Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An excerpt from Aurora's story

Rocco took Gitano to a small bistro in the city. They sat on the patio and enjoyed the perfect autumn weather. Gitano told Rocco the story of his life – how his parents had been poor drunks, how he and his brother Ricci had run away together and found work stealing paintings for Gregory Hamilton, how Ricci had been murdered, and how he had spiraled downwards after that, desperately seeking to kill the pain in his heart and find even the smallest thing to bring him joy.
            “Even after spending just a few hours with Aurora, I knew the darkness was ending. It was like the first sun rays of dawn were just beginning to reach over the dark horizon and the hope of day was certain,” Gitano smiled. “I think it was the first time I truly saw the sun in years.”
            Rocco smiled back although he was concerned for the young man’s heart. “I’m glad that the Lord used Aurora to bring you back to life. He did indeed create us to live in community like that, where we need each other. Aurora might be your angel, but, Gitano, she’s not your god. She’s human, just like Ricci. And I hope to God that she never meets a tragic end-”
            “I’ll die before that happens,” Gitano interrupted.
            “But still, she won’t always be the light breaking over the horizon. That is God’s place and His place alone. He is the only unchangeable. He is the only sun that will never set. Aurora will.”
            “Are you saying Aurora is going to die?” Gitano asked, feeling threatened.
            “We all die, Gitano. We’re mortal. Even if Aurora lives to be one hundred years old, she will never be the sun. She’s only something beautiful that we are blessed to see because the sun is shining on her.”
            “I don’t understand.”
            “Aurora didn’t die for you, Jesus did. Aurora doesn’t live for you, Jesus does. He is your only God,” Rocco explained patiently. “Aurora is a good gift He has given you, but she is not the source of life, only God is. She is a broken human being, just like you and me. We have a tendency to worship created things instead of worshipping the Creator.”
            “You’re saying that God is better than Aurora?” Gitano asked slowly.
            “Yes,” Rocco answered simply. Gitano sat back and shook his head slightly.
            “I don’t know. Aurora has never hurt me. God has.”
            “How has God hurt you, fratello?”
            “Killing my brother, for one thing.”
            Rocco leaned in closer. “Gitano, I am so sorry about your brother. That is truly horrible. Let me assure you, though, that God does not kill. God gives us life abundantly. The devil is the one who kills, steals, and destroys.”
            “Diavolo?” Gitano sat up straight. “You mean he’s real?”
            “Oh, yes, he’s real.”
            “I was always taught about him, but I thought they were just children’s stories.”
            “That’s certainly what he would want you to think,” Rocco explained carefully. “The devil doesn’t want you to know that he exists. He wants to sneak around your life and create havoc invisibly so that you’ll blame other people and God for your misfortunes when really they are all his evil doings.”
            “You’re saying that,” Gitano stopped jaggedly as his throat clogged with emotion, “That Ricci is dead because of the devil.”
            Seeing the young man’s distress, which made him so much older than he was, Rocco grasped Gitano’s shoulder in support and simply nodded.
            “And my parents? All the fighting and screaming? All the beatings? That was him, too?”
            Rocco nodded, feeling his heart sag in angst for the pain on Gitano’s face.
            “Why?” he demanded angrily. “Why does the devil hate me so much that he wants to destroy me?”
            “The devil hates you so much because God loves you so much. I know that may not sound true but, oh, my brother, it is,” Rocco promised. “God loves you and has chosen you to be His son – His heir! And the devil is a jealous creature. He can’t stand it that God loves you. What is more, he is afraid of you, Gitano. He is afraid of the glorious future the Lord has planned for you so he has done everything in his power to try to derail you and keep you away from that glorious future. He does not want you to fulfill your destiny because he knows that where a child of God walks, there is life and there is love – two things the devil hates most.”
            “If God loves me so much and has such a glorious future for me, why didn’t He protect me?”
            “You’re still alive, aren’t you?”
            “Sure, but at what cost? All my family is gone. My brother, my most precious kin, was murdered right in front of me. God should have done a better job,” Gitano grumbled bitterly.
            “I don’t know why God allowed all of that to happen, Gitano, but I do promise you that God was in control of it and He has a good purpose for it. We’re not always going to understand why God operates the way He does but we must have faith that everything He does, He does because He loves us.”
            Gitano wiped the gritty teardrops from his face and shook his head. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had anyone in my corner like that – doing things for my benefit.”
            “God is definitely in your corner,” Rocco assured him.
            “Crazy to think it,” Gitano snorted a laugh. “And what is it exactly He wants me to be doing in the ring?”
            “Love Him.”
            “Love the people God’s loaned to you. Not in a selfish way, though. You are already one hundred percent loved by God Almighty. Love them because God loves you. Not because you need them to love you back.”
            “Who do I have around me?” Gitano asked, opening his arms wide. “Like I said, all my family is gone and I’m not the kind of person who has friends. The only person I have is Aurora.”
            “There’s your answer then.”
            “How? How on earth do I love her without being selfish?”
            Rocco shook his head and shrugged. “I don’t know. But the Coach in your corner will show you.” 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

