he said, “I do love you, and I confess I was so wrong to hurt you and to hinder you as I did. Your heavenly Father gave you this gift, and I was a wretched fool to use my gift to keep you limited to the life that made sense to me.”

Then he clasped the burned hand that was still balled up into a fist in his two hands and said, “By the grace of God who gives gifts to mankind, I will not hinder His work in you. I will never rockify your hands again. Will you please forgive me for hurting you so badly?”

Zoe nodded, a bit unsure of what this could mean for her if her father was going to loosen restrictions upon her and her gift. Did this mean he would not protect her anymore? Did he not love her anymore?

The father smiled as if he could sense her nervousness, and said “I will go to God for how best to protect you from now on, instead of trying to do it on my own. I ask that you please trust me keep doing this for a little while longer.”

She nodded, “I will try, Papa.”

“It’s going to be hard. I don’t intend to, but one day I will fail you again. I have much selfishness in me. But when I fail to love you rightly as a father should, I have a way that should make easier on you.”

She nodded, “Yes, sir?”

“When I fail you, I need you to go to your Heavenly Father, who loves you more than I ever could, and seek His healing from the wounds that come from me.”

She shuddered, “How do I go to Him?”

“Open your hand.”

“What?” She said confused.

“Invite God into the wound and wait on Him, counting on His love, and let Him speak life into you.”

“What if He doesn’t?” said Zoe her hand still clenched.

“He will. You will find Him when you seek for Him with all your heart, especially the broken pieces. And His love is the only fire that can bring all the broken pieces together and give it back to you whole again.”

The Scar Chapter 2

A week later, they were all eating dinner together, when a desperate knock came at the door. Zoe’s father went to the door, and spoke to someone out of sight of Zoe sitting at the table. She looked over her spoon as she sipped the vichyssoise her Mom had made. Her dad came back carrying a man in uniform with one arm around his shoulder. The uniformed man looked wan and frail. The mother got up and hurried to clear the table. Zoe backed away as the adults pushed everything off the table to make ready. Her father gave her a knowing glance which they exchanged with previous understanding: Do nothing.

“I barely got away.” said the man in uniform, who up close looked to be clad in the garb of a park ranger, though he reminded Zoe of a soldier from the Revolutionary war. The warm light of the chandelier above gave it that feel. Zoe’s eyes were transfixed on the man. He was middle aged and stared blankly at the light of the chandelier. She could see he was in a state of shock. The father and the mother talked with the man, and found out that this he had been attacked by a bear, and his bowels severely injured by the claws.

“Zoe,” shot out her father, “get some water.” She started for the door to go to the stream, but he said, “No use the water we’ve already boiled!” He said motioning to the refrigerator. She looked inside the opened refrigerator and located their carafe filled only half-way. The mother poured water on her own hands and did what they could to clean up the man. His breathing was shallow.

Zoe ached to help. Her mother was not picking it up, but her dad was. He kept looking from the man he was caring for to Zoe whose eyes remained glued to the poor man.

She got lost in a memory triggered by the sight of her father leaning over the man, but powerless to help. One time, little Zoe played with a little rocking horse her Dad had fashioned from with him of Micas polished. She tipped it over, and the side collision landed on the stone fireplace, and the head split off. It was the first moment when her world shattered, as children’s world’s often do. She didn’t know it, but her father’s outcry was not because it couldn’t be fixed, but because he felt what happened to it in his innermost being as if it were happening to him, because it had come out of him. She saw her dad seize with anguish for a moment that twisted his face, and then he looked at the girl’s face. Huge tears were just starting to gush forth, when he reached out and clasped her close to him in a comforting embrace. She did not mean to do it. He patted her on the back gently and rubbed her little head, and told her not to worry. He took the rocking horse with its shattered head into another room. She waited for him, turning over this new feeling of anguish that was not her own, but it was her dad’s. A short while later he came out of the room, and held wide the rocking horse remade. She ran up and gasped. Her daddy fixed it. He could fix anything.

But not this. She said to herself. I can fix this. Then she saw the man’s head tilt back unconscious. She could feel something was wrong inside him. Hope was waning, though she stood right there.

She begged her dad to do something. He did not look at her. Instead he said, “Be still.”

“He’s dying.”

“Silence!” he cried, still staring at the man.

The urgency of the situation swelled inside her. She had to do it. And so, she stretched out her hand past the adults toward the man.