An excerpt from Aurora's story

            “I saw you and Bentley dancing,” Luke said as he leaned against the doorframe of his daughter’s room; the only thing he’d ever painted pink. Aurora looked at him in the mirror of her vanity.
            “You don’t mind, do you, Daddy?” she asked nervously.
            “I mind,” he sighed with a smile and came to sit down on her bed. “I don’t want him to hurt you.”
            “He won’t.”
            Luke remembered calling that type of faith naïveté when he first met Scarlet but she had proven to him that it was not blindness but determination. It often caught him off guard how much Aurora was like Scarlet. “How do you know that?”
            “Because he is a good man. Just like you.” She said it as easily as breathing and clearly had no idea of the gravity of her words. They poured life into his heart. He loved that she was so much like Scarlet. Both of them spoke their mind with ease, lending life and light to whoever heard them.
            “I’m not doubting that he’s a good guy, but he is only nineteen,” Luke pushed her hair back from her face.
            Aurora laughed. “Daddy, you just contradicted yourself. He either is or he isn’t. There’s no halfway. Not in my book, anyway.”
            “Your mom would say the same thing.”
            “And she chose to believe in you.”
            Luke knew she was right. Scarlet could have chosen a different man, could have chosen not to let him love her.
            “I’m choosing to believe in Bentley,” Aurora said with quiet resolution.
            “She’s fallen for him so quickly, Lord. Please help her to guard her heart.”
            “Just be careful, angel. A real man will prove himself through his actions, not his words.”
            “Bentley didn’t say anything tonight, he just asked me to dance,” Aurora said with a mocking smile.
             Luke laughed. “I meant in the future,” he stood behind her in the mirror so he could see her beautiful face. 
            “May I ask you something?” she looked up at him.
            “Of course.”
            “How’d you prove to Mom that you loved her?”
            Luke didn’t answer for a minute as he thought. He knew he didn’t prove his love to Scarlet as much as he should. No matter how hard he tried, no matter how many years they spent together, he would never be able to love her the way she deserved to be loved because he was a fallen man. Thank You for grace, God. Thank You that You love her enough for the both of us. Help me love her better.
            “I try to put her before my own needs,” he began. “I make her a priority in my life, whatever that takes. I’ll clear time in my calendar to specifically and purposefully spend time with her and listen to her, to let her immerse me in her world so that I can be a part of it. Your mom wears her heart on her sleeve. She loves sharing her heart with me and I have to be very deliberate about making sure that I allow her to do that by opening myself up to her. It’s not always easy to love her but it is always worth it. When I asked her to marry me, I promised to strive to love her as Christ loves her. I send that prayer up daily. She is the most important thing I have in my life and I will do everything I can to ensure that she knows that.”
            “Daddy, do you love me?” Aurora asked, longing to be loved the same way. Luke picked up her hairbrush and began to brush out her long blonde curls. When he was done, he kissed the top of her head and said,
            “With all that I am.” 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Turning Twenty

I have lived nineteen full years. I have tasted life but it has not been as sweet as I expected. When you are a child, you see your parents drinking coffee and enjoying it. You ask for some – imagining how good it must be. They deny you – insisting you won’t like it. Now thwarted, you are convinced this elixir must be heavenly and that is why they are selfishly keeping it to themselves. You plead with them for just a taste. “Fine,” they say and carefully hand you the mug. Anticipation building, you raise the mug to your lips and a fully-grown scent reaches your nose. You drink – eagerly expecting joy and love in a cup. You burn your tongue. Your nose crinkles at the bitterness and it leaves a taste in your mouth not wholly unlike sidewalk chalk. You push the mug back into the hands of your parents with disgust heavily brewed on your face. They laugh and say, “We told you that you wouldn’t like it.”
            This is not very different from how I feel about life so far. Except, they don’t warn you that you won’t like it – instead, they lie to you and tell you that it will be wonderful. And, unlike a cup of coffee, you can’t hand life back to the One who gave it to you and say, “No, thanks.” No, you must keep drinking that bitter stuff and do your best to acquire a taste for it.
            Don’t get me wrong – I have no regrets. I don’t believe in regret, actually. As soon as you start regretting something, you are saying that God can’t use that for your good and His glory – both of which, by the way, are intertwined. Yes, I made mistakes – lots of them. But guess what. I learned that God loves people who make mistakes. The wrongs I have done now enable me to look across the table and make heart felt eye contact with other mistake-makers. Another thing – I’m not afraid of Hell anymore because I’ve been there and as I lay dying there, my Savior came into Hell to rescue me. I no longer fear it because Jesus conquered it while holding me in His arms.
            I won’t even try to pretend that my hard times are over or that I’ve paid my dues. No. I’ve also learned that everything that comes your way is a building block – a platform – a preparation for what is to come.
            Headed into my twenties, I first want to thank God for everything that’s happened in the first nineteen years of life – the good, the bad, and the ugly. It has all formed me into the person I am – daughter of God and bride of Christ. It’s also given me a sure foundation upon which to stand. Like I said, no guilt in life and no fear in death. But I think I’d like to walk a little differently. I’ll always love love and life and happiness so I’ll always be on the lookout for those things. But I’d like to seek lessons instead of instant rewards. I’d like to learn to be the best doorkeeper. I’d like to learn to share without expecting repayment. I’d like to learn to exist on my own and not be afraid of that.
            And I write this to you as I drink a cup of coffee – cut in half with milk and sugar. I’m not resigning myself to the bitter taste but I am learning how to be able to enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Being A Sheep

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus says to me, "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, therefore be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." Jesus is making me a sheep on purpose. He could make me a lion - strong, fearless, and independent. But instead, He makes me a weak, fallible, and very dependent sheep. He calls me to follow Him - my trustworthy Shepherd - in simplicity. He calls me to be wise about His love and care for me, to trust in His protection. He also calls me to be aware that this will be a scary ride and that life will inevitably vomit all over the lovely, fluffy fur with which He has covered me. "Be aware," says my good Shepherd, "but don't worry. The vomit is gross but I'll wash your fur for you."

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Today I was watching Reagan and Tucker. Another little boy came over to play, Will. Of course, Reagan wanted to play Princesses. I put her in the Merida costume she got for her fourth birthday a few weeks ago. Then, she grabbed Will’s hands and with the biggest smile on her face, exclaimed,
“Let’s dance!”
Poor Will looked very nervous and quickly took away his hands as if he suddenly realized that cooties were directly transferable though dancing.
“No, no, no,” he insisted. “I don’t want to dance.”
As he went back to the cars and trucks and trains of the playroom, Reagan looked at me, thoroughly confused by this rude interruption to her precious reality.
“Katie,” she said in distress. “That prince won’t dance with me!”
“I’m sorry, princess,” I replied. “It’s fun to dance, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but why won’t he dance with me? He has to dance with the princess and that’s me!”
Kids say the darndest things, don’t they? Never one to miss a teaching opportunity, I scooped her up in my arms and kissed her head.
“You know, Reagan, sometimes prince’s are really difficult to deal with. A lot of times, they don’t want to dance. I know that’s no fun, but even when a prince doesn’t want to dance with you, you are still a princess.”
“Katie,” she looked up at me. “Will you get me out of this dress? It’s scratchy.”
“Sure,” I smiled and pulled the dress over her head, leaving her in her pajamas.
“Thank you,” she said and jumped down from my lap. “Hey Will,” she shouted as she ran into the playroom. “Wanna play tag?”
“Yeah!” he shouted.
They ran around the house for the next twenty minutes, laughing and jumping, never once concerned with the tedious task of finding a dance partner.

The moral of the story is: whether a boy treats you like a princess of not, you’re still a princess, so don’t worry about it. Do what’s fun and natural for you – like tag. And remember, whether that boy is 3, 23, or 103, prince’s are very difficult to deal with!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Yet To Be Titled...

Kit was in pain before she woke up. A scream burst in her lungs as she remembered the last images she had. She forced her eyes open, terrified of the memories.
“Miss Mason?” a soft voice came to her. “Miss Mason, it’s all right. You’re in the hospital. You’re going to be just fine.”
Kit gathered all her strength to move her head and find the person to whom the voice belonged. A nurse was standing at the foot of the hospital bed in which she was lying. Kit looked blearily at her arms and saw several IV’s running into them. She ordered her left hand to raise and touch the mask over her mouth and nose but her arm disobeyed; from rebellion or impossibility, Kit could not tell. Frustrated, she ordered her mouth to ask the nurse what was happening, but her vocal chords seemed indifferent as well. Her mind was the only part of her body that was working and it was driving her insane. She remembered the man. She remembered the pain searing through her head as he hit her. She remembered waking up for a second and screaming in pain before he hit her again. Even now, she could feel the emptiness of her stomach, the pit that was now bereft. Her insides felt like they were knotted and she was sore. She could not deny what had inevitably happened. She wanted to cover her face and weep but even her tear ducts would not respond to her pitiful request. Breathing became increasingly difficult and she just looked up at the ceiling. She felt the nurse come closer to her.
“I’m going to increase your pain dosage for right now so you can sleep. Your brother will be here soon. Try to rest.”
Terrified, Kit stared up at the nurse, desperately trying to convey her message.
“Don’t worry,” the nurse smiled gently, understanding. “You won’t dream.”
Kit closed her eyes in relief and let the nurse do her job.

Peter had never seen all the blood drain from his lieutenant’s face until he had witnessed the phone call. His forearm was still sore from where Crawford had grabbed him.
“Kit’s in the hospital,” he had growled.
“Is she all right?” Peter asked immediately.
Crawford swore. “Of course she’s not all right! If she were all right, she wouldn’t be at the hospital! Kit doesn’t get hurt. Kit doesn’t get caught. Kit fights her way out of whatever mess she’s in and doesn’t ask for or receive help. If she’s in the hospital, it’s because someone put her there.”
Peter felt a foreboding in his heart. Whoever put Crawford’s sister in the hospital was going to wind up there, too if Crawford had anything to do with it.
“I’ve got to get home,” Crawford said clearly. Peter nodded.
“Pack your bags. You’ll be on the first flight out of here. I can give you 72 hours and then I need you back. This mission is hot to go down as soon as we get a finite location.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” The men shook hands and Crawford left.
Peter bowed his head. He’d had feelings for Crawford’s sister since the minute he’d seen her at the graduation party a year ago. He had felt a draw to her that he could not explain. It was just a whisper but in his job he had learned that sometimes a whisper was more informative than an ear-shattering shout. He stood up and put the thoughts from his mind. For now, nothing and no one existed except that which was on this submarine and the mission to come. Focus. Home did not exist when he was in the field and the field did not exist when he was at home. It was the only way to survive.