What happened next was shattering. Suddenly, Zoe’s arm was caught in a flash of flame, and the unconscious man faintly heard the outcry of Zoe in pain. The father’s hand had turned molten pale yellow like lava hot in the mantel, and had grabbed the wrist of his daughter whose hand burned under his touch. She sank to her knees as the burning continued. Her screams startled everyone, except the man on the table who was barely conscious. The mother screamed and yelled, “STOP! Stop it please!!”

The firelight died down, and a thud was heard as a sizzling, darkening orange bracelet and glove of rock thudded to the ground with Zoe’s tender living wrist cuffed inside it. The mother’s face was fixed in fright and amazement. The mother’s face burned with tears and anger at her husband.

Zoe was still on the floor sobbing and holding her arm now with a warm but solid black mitten. Her skin was still tender from the burn. Thus her father found her and stood above her. She looked up with eyes pleading and crushed as she looked through the strands of her hair. “Papa?”

Her dad’s heart softened til it broke, and he sank to his knees beside her. He reached out his hands to her, but she pulled her arm away and started away. He reached further to embrace her, but she pushed him away.

“How could you?”

“I had to protect you.” He said softly.

“What about him?” she cried pointing to the man on the table, “I was given this gift for a reason, and you . . . you punish me for using it?”

“You have to trust me. Sometimes we parents do things that don’t make sense. Please, you have given me your heart.”

“Well, maybe I was wrong.” She fumed, and then she passed briskly to the wall and took her black stone-gloved wrist, and lifted her arm with a back hand thrust and smashed it against the stone wall. It had the desired effect. Her father’s face was torn by that familiar anguish. Tears started down his cheek as he felt the house’s pain and the bracelet’s destruction within him, but more so, his daughter’s repulsion of the very one who brought her into this world.

She saw his reaction and blackly accused, “You care more about your own creations than you do about me.”

“You are the BEST thing that ever came from me!” Roared her father in a sudden burst.

“Well, I’m not you!” She said.

She screamed and stormed out and slammed the door, threw herself onto her bed, punched her pillow for a while, then sobbed. She felt both the shattering truth that she had broken her father’s heart, just as much as he had broken hers.

The Scar Chapter 1

“Why do you feel like you always have to reinvent the wheel?” She asked him.

“Because,” he said, “I want to experience the wheel. If I don’t make the wheel, I don’t know it.”

This was said one time by a man who had special volcanic powers. He could generate fire and even pour of himself and it became as lava. As it cooled he fashioned it into shapes and stones, and as his skill grew, he could make anything. When he made something, he knew it through and through because it came from him, and was of his inner fire. He made a table, and knew that table because it came from out of him. When he was full grown, he made a whole house of various types of volcanic stone: obsidian, granite, and the pumice all shaped according to the desire and design of the craftsman.

One year there was a terrible flood, and his house was right in the middle of it, but it held fast because its foundation was fused by his lava to the bedrock. When the water receded, he saw that the water had washed away parts of the stone. He knew that weathering over time was going to destroy anything he made. So, he re-melted and replenished the stone where the water began its decay, and if any mold or mildew showed up on any of the rock, he would melt it away and patch the stone.

As the years went by, he met a woman who had hair the color of lava flowing down her head. He fell in love with her and invited her to his home. She looked around and found the stone work impressive, but a bit grim. She was not like him. She had the ability to nurture plants. Under her watchful care, she could cultivate living things to their full potential. Soon, they agreed that they wanted to live together for the rest of their lives, and so they got married.

They moved into the stone house, and soon the plant-loving woman had made space in the home for living things to grow. She moved things around in the house, and she did not understand that the lava-crafting man felt intently everything that she moved around, because he knew each thing, and why it was where it was, and how it was inside. She came to understand this over time, asking similar questions to the first question of this story. But, over time, both of them took ownership of what he made, as she was able to use his stone-work for her plants. Any time she needed a pot, he would make one for her, or planters, or wall-hangings—he fashioned them all for her. They were very happy together. The plants were protected, soil-enriched, and warmed, and the house looked much more like a home, and the air inside was fresh and less fumy.

However, the woman was unhappy after a while. Such a place was great for a house made of stone, but she wanted to move near the water so that she could nurture her plants more easily. At this, the man halted, because water was the very thing that would wear away at what he made, and compromise it. They sought a compromise, and when they had found one, they moved to that spot. The mountain they moved to in a very green country they built near a mountain stream. This suited the man fine because he had plenty of rock, and the water was being channeled down the stream which in the winter swelled to a river.