Crawford got no rest the entire way back to the states. His mind would not stop racing. If it hadn’t been a big deal, Kit wouldn’t have gone to the hospital in the first place. If it had been something small, like a broken bone or pneumonia, the hospital staff would not have contacted him. Whatever it was was not good. He went straight from the airport to the hospital. He wasn’t sure if he believed in Peter’s Jesus or not, but he prayed anyway.
“Hi, I’m Crawford Mason. I’m looking for my sister, Kit,” he told the receptionist in a rush.
“Go up to the nurses station at the ICU on the second floor. They’ll get her doctor for you,” she said and pointed him to the elevators.
“Thank you,” he said quickly. His heart was beating in his ears. Why was she in the ICU? It’d been 24 hours since he’d been contacted. Shouldn’t she be out of critical condition by now?
“You must be Lieutenant Mason,” a very pretty, female doctor approached him almost as soon as he stepped off the elevator. They shook hands.
“Crawford,” he insisted.
“I’m Doctor Wood,” she said. “Doctor Halter was taking care of your sister but she requested a female doctor so here I am.”
“What happened?” Crawford asked, his patience and energy running low.
“Come with me, and I’ll fill you in on everything before you see her,” Doctor Wood began walking towards the nurse’s lounge. She indicated for Crawford to sit and then poured a cup of coffee, which she handed to him.
“What’s going on?” he asked again.
“Three sips and then I’ll tell you,” she insisted. “You look dead on your feet.”
Crawford hid his scowl in the coffee cup. It was good and strong. “Satisfied?” he asked her after a moment.
“Let me start off by saying that your sister is going to be just fine. All her wounds are very treatable and they’re already healing nicely. She got a pretty severe concussion and she lost a lot of blood. There was minimal damage done to her internal organs. She took quite a beating. She was in and out of consciousness for a while but now we have her on a strict schedule.”
Crawford narrowed his eyes. “What happened? She was in a car wreck or something?”
Doctor Wood closed her folder and looked intently at him. “Your sister was raped.”
Crawford went cold and the coffee cup slipped from his hand and shattered on the floor. The world rocked around him. Bile rose in his throat.
“What?” he stuttered in unbelief.
Doctor Wood continued softly. “The police are still trying to piece everything together.”
Crawford squeezed his eyes tight shut as he tried not to see the dark scene Doctor Wood was painting. Kit had been attacked, raped, and left for dead. The culprit had gotten away.
“The police have been asking to speak with her but I’ve told them they would have to wait for you. Kit has barely spoken. We thought maybe her vocal chords were damaged until yesterday when she demanded a female doctor.” Doctor Wood quirked a smile. “No surprise given what she just went through.”
 “May I see her?” Crawford asked brokenly. He couldn’t believe this. His baby sister? He’d practically raised Kit. He wanted to vomit at the thought of her being raped. He could face any number of terrible dangers and keep this stomach but when it became his sister that was the victim, the story changed entirely.
“Yes, of course. Follow me.” Doctor Wood led him back to the hallway and told him which room was hers.
Crawford stood outside the door for a long moment.
“Deep breaths,” he whispered to himself. “You are Navy SEAL. You can do this. Kit’s ok. She’s ok.” He twisted the doorknob and stepped inside. His heart rate picked up as he saw Kit lying in the hospital bed. He felt sweat break out on the back of his neck. She moved her head and saw him. Her beautiful face was broken with bruises and cuts. She smiled at him with busted lips. Tears stung his eyes.
“Crawford,” she rasped. He took two strides to cross the room and sat down carefully on the edge of her bed. He took her small hand in his own and forced a smile.
 “Not exactly the homecoming I was hoping for, Kit,” he tried to tease.
“I’ll have something extra special for you next time,” she promised. Crawford took his free hand and put it gently on top of her head. He looked over her face carefully, noting all the discolored bruises and cuts. Anger began to course through his veins but then he’d look into her eyes and sadness would wash away all his hatred.
Kit was relieved to have her brother here, someone she could finally talk to. She squeezed his hand. She wanted to weep at his soft touch. “How much time do we have?” she asked with her eyes closed. She didn’t want to hear the answer.
“Two days. Do you want to talk about it?”
Kit opened her eyes to meet his. “You know,” she began unevenly. “They say your first time is supposed to be magical.”
“Oh, Kit.” He broke and pulled his sister into his arms, feeling her body shake with sobs and his did the same. “This does not count, you hear me?” he choked. “You are not allowed to count this as your first time. Totally invalid.”
He felt her body break down against him and he knew she’d been holding herself together until he got there. He appreciated that. He had missed so much of her life and he hated missing more of it. He set her back on her pillows and brushed at the tears on her poor, bruised face. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Rocco decided to stop at the Hamilton property and check on Maggie. Something painful was nagging at him to do so. He pulled up to the house and was shocked to see Maggie on the front steps as if she were waiting for him. He turned off the car, got out, and silently went to join her.
            Maggie sighed heavily. She twisted the elaborate wedding ring on her hand.
            “What are you doing here?” she asked softly.
            “I was on my way home and God prompted me to come check on you.”
            “Do you ever lie? Your answers are always incredibly direct and, frankly, quite odd.”
            Rocco stifled a laugh. “I prefer to tell the truth, signora.”
            “So God told you to come check on me? To make sure I’m being a good girl?”
            “No,” he answered slowly. “To check if you are all right.”
            Maggie snorted. “Why on earth would your God care if I was all right or not?”
            “He cares about everyone, signora. He loves you.”
            Maggie looked at him with cold anger filling her eyes. “No, he doesn’t.”
            “Why do you say that?” Rocco asked, wondering exactly how wounded Maggie was.
            Maggie looked down at her feet and did not answer him.
            “God,” Rocco prayed. “Break down these lies in Maggie’s heart. Meet her where she is and show her Your love.”
            Maggie fixed her eyes on a spot in the distance and held her face hard as stone even though her voice wavered dangerously.
            “I am neither good enough nor important enough to be loved.”
            “What makes you think that?” he pressed as gently as he could.
            “You don’t want to know,” she sneered. Rocco sat next to her in silence. Patience, he reminded himself. He waited, observing and enjoyed the beautiful land around him. He loved being a gardener, having the chance to take dirt and make it something lovely.
            “That’s exactly what You do with us all, Lord. You pull us up from our graves and make us into something beautiful.”
            “The Lord is not afraid of our grossness. He is bigger than the skeletons in our closets,” he encouraged.
            “That’s just it,” Maggie interrupted him. “Ordinary people have a skeleton or two in their closet. I have a house full of them! I have –” she stopped short and laid a hand gently on her stomach. Rocco followed the movement with his eyes. Maggie glared at him, wanting to prove him wrong, to win the argument. “My parents kicked me out of their house when I told them I was pregnant with Aurora seventeen years ago. Then they were murdered. We never had the chance to make up. Then I ran away to Venice. I’ve had more lovers than you can possibly imagine. And Gregory,” she waved her hand at the house behind her. “He doesn’t love me.”
            “Do you love him?”
            “I thought I did,” she confessed.
            “Your parents taught you at an early age – and Gregory reinforced that lesson – that you are only as good as what you do,” Rocco said calmly. “But that’s not true. God in Heaven loves you, period. Your performance is completely irrelevant in light of God’s unconditional and limitless love for you.”
            “Unconditional and limitless?” Maggie mocked. “Everything comes at a price,” she bit out. “Love only lasts so long, it can only endure a certain amount, and then it breaks.”
            “That’s not true.”
            “Oh, yes, it is.”
            “Jesus died not only to pay your debt but also to buy you an eternity of righteousness – of perfection before God.”
            “I’m pregnant,” she blurted, certain that this would get Rocco to see that she was beyond loving. “And not by my husband.”
            “I still love you.”
            “Shut up! Don’t you dare lie to me!”
            “I’m not lying to you, Maggie.”