Then they had their first child. This child was gifted like his father and his mother but different. She had the ability to impart life to someone. One time when she was three years old, she found a butterfly that had been stepped on and lay still, but she picked it up, blew on it, and it came to life in her hands and it flew away. Her parents discovered soon that this priceless gift came with a price. She would grow ill, hurt, or deathly sick in proportion to the amount of life that she would give out. One time, she healed another child at school who skinned their knee, and she limped on her own leg for a week and then she got better. Word got out in the school that this girl was special, and the parents feared for her, so they left the mountain stone-home by the stream and got into a covered wagon and drifted from place to place. They home-schooled the girl, whose name was Zoe.  From her father, she learned that structures are first fluid, then they must be solid, but if need ever arises for them to mended or amended they can be melted and renewed. From her mother, she learned that life could only be given by something that life itself had grown.

Zoe understood that her parents were trying to protect her, but she longed to share her gift with the world. She did not know yet how precious a gift it was, or how terrible the world could be to such a one with such a gift. She became familiar with the stories of the Bible. In them, Jesus from Nazareth healed people, and the people ended up crucifying him. She wondered if maybe that might happen to her. She found in the Bible, the same fire that her dad said helped him to create things, and the same life that grew the things her mother cultivated.

As time went on and as she used her gift, she collected two sets of scars. One set was resulting form the wounds that she incurred, the second set was from wounds of others she had healed. This second set was her favorite.

One day, fifteen-year-old Zoe sat beside her father on the edge of a cliff staring out over the woodlands in the evening.

“It’s like I can get inside what people are feeling and experience it myself.” She voiced to her father.

“Yes,” he said, “When you let it happen to you, it becomes a part of you. I would encourage you to do something: learn from your mother. What she knows is probably more important than what I know.”

“But Mom,” she said haltingly, “It’s like she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t get inside things the way we do.”

“No, she doesn’t. But she values that which is outside herself. That is the lesson she can teach you better than I can. Perhaps one day, you’ll meet someone who will teach you this lesson even more.”

“Have you ever gotten to know her from the inside? You know what I mean.”

The Dad smiled and said, “Your mother is self-less in a way that I am not, and yet she gives of herself all the time. . . like you.” He said patting her on her shoulder. “You’ve been given two very different parents, but you will never fully become like either of us. I know you, because you came from me, and yet, I know that somehow, God is going to make you, something more than either of us, something different. And He’s the only one who can.”

Then he gave her a side-hug pulling her in close and kissing her head.

The Captain’s Voyage

In this story, the earth was flat, and the edge was terrible! The land was on the edge of the plate, with waters in the middle and below it cascading waterfalls over the edge into the abyss below. In from the rim, there was a great and vast sea that spread over the whole area within the Rim World, and in the center of the Sea was rumored a dark hole, ever enshrouded in cloud and rain. The waters flowed in the sea out from the center, onto the beaches of the Rim World, and underneath eroding the underside. The inhabitants of the Rim World knew or chose not to know that they and the land were doomed to destruction, should no way of escape be found. Many lived inland as far from either shore they could to feel the security of land everywhere their eyes looked, still others sought to turn away from the waters of judgment flowing from the Center, and stared off the terrible edge into the black seeking false promises of salvation in the Abyss itself. But from this abyss, no salvation could be found.

Still others looked from the shore of the Rim World to the inner Sea, and in this world, sooner or later, most people came to take up the profession of Sailing. Ships sailed around and around the Rim and the Center. Every once in a while, the Column of cloud and swirl of rain in the distance at the center lit up with a golden flash like a lantern. One time this happened, a Captain in port of the Rim met a man who told of one who had fallen into the Center Abyss and had returned. He said, for those who have the courage, the center is the doorway to a New Heavenly World. There was also a story that the waters near the centered flowed down from the Heavens, and that the Center let anyone whose ship belonged to the Master of the Seas to sail among the Heavens with Him. And so the flashes of gold would light up the dismal hopeless lands as reportedly, a ship would rise from the Center up to the Heaven World.

This Captain believed, and started preparing his vessel, setting off from port. Many had attempted this journey, but few completed it. The Water flowed contrary to the Vessel out from the Center, but the Wind blew ever toward the Center. But people would go so far and roll up their sails, or suffer themselves to be driven back to the Rim. But the Heaven World was for those whose sails were open on their journey to the Center.