            “I can deal with being ruined, with being unloved, but you will not lie to me,” she shouted and tears broke through the steel barrier in her eyes. “I will not let you lie to me and give you the power to break the pieces of my heart.” She sniffed hard and swallowed, trying to gain control of her emotions. She was trying to stuff the flood back into Pandora’s box.
            Rocco touched her hand, took it gently in his own, and looked at her with overflowing compassion. “You are not ruined,” he whispered. “You are not unloved. Jesus loves you and He took on your ruin, He look care of it, and He’s handing you back honor and dignity. Jesus wore our crown of thorns so that He could crown us with splendor.”
            Maggie shook with violent tears as her heart ripped further. “I wish I could believe that.”
            “I have good news for you,” Rocco smiled softly. “It’s true. Whether you believe it or not, it’s true.”
            “I hope you’re right.”
            “God has decided to love you and He won’t ever change His mind.”
            “But,” Maggie said through her tears. “I’m not worthy.”
            “None of us are. That’s the truly awesome thing about it. We are the objects of God’s love. It has absolutely nothing to do with us, it has everything to do with Jesus.”
            Maggie kept searching Rocco’s face, trying to find a way to deny that God could love her.
            “If God really loved me, wouldn’t He have let me be happy? If God had loved me, I wouldn’t have been on this life-long quest for happiness and wholeness. Wouldn’t He have loved me enough to give me that?”
            Rocco thought for a moment.
            “You told me once that you wanted someone to love you jealously – that you wanted to belong, heart and soul. Is that true?”
            She nodded.
            “Maggie, when God created you – and He did create you – He designed you to have a keyhole in your heart,” he pointed to his chest. “It’s a lock and when it’s opened, joy and that feeling of belonging overflows into your life. Your whole life, you’ve been grabbing every key you see and trying to fit it into that keyhole, fill your heart with something substantial. But here’s the trick,” he smiled. “God designed it so that He would be the only key to fit and to unlock your heart, filling you with joy.”
            “Why would He do that?”
             “Because He’s jealous for you, Maggie!” Rocco smiled. “He doesn’t want you to find a complete life in money or men. Even in your child. He wants you to come to Him alone for healing. He wants to put all those pieces of your heart back together. In order for Him to do that, He has to have access to every piece of you heart. That won’t happen unless you are ready to let Him have all of your heart- every piece.
            “God didn’t let you find joy in your life with your parents because He wanted something better for you. God didn’t let you find completion in Aurora because – even though she is a wonderful gift from God – He still desires more for you. He didn’t let you find a life that would fulfill you by living the high life in Venice because He wanted better for you. God didn’t let your find joy and belonging in Gregory because He didn’t want you to settle for less than what He has dreamed up for you. You say He would have let you be happy if He really loved you, but the truth is that He loves you too much to let you find happiness in anything less than Himself because He is the best.”
            Silent tears flowed down Maggie’s beautiful cheeks. “I want that,” she said with desperate resolution. “I want that so bad.”
            “Then it’s yours.”
            “Just like that?”
            “Just like that.”
            Maggie could not stop a little laugh at the simplicity of it all.
            “God doesn’t want anything from me?” she asked.
            “Oh, He does. He wants you to spend your entire existence worshipping Him and loving Him out of awe and perfection. But He does not require anything of you before He loves you. Jesus decided to die for you a long time ago, long before you had done anything right or wrong.”
            “So I don’t have to do anything if I don’t want to?”
            “That’s right.”
            “He would give freely to me? He would give me everything and not demand anything in return?”
            “All the demands is for you to believe in Him.”
            “That’s all?”
            “That’s all.”
            She gaped at him in disbelief.
            Rocco shrugged. “Because the desire of His heart is to love you. Of course He wants you to love Him back but that’s secondary. He just wants to love you and that’s all that really matters.”
            “God is very different from any man I’ve ever known.”
            Rocco laughed. “Me too.”
            Maggie took a deep breath and gathered her thoughts, seeking out any other loopholes.
            “Wouldn’t God get tired of loving people who don’t love Him back?”
            “He wouldn’t run out of resources, if that’s what you are asking. God lacks nothing. He needs nothing. He created the universe just by speaking it. He decided this land would be here and so it is. He decided you would be here and so you are. God never sleeps or gets tired. He is Almighty. He is infinite.”
            “Yes, but wouldn’t such a magnificent God get fed up with such puny people?”
            “God is slow to anger, abounding in love, mercy, and compassion. He is patient. He desires everyone to come to know Him. 2 Peter 3:9 says, ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’
            “Think of it like this: God has two competing desires. The first is to be loved above all else, to be first in your heart, to be your only God. The second is for you to come to know Him. While you ran away from Him and denied him, you were not loving Him, you were worshipping other gods. His desire for you to love Him was being denied. He could have wiped you off the face of the planet and been right in doing so. He gave you life and can take it away whenever He chooses. But He doesn’t do that because His desire for you to come to Him is strong enough to hold back His justice. That’s called mercy. He will wait until you come to Him. Maggie, God wants to spend eternity in Heaven with you so badly that He sent Jesus – the very best He had – to rescue you. He risked the chance that you might never love Him but He had to do everything He could to get you because He loves you that much.”
            “I suppose I’ll have to start living a good Christian life again,” she said and wrinkled her nose.
            “Maggie,” Rocco laughed, “Be honest with yourself for a moment. Has this life really given you what you wanted?”
            “No,” she complied easily. “But neither did my childhood.”
            “Does the God I’m telling you about sound like the god of your childhood?”
            “No,” she repeated, shaking her head in a sad sort of way. Silence stretched between them.
            “What’s holding you back?” Rocco finally whispered.
            Maggie started to cry. “I have made so many mistakes. What will I do? Where will I go? It is so much easier to run from my mistakes than to face them. How am I supposed to live? What am I going to do about the baby? I don’t think I can do this. It would be better to kill it now and save it from having me for a mother.”
            Rocco took Maggie’s hands in his, praying she would calm down and see clearly.
            “Maggie, look at me,” he said gently. “It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be really hard. But for the first time in your life, you won’t be alone and you’ll be alive. Maggie, don’t you want to live?”
            “Gregory will kill me if he finds out about this baby!” she cried. “I can’t. I can’t do it. I’ll abort it.”
            “No, you won’t. you need to tell your husband the truth and you need to leave him but you will do so honorably.”
            “You don’t understand! He will kill me if I try to leave him!” Maggie cried, hysteria creeping up around her heart.
            “Then I will stand with you when you tell him. He won’t lay a hand on you.”
            “And where will I go then?”
            “Well, you’re free to go wherever you like but you are welcome to stay with my sister and me at our orphanage.”
            “You would take me in?” she asked, feeling very small remembering that she was, indeed, an orphan. What a life time ago that was, she thought, recalling her parents’ deaths.
            “Yes and if you don’t want your baby, please let me take the child.”
            “You would do that? Take in a bastard child?”
            Rocco flinched visibly at the harsh word. “Every child is a precious gift – no matter how he or she comes to be.”
            “You are an odd man, Rocco.”
            He smiled.
            “What?” she asked.
            “That’s the first time you’ve said my name.”
            He’s so odd, Maggie thought as she smiled and rolled her eyes. And yet I want to be more like him. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Orphanage