The Captain settled in his heart he and his crew were going to the Center. He knew the Rim world was doomed to fall into the nothingness over the edge, so being pulled out to sea, he opened his sails and waited. The Holy Wind filled his sails and carried him along. At first, he rode around staying near the shore empowered by this new wind, but he soon learned that the wind bore a voice that spoke to him in the rattling and flapping of the sails calling him to remember his quest, and the One who went before. So with his crew, he and a fleet of sailing ships made for the ominous cloud round the hole that was hastening the rim’s demise with its downpour.

In a fearsome fog and storm, the Captain had to learn to follow the Voice on the Wind alone and soon came through the fog, along with a handful of boats. The rest stayed in the fog or turned back.

As they sailed, they came upon a Cruise ship which had dropped anchor part way between the center and the land at a little floating dock in the water. People were celebrating the Wind’s cool breeze and their avoidance of the Rim world’s destruction, and they powered their docks with windmills. Being content with company and this world, often they would sail back and forth between the Rim and the floating town, to repeat the simulation of their journey to the center. But often such docks lasted only a short while in these turbulent seas, and people left floating would either go back to the Rim world, or struggle to build another wharf. Still others would return to their original quest. This last group was very few.

The Captain moored in this floating harbor called “Near Gathering” and when he saw that it would one day fall, sinking daily despite the efforts of the cruise ship captain, he listened for the wind, which spoke of a specific path to the Center he must take. He announced to his fellow captains, whose boats were all moored there like cars in a parking lot, and said to them, “The Wind has spoken to me, if I am to reach the Center, this is my path to take. What say you? Will anyone go with me?” Many counseled him to stay and help keep their floating wharf afloat, but some who knew the true aim of any Sailor’s quest committed them to the Voice on the Wind they all heard, and the Captain moved beyond, now with a couple of ships following him.

The Next journey’s stage was choppy but wind-swept. Wreckages of ships sailing for the Center nearly lost, with flotsam and jetsam and men and women overboard. The Captain and his crew had been charged with the task of rescue and recovery; but many they rescued wished only to return to land, some wanted to return to the floating wharf, and the Captain sailed to and from the Wharf to drop people off. Eventually, he saw that there was too much work for him alone to accomplish for those shipwrecked between the Center and the Rim world. He knew two causes of the ship-wrecks: a sea serpent beneath the surface and jagged rocks upon which other former captains now stood to raid and commandeer other ships in waters choppy and churning not only with the downpour of water not far away, but the swirling sea monster they had been un-shipped to serve. Each was the King of his own island, and they fought each other, except when it came to preventing other captains from reaching the Center. Then they worked together.

The Captain kept his sails open as he steered past these jagged rocks, ever listening to the Voice on the Wind and being vigilant for the attacks, persuasions, or feigned friendship of the other Entrapping Captains seeking to plunder the treasure his vessel had gathered with the flotsam and jetsam and to rule yet another minion of their own dark corners of the world. The flow of water was against, the comfort of land behind drew them back, the encouragement of the floating wharf seemed more palatable, and the work of rescuing shipwrecked was so necessary. Perhaps this Captain should turn back, he wondered.

But no. He had set out for the New Country. The Heaven World. These who blocked the way were preventing many from entering and were themselves not entering. Woe to them! They had taken their stand in opposition to the Master of the Sea’s intention to let all who wish, come and enter in. He denounced them on their threatening Spires and bade them repent and stop oppressing the poor, and instead leave their tiny Rim-worlds and get onto his ship as he made for the Heaven world. None heeded his call, and now, a fear of the Master of the Seas constrained them, from their attack. Sailing wind-swept and voice-led, he passed the row of jagged rocks that were all that remained from here to the whirlpool at the center or so he thought.

The Sea Serpent ruled these lands directly, and began battering the Ship. The Captain quailed at first wondering if it was too late to turn back for the Rim world, but then he remembered the Joy of the Heaven world and he turned his wheel to tack full force on the Wind. He was so near the edge of the whirlpool now. At the very last, as the keel of his ship broke the wall of the Swirl, the sea serpent charged its head straight through the heart of the ship, and reared its ugly dragonhead at him. Many of his men went overboard as the ship lifted up out of the water, but the Captain held his wheel fast. “You have failed,” he cried, “For I am still kept by the Wind, and He will carry me to His everlasting Kingdom.” And so the Dragon could not withstand the wind and the rain here so near to the Center, and falling backwards he descended down the black pit being cast cast down until he was seen no more. The Ship settled back in the water now began to founder and was caught in the swell of the Sea’s whirlpool, spinning downward, downward toward the dark into which the serpent had fallen. All grew dark around the Captain and his men.

Then, suddenly, the torrent of black and water around him turned to golden light caught in the now illuminated water swirling like blown glass windows gleaming with the light of the sun. The Ship once descending was now ascending and or a moment the swirl of water pulsing out from the center ceased as the whirlpool’s polarity reversed. The clouds broke, the rain stopped, and all around the world from the jagged rocks to the shipwrecked peoples, to the floating wharf, to the fog enshrouded to the newly sailing, to the Rim world inhabitants, to those on the edge of oblivion, all of them saw that familiar glow at the Center of the flat earth. They saw someone had made it. The water’s outflow was stilled, and it was easier to sail toward this beacon of light again; so like many moths to a flame, the sea was filled with white sails all endeavoring to make the same journey to the New Heaven World.

For the Captain and the few of his crew who clung to the Ship, their rising up was a joy and a celebration. They praised the Maker of this way, and eagerly awaited their new home to which they neared moment by moment. Beyond the clouds and rain and out of sight of the jagged rocks, and treacherous waters, they came to a fair mild water way above the one they had just left. The Ship with its breached hull was changed to now be made of wood that would never sink. It bore the scars of its battles, and its treasures that were fit for this new world, and the Captain felt the Wind not only in the Sails, but all around him.

He lifted his eyes and saw a Heavenly Kingdom: a great golden city on land, and the waters were not flat, but rather they continued perpetually in a sphere and the Kingdom was alight all around as if the Blue sky above and the land all about glowed as with a light within and without. A Small sea round the portal flowed down in a waterfall, but the further away the ship sailed, it narrowed to a river which the Captain steered no longer to navigate. Rather, the wind carried him up the River of life; on either side of the River grew trees of different fruit and the city of Gold rose up on either side; the River ended at a great throne, and the One who sat upon it was the one whose Wind had carried His voice. He said, “Welcome home, Captain.”

And there was great celebration as the one who sat enthroned was praised for the Rescue of another, and the Captain was given the Rank of Commodore, and given charge of ten cities in this new world. And he ruled at the side of His Master for the rest of forever.

The Mirror

Once upon a time, there was a magical mirror. Perhaps you’ve heard of one of these before. This full length mirror framed by gilded flowers had the ability to show the viewer not only what was on the outside, but it also showed what was on the inside of a person. A good person would look into the mirror and would see a beautiful face staring back. A bad person would look into the mirror and see an ugly face staring back. Many people from distant lands came in search of the magic mirror, because they wanted to know what was in their heart. When people left, some of them were in tears, some were rejoicing, others screamed, and others were silent.

The Keeper of the Mirror was a middle-aged man named Henley. He had a daughter named Blaine. Henley told Blaine when she was 12 that she was ready to look into the mirror. His only caution was, “Don’t believe everything you see. There is more behind the mirror.” The child nodded and looked into the mirror for the first time. Staring back was a beautiful face, but as she smiled at her reflection, her teeth were green and sharp. She covered them up with her hand, and her hands were like claws. Her face recoiled and the eyes bulged out too large for her head. She looked away from the mirror, covered her face, and told her father, “Father, I am hideous!”

The old man knelt down in front of her and said, “Look into my face.” She looked. “What do you see?”

She looked and saw his eyes full of compassion and his gentle smile. She didn’t answer him.

“Remember what I told you when you look into the mirror, “Don’t believe everything you see. There is more behind the mirror.”

“So, I’m not ugly?”

“What you saw was true, but about your heart, and what is in your heart will come through your face.”

“Why were my teeth green and sharp, why did I have claws, why did I have eyes too big for my face?”

“That is something only the Maker of the Mirror can tell you.”

“Where is he?” Blaine asked

“If you look for him, you’ll find him.”

“I don’t think I want to. What if he tells me that what I saw was true?”

“That is something for all people who look into the mirror to decide: What will they do with what they see?” said Henley, and then he put his arm around his daughter and led her out of the Chamber.

That night, after Henley had gone to bed, Blaine got up and went to the mirror chamber alone. She couldn’t help but look again to see if it was the same. She trembled, but she also was drawn inescapably it seemed.

Entering the chamber, she uncovered the full-length mirror framed by golden crafted flowers, but she couldn’t bring herself to look into it. She worked up the courage and looked, and there was a girl who was her, but the more she looked the more distorted the image became. Her nose became pointy, her shoulder’s slumped, her hair falling out. She wanted to smash the mirror as sobs racked her body. She crumpled to the ground crying.