Here's a snip it of my current project!

Rocco slowed down as he pulled onto his driveway. He could see the lights on in the kitchen and his sister Emmalyn setting the long table. He heard what sounded like a morning dove and stopped the car. Out of necessity, he had learned to be on guard for things out of place.

“Step out of the truck!” came the voice, not quite deep enough to be a grown man. “Move slowly and keep your hands where we can see them.”

Rocco obeyed and searched the sturdy boughs of the trees over the drive but could see no one. He should have come home earlier before it got dark. He shook his head as he firmly planted his feet on the dirt driveway. He had been in a gang, too, when he was a teenager. He heard one, two, and three soft drops onto the ground but they stayed deliberately out of sight. Next came the clumsy climbing out of the leafy branches. Within seconds came their hearty and jubilant war cry and the soft stings of three-dozen nerf bullets. Rocco threw his head back and laughed as eleven boys with painted faces surrounded him.

“We got you, Rocco!” the littlest one cried.

“Nice work, men!” the two oldest sent high-fives around the group.

“I’m glad to see you training your younger brothers,” Rocco smiled at Adam and Lance. The seventeen year olds stuck out their chests with pride.

The dinner bell rang and they all climbed in the bed of Rocco’s truck. They laughed each time Rocco intentionally hit a pothole.

Hugo, who was seven, jumped on his back as soon as he was out of the cab.

“I shot you!” he shouted.

“You’re a good shot, Hugo,” Rocco encouraged him.

“This is the first time they let me come! I told them since my birthday was last week and I was seven now, it was only fair that I come along.”

“Seven years old is practically a man, after all,” Rocco ruffled Hugo’s black curls as he set him down inside the front door.

“Rocco’s home!” came the squeal from seven-year-old Holly – Hugo’s twin – and eight-year-old Waverly. Rocco picked up both girls, one in each arm.

“Now what trouble have my littlest princesses gotten into today?” he asked.

“We helped Emmalyn make bread this afternoon,” Holly answered.

“Yes, I can see that,” Rocco laughed. “There’s flour in your hair.”

Waverly giggled. “We had some trouble with the mixer.”

Rocco kissed the girls on their heads, set them down, and watched them run back to the kitchen. All of the children stole his heart in their own unique way. Holly and Hugo had been with him since they were four. He had found them wandering around the back roads, along with their triplet, Howie. Howie was sick. They had done their best to help him heal but he only lived three months after coming to the orphanage. It was heartbreaking. Rocco hated the brokenness that existed in the world and hated even more that there was so little he could do about it.

“Buonasera,” Penelope said, coming around the corner.

“Buonsaera, principessa,” Rocco smiled at her and wrapped her in a bear hug. “I am so proud of you, Penelope,” he said.

“What for?” she asked against his chest. She loved the way he always smelled like sunshine and sweet tree bark.

“For how you have grown up to a strong woman full of grace, love, and mercy. You know who you are and I love that about you. That takes great strength.”

She looked up into his kind face. “You really think so?”

“Yes,” he said without hesitating. “You are special. Not all seventeen-year-olds are like that.” He pushed her blonde bangs off her face. Penelope was plain in comparison with Aurora, but there was a beauty that radiated from Penelope’s heart that could not be surpassed. He formally escorted her into the kitchen where everyone was scurrying around to put the last dishes on the table and get to their seats.

“Boys,” Rocco said to Victor and Hugo, “Wait for the ladies to sit before you do.”

“That’s everything,” Emmalyn said as she slid the last pot onto the table. She undid her apron, hung it over her chair, and sat down with a deep sigh. “Raven, Iris, and Juliette helped with dinner tonight,” she said and the other girls sat down, following her example.

“Thank you, girls,” Rocco said as he scooted his chair closer to the table. “It smells heavenly.” He reached his hands out and smiled as everyone joined hands around the table. “Father God,” he prayed. “Thank You for this day and this food. Help us to glorify You in everything we do. Help us to grow closer together and closer to You. Please help us find children who need a place to live. Jesus, thank You for Emmalyn, Adam, Lance, Penelope, Raven, Gareth, Iris, Duncan, Rook, Juliette, Olympia, Bess, Nicole, Corin, Shasta, Eponine, Felicity, Rowan, Leo, Victor, Terra, Waverly, Hugo, and Holly. Thank You for taking us in as Your sons and daughters. In Your name, Lord Jesus, Amen.”

“Amen,” was the chorus around the table and then the feast began.

“What did everyone do today?” Rocco asked.

“The older girls helped me make winter clothes this morning,” Emmalyn began.

“And we baked bread this afternoon,” Waverly reminded him.

“Duncan and Rook let us go with them when they took it to the homeless shelter in town,” Holly said around a mouthful of mashed potatoes.

“Oh, did they?” Rocco asked and exchanged a glance with Emmalyn. “That was nice of the boys to take you along. Did you tell them thank you?”

“Thank you!” the girls said in unison.

“What’d you do today?” Iris asked.

“I planted three Rowan trees today, actually.”

“Me?” the ten-year-old asked.

“Yes, you,” Rocco smiled. “They’re still saplings but they’ll grow quickly.”

“Just like me!”

“Just like you,” Emmalyn laughed. “I’ve let out the hem of your pants four times already this year.”

Rowan beat his chest with pride. The rest of dinner passed with laughter. Everyone sat back in his or her seat, fully satisfied. Rocco could not help but notice that there were no leftovers. God always provided exactly enough – like manna from Heaven.

“Bess, would you hand me the bible, please?” he asked. The shy fourteen-year-old obeyed quietly. “Grazi, principessa,” he kissed her forehead when she handed it to him. She bowed her head in respect and went back to her seat. Bess had been with them for two years and rarely spoke. She had only told Emmalyn a little bit of the misfortune that had befallen her thus driving her to the streets. She had no father and that was enough for Rocco to make sure he was especially careful with her. They did not talk much – which was fine with Rocco; he was not a talkative man. He took her horseback riding and she would follow him around his early morning chores. She was wide-eyed, watching and learning from everything around her.

“Who remembers where we left off?” Emmalyn chimed.

Corin, who was twelve, sat up in his chair. “Isaiah just told King Hezekiah that all of his possessions would be taken by the Babylonians one day.”

“And some of his decedents, too,” Nicole, who was thirteen, added.

“Very good,” Rocco encouraged them. “Thank you. That was chapter thirty-nine of Isaiah. We’ll pick right back up with chapter forty. Everyone ready?” They all nodded. Rocco cleared his throat, prayed God would open the ears of their hearts, and began reading from the bible.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’” Rocco coughed, feeling all the dirt of today stuck in his throat. He took a drink of water. “Adam,” he said and passed the bible to his right. “Will you read, please?”

Adam sat up straighter. Rocco had loved watching him grow over the past ten years. Adam had been the first boy he had taken off the streets. It was a blessing to have watched his life. He had truly become a man. Rocco was proud of him. He cleared his throat and read in a clear, strong voice.

“A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.’ You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’ See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and His arm rules for Him. See, His reward is with Him, and His recompense accompanies Him. He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those who have young.”

Rocco looked up when he heard a sniff across the table from him. Eponine, who was eleven, had her head bowed, but Rocco was sure the tears were coming from her. Rocco had found Eponine on the riverbank when she was just one-year-old.

“Jesus, please hold her in Your arms, close to Your heart,” he prayed sincerely. It had never been easy running an orphanage and he knew it would never become easy. He also knew, however, that it was right. He would not trade the heartache for the entire world because he knew he was making a difference in these children’s lives. If he could care for even one child and teach that child that there was a God in Heaven who loved him or her, then the heartache was worth it.

Adam passed the book to Lance, whom Adam had found unconscious at age thirteen. Lance pushed back his blonde curls and read clearly.

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed Him as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten Him, and who taught Him the right way? Who was it that taught Him knowledge or showed Him the path of understanding? Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animals enough for burnt offerings. Before Him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by Him as worthless and less than nothing. To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare Him to? As for an idol, a craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it. A man too pour to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot. He looks for a skilled craftsman to set up an idol that will not topple.”

Lance passed the book across the table to Emmalyn. Never having been to school, she read very slowly, despite being twenty-eight years old.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.”

Victor and Leo giggled. “Grasshopper!” one nine-year-old whispered to the other.

“He stretches out the heavens like a canopy; and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than He blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.” Emmalyn passed the heavy bible back to Rocco.

“‘To whom will you compare Me? Or who is My equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Saturday, March 17, 2012


This is just a little piece of what I'm working on right now. Jesus and His disciples have come into Jerusalem for the Last Supper.

They came to the house and went up stairs to the room where a feast was being laid out for them. The men sat down heavily, tired from walking in the heat. Jesus saw a boy standing in the corner of the room, waiting to wait on them. He was young, full of life, and about to be old enough to be considered a man. Jesus went over to him. He went down on one knee so that He could look straight into the boy’s precious face. He quirked an eyebrow and smiled ever so slightly.

“Does your father know you’re up here?” Jesus asked with a mischievous tone. The boy’s countenance fell at being found out. He dropped his gaze.

“Some of my father’s servants are the same age as I am. I thought I could pretend to be one and be able to see You, Lord.”

Jesus smiled all the more. “And where are your father’s servants?”

“I told them to leave the house for a few hours and that I would serve you and your men,” the boy answered, still with his eyes downcast.

“Why do you want to serve Me?”

The boy raised his head cautiously and found the courage to meet Jesus’ eyes. “Because You are the Messiah,” he said quietly but boldly.