She remembered her father’s words, “Don’t believe everything you see.” But if I’m not supposed to believe it, why did he let me see it? Does the mirror lie? Then, she remembered the second half of what he said, “There is more behind the mirror.” She looked up at the mirror frame. It was wide enough to be a door frame. She covered the mirror, and then grabbing ether side of the mirror, she wiggled it to see if it would move. It moved on the right side.

The mirror swung open, and in that dark chamber, a new doorway opened up. Inside the doorway was a craftsman’s shop. She walked in and saw many crafts hanging on the wall. Many mirrors not like the magic mirror.

She walked past them toward the lamp-light at the workbench on the far side of the Craftsman’s Shop.

“It’s a bit late” said the voice of a man with a tinker’s helmet on at the work bench “To be up and about, isn’t it?”

“Who are you?” said Blaine shakily.

“I am a craftsman.”

“Are you the Maker of the Mirror?”

“I am.” said the man.

“Then can you tell me why I saw what I saw?”

“I can, if you want to know.”

“Why were my teeth green and sharp, why did I have claws, why did I have eyes too big for my face? Was it real what I saw or was it a lie?”

“All my looking glasses tell the truth. Your teeth are green and sharp because you are greedy and the things you love are not all good. Your hands have claws because your fear makes you fight others, you had eyes too big for your face because you are proud and think too much of yourself.”

The girl was angry, but slowly as she breathed she knew what he said was true.

“I guess that means I’m ugly. She said sadly.

“Only if you want to stay that way. That is something for all people who look into the mirror to decide: What will they do with what they see?”

“What can I do?”

“Nothing. Your heart is something you don’t have the power to change.”

Her heart sank.

“But that’s not the right question.” continued the craftsman

“What is the right question?”

“‘What can I do?'” Said the Craftsman.

Blaine hesitated, “What can you do?”

“I can show you another mirror.”

He offered her a way over to the other side of the workshop. There was a mirror with a very different frame. It had a ring of thorns around it.

“Will it show me what is in my heart?”

“Yes.” he said.

“Will it be true?”

“Yes. All my looking glasses tell the truth.” he responded gravely.

“But what if I see the ugliness again. I couldn’t bear to see that all again.”

“There is more for you to see if you will seek for it.”

Blaine looked at the thorns, and she felt like she had seen more than she wanted to see already. She turned to leave the craftsman’s shop, but at the doorway of the first mirror she stopped, and her head hung sadly.

“What if my ugliness is really all there is?” She said.

A voice behind her gently called, “It may be, but if you will not look into this mirror, then the mirror outside will be all you have seen. Everyone must look into that mirror, but there is more, if you will see it.”

A tear clouded the surface of her eye, and she blinked it back. She turned back to the craftsman. She walked across the shop, slowly, up to the thorny mirror, and with a feeling like resignation, she lifted her eyes to look.

The face staring back at her was her own. Again she saw the teeth were green, the hands were claws, her eyes too big. She looked and her lips trembled at what she saw. The nose was pointy, her shoulders looked frail and slumped and her hair was falling out.

Then. . . she noticed the other person in the reflection. The Maker of the Mirror stood beside her without his tinkering helmet, and his own reflection came into it, and she saw his face. To her amazement, It was brilliant like the sun shining bright and beautiful, and and she realized the beauty of the heart of the one who stood beside her. It was comforting, but also terrifying, because she saw her own ugliness right next to his beauty.

She looked away from the mirror at him frozen to the spot not sure if she wanted to run or cry.

“Who . . . Who are you?”

“I make things.” He said smiling. “And I also remake things.”

Then, with his two strong hands, he turned the mirror and stepped to the side. Now when she looked into the mirror, all she saw was his reflection glowing at her, and slowly, his reflection, started to take her distortions, and put them on himself. Now He was horrific and ugly looking, his teeth greened, his hands clawed, his eyes big, his nose pointy, his shoulders slumped, and his hair falling out. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing: her ugliness had been transferred to him. She felt so awful that it was her ugliness had caused him to be so disfigured.

Then, he turned the mirror back to her, and she looked and saw her face again. Her face had changed and she gasped. There was no longer any distortion of her features. All of them had been taken away. Instead, her face was glowing and youthful. It beamed like the sun just as His did. She cried again, but this time the tears were happy.

She looked away from the mirror, and saw the Maker standing there, with his eyes full of compassion and love. His own face was still bright with joy.

She was silent.

“How?” she finally asked.

“I made this mirror for you, to remake you.”

“You know me?”

“I’ve been waiting for you. I had hoped you would find me here.” He said.

“My father told me there was more behind the mirror. Why do you hide behind the mirror?”

“Not many people are ready for what I have to show them. Only those who seek me diligently are ready to find me.”

Blaine’s heart was full of peace. “What do I do now?”

“Take this mirror with you. Use it to show others what I have done for you.”

She took the thorny frame into her hands. One of the barbs pricked her finger, and she said, “Ow. Why is my frame so thorny?”

“That, you will understand more in time.” the Maker said.

She took the mirror to her room and went back to sleep. From then on, every time she looked, she remembered the face of the man who made her mirror, and who remade her. And when she grew up, she became the Keeper of the Mirror in place of her father.

The King and His Champion

Once upon a time in a Kingdom ruled by a very wise King, there was a certain knight who was famous for feats of gallantry in battle. This knight was the best sword fighter, best with a spear, best with a bow and arrow, best at jousting– All the Kingdom knew and saluted this champion and praised and cheered each victory.

But under the armor, the knight was very unhappy. Every day this knight would ride into battle with this fear: “I am not worthy to be loved just for me.” This champion also had one weakness carefully concealed: being incredibly slow at running. Because of this, could you guess how many foot races this knight entered? That’s right. Zero!

Until one day, the King made a proclamation that he was holding a footrace in which every knight in his service must compete. But as a peculiar twist, one knight was to wear the King’s own colors. Can you guess which one? Yup. our very own best-at-almost-everything champion. How do you think that knight felt?

The day of the race arrived, and the King’s champion was sick with worry. Soon the whole kingdom would see just how unworthy this knight was to wear the King’s colors. The race began. Very soon every other knight had passed the “champion” who at this moment was feeling like anything but a “champion.” The race concluded and every knight crossed the finish line, but last of all, a whole minute later, in front of the whole laughing crowd of the kingdom, and in front of the King, hustled the Knight who carried the kings colors.

How embarrassing! Can you imagine how that knight felt then? That knight was so mortified with shame, that off came the kings colors, and left off was the armor of a knight, and our hero went home and stayed inside too ashamed to be seen in the kingdom again.

Then one day, a knock came at the door of the knight’s house. It was the King himself! The knight blushed for shame. What could the king want with such a disgraceful, unworthy champion.

“I want you to come back into my service as my own personal assistant.” said the King.

“My Lord, why? Why would you want such a slow foot-soldier in your service? And why would you have ME run in the race wearing your colors?”

The king answered, “I have watched you fight so hard to prove to everyone and yourself that you are worthy of admiration and love, but I organized the race to teach you that love is something you cannot win. Love is a gift. I do not love you because you’re the best. I choose you and love you because I see your heart and I treasure it. You will be my errand runner if you will accept my love.”

The knight was speechless and from somewhere deep inside tears streamed down. The King came near and embraced the knight. From that day on, the champion happily became personal assistant for the King and did not care about being the best fighter or the fastest, because of this truth: he was loved just for him.

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This story is was written for a friend who I recognized was struggling with tendencies to cover feelings of unworthiness with achievement. The ending can also read: she was loved just for her.

I Got Pulled Over…

Some of my thoughts on the Black Lives Matter controversy are in this story.

I got pulled over.

Around midday, I was driving my ’97 F-150 home from a Mediterranean restaurant down 484. I was in a hurry to get home so I accelerated to make a yellow light that turned red before I went under it. Immediately, I heard the chirp of the siren and saw the lights dancing behind me. I pulled over into a parking lot, and I was not ready for what happened next.

Before the officer came over to the window I had both hands on the wheel and my license in my hand. I am white, and the officer that came up to my window was black.

“Hello.” said the officer.

“Hello, officer.” I said.

“You know why I pulled you over?”

Now, I had been feeling frustrated due to the reason for my visit to the Mediterranean restaurant, and I also have a high respect for law enforcement, so I’ll share with you what I said, and the conversation that followed.

“Yes sir, I do. I know I ran a red light back there, and I am sorry. I can explain the situation if you would be willing to hear it. But even if you’re not willing to listen, I understand what I did was wrong. I broke the law. Would you please be willing to hear me as I share with you what is personally going on?”

“Okay.” The officer said shifting his weight to get comfortable listening to me.

“I love my wife. She wanted some Mediterranean food for lunch, and she only had an hour for us to eat lunch together. I wanted to get her some food she wanted because she’s cooped up doing work training on Zoom because of the Pandemic. I was delayed getting the food because there were other people ahead of me, and when I came back it was 40 minutes into her lunch break. When she opened the black bags she didn’t have any sauce or humus. And the menu online was not set up right, so I offered to go back to the restaurant and get her sauce and humus, and to let them know they needed to update her menu. So I went back just now, got the stuff and by this time, I have driven 15 minutes there, 15 minutes back, 15 minutes there again, and now I’m trying to get back because she’s hungry, even though I won’t be able to enjoy lunch break with her. And when I saw the light turn yellow, I was like, “No!” and I pushed for it. And it turned red. I shouldn’t have, but I was frustrated and acted out of that frustration.

“I am sorry. I recognize what I should have done, and I ask you for a warning. I am not entitled to one, and I don’t deserve one, but I boldly ask you for one. I trust your judgment in this case, and if you give me a ticket, I will receive it.”

The officer paused a moment and took my license and said, “Wait here.”

He went back to his car, and looked through, presumably my traffic record. After about 5 minutes he came back to say this:

“Sir, I see in my records that you are a teacher at a Christian school is that right?

“Yes sir.”

“If any one of those kids saw you run that red light what would you say to them?”

“I would tell them I was wrong to do so and that I have repented.”

“You better have. I see on my records you’ve gotten pulled over one other time for running a red light, and you told the officer that time it was due to ‘frustration’.”

“Yes sir.”

“You need to deal with this frustration issue. I don’t want to catch you doing this again. Red lights aren’t optional. You could get yourself or someone else seriously hurt.”

“Yes sir.”

“That’s your warning.” He said as put his notepad back into his pocket. “Now, I’d like to ask you a personal question, if you’re willing.”

My eyebrows furrowed as I blinked and said, “Okay.”

“Does your wife usually send you back to get things that restaurants miss?”

“No sir. This is something I wanted to do for her.”

“Alright,” the officer said as he pulled out his wallet and handed me 40 dollars! “This should cover it.”

I was shocked as I said, “Officer, this is not necessary.”

“You teach the Bible, right?” asked the officer.

“Yes sir.” I answered

“Then you probably know that in Romans 13, it says the governing authorities are servants of God for good, to punish evil behavior and praise the good. Your willingness to go and make things right for your wife is commendable, so let me help cover the cost.”

Tears filled my eyes and streaked my cheeks as I reached out my hand to shake his hand.

“Thank you, sir. I know things are really hard for the police right now. I just want you to know how glad I am that there are those of you on the force who seek not only punitive justice, but restorative justice.”

The officer shook my hand firmly and said, “I hope I never forget that.”

He bid me “Take care,” and I went home to my wife.

The story is fictional, but should it be?

The Pray-er and the Pastor

Once there was a young man who was a devoted Pray-er. He was not very popular and never got invited to parties. The local Pastor invited him to his party and welcomed him into his home, but when he sat at the table with everyone else, the people clamored to get near the popular Pastor, and the Pray-er was politely acknowledged and forgotten about.

On the Day of the Lord, the Pastor and the Prayer were both welcomed to the marriage supper of the Lamb. The Pastor was so excited, and he remembered the time Jesus said, “He who humbles himself will be exalted,” so he sat in the lowest seat he could find. The Prayer also sat in the lowest seat he found.

Then the Bridegroom came in and greeted his guests with warmth and joy! He walked to the end of the table farthest from the head, and politely acknowledged the Pastor. He said, “Faithful Pastor, you may go higher. Go and sit with my groomsmen.” The Pastor rose and was exalted before all the guests. The people rejoiced to see him move to a place close to the Groom!

Then the Bridegroom turned to the Pray-er and said, “My friend, it is good to see you. Come sit with Me.” And He took his hand, and led him up to the seat on his left side, and sat him down closer even than His own best man! The people were dumbstruck, and the Pastor was deeply insulted!

The meal progressed, and the Pray-er spoke, listened, and laughed with the Bridegroom, and the Pastor stared with longing in his eyes. Finally he couldn’t restrain himself and he walked over to the groom and said, “My Lord, thank you for honoring me to sit at the place for your Groomsmen. Please tell me: what did I lack to sit with You at the table?” And the Lord said, “Friend, you have served Me well, which is why I honored you with My groomsmen, and I am glad you are with Me now. This young man devoted himself to being with Me. We have been intimate friends for years, and we have shared much joy and sorrow of life together. Should he not be close at hand to share in the greatest joy of My life’s new beginning?”