Jesus nodded, proud – not of His name – but of the boy’s faith. He wished His disciples would stop talking about meaningless drivel and learn from this youth.

“What is your name, brave one?”

“Stephen. Do You really think I am brave, Lord?” the boy asked with all the hope in the world waiting on Jesus’ verdict.

“Oh, yes,” Jesus answered strongly, holding Stephen by the arms. “You are brave, you are wise, and most of all, Stephen,” Jesus touched one finger to the boy’s chest, “You have a heart that longs to serve.”

Stephen’s young heart soared with pride and joy. The Messiah had said his name! The Messiah had called him brave! His friends could call him a coward but he would not listen to them anymore because if the Messiah had called him brave, he was brave.

“I can serve You, then?” Stephen asked, elated.

Jesus kissed his forehead. “Tonight I must do the serving because tonight is My last night with My brothers, My last night with My enemy.” Jesus saw Stephen’s face fall again. “But one day, Stephen,” Jesus lifted his head to look in his eyes, “You will serve Me in a great way. On that day, remember what I told you. Stephen, you are brave. And I will see you soon.” Jesus winked at the boy and sent him on his way.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I love her more than you do.

This is a piece of the novel that is consuming most of my time right now. Enjoy!

Luke had come in early to work on Saturday morning partly to get a stack of papers to grade but mostly to avoid being at home on his daughter’s birthday when his daughter was not. He was angry, of course, but mostly he was forlorn. He hated himself for not having been a better father, a better daddy. He could not help but think that if he had done something differently, his angel would never have left.
His phone rang sharply. He stopped rummaging around his desktop and answered the phone.
“This is Luke Asher,” he said.
“Hey, Dad, it’s Robbie.”
“Hey, son,” Luke smiled at the sound of his little boy’s voice. No matter how often he heard it, it would always bring him joy. “What’s up?”
“Momma’s still in bed.”
Luke glanced at his watch. He frowned. It was already ten-thirty. “Is she still asleep?” he asked his son gently. In all the sixteen years they had been married, Luke had never known Scarlet to stay late in bed. Even when she was sick she would wander out to the couch in order to be closer to her children.
“No. I peeked in on her just a minute ago and her eyes were open. She was just staring out the window.”
“You sure do take good care of your momma, don’t you?” Luke said. His son was very much like him, always protecting those around him.
“I think she misses Rora,” Robbie said faintly. Luke winced upon hearing that. He felt like a hot poker had stuck his gut.
“Do you miss your big sister, buddy?”
“Yeah,” he answered sadly. “How…” he trailed off and Luke heard him sniffle. Luke dropped his head in his hand as sadness overwhelmed him. His family was hurting. His family, his responsibility. Robbie managed to ask his question through his tears. “How am I going to give her the birthday present I got for her?”
Luke shut his eyes tight, fighting off the nightmare that was reality. “I don’t know, Robbie,” he said brokenly. “I don’t know. I’ll be home in half an hour, ok?”
“Take care of Paul and look out for Momma.”
“Yes, sir, I will.”
“I know you will, son. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Dad.”
Luke hung up the phone and dropped it on the desk. He stared blankly at it for a moment and then in a rush of anger, grabbed his desk and flipped it over. He breathed hard, trying desperately to reign in his emotions. He needed to hit something. He longed to unleash his anger and feel flesh bend underneath his fists. He shut his eyes and remembered brushing Aurora’s hair and playing baseball with her in the back yard. He remembered holding her as an infant, cradling her tiny body in his huge hands. He remembered her first steps. He remembered his radical joy the first time she had called him daddy and told him that she loved him. He remembered painting her bedroom pink and Scarlet laughing at him when the dog had run in and splattered the pink paint all over him. He remembered taking her to the hospital to see her newborn brothers, Robbie and then Paul. He remembered cuddling on the couch with her and reading her stories.
“Oh God,” he croaked, choking on tears. “Where did I go wrong? How can I fix this?”
Wait for the Lord, came the answer. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
“God, I don’t think I can keep waiting,” he begged.
God, who has called you into fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ, is faithful.
“Jesus, I’m having trouble believing that! Help me!”
Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
“Oh, Lord, protect my daughter,” he wept.
Luke, My son in whom I am well pleased… I love her even more than you do. Trust Me. I am compassionate and gracious. I am slow to anger. My love and faithfulness overflows.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

No Condemnation

God did something really cool in small group tonight. It was one of those times when God shows up and something so beautiful happens that you can’t even talk or do anything but bask in His glory and might and love. His presence was tangible. He stirred in our hearts so we could feel the fluttering of angel wings. He opened up the eyes of our hearts just a little bit more so that we could grasp a tiny bit of what His love for us looks like and the only appropriate response is awe-filled tears of joy and humility. He loves me? Oh, yes, dear one, He loves you.

Our leader spoke tonight about Noah’s dad, Lamech. This story can be found in Exodus chapter 5. Lamech named his son Noah because it means peace and rest. Lamech thought Noah would be the one to deliver them all from the wickedness of the world. Lamech wanted Noah to be Jesus, the deliverer. As we all know, that didn’t happen. God unleashed His righteous judgment on the earth by sending a flood.

Our first discussion question asked us what it was we need rest from. It could be a sin struggle, a burden, a hurt, or a responsibility. Most of the girls were quick to say they needed rest from school, from the business and stress of every day life.

The next question asked us how we deal with these needs for rest. Most of the answers were to ignore it. That would not fix anything or give true peace. In fact, the girls admitted that it only made their work load seem more daunting, like a dark cloud constantly hanging over them.

Question three asked us what emotions stir up in us when we think about God’s judgment. Very quickly, we veered on to the topic of our sin, of condemnation, of Heaven and Hell, of the end times, of judgment day.

“What if I do something that sends me to Hell? What if I do something wrong? I’m so afraid. I imagine Hell like that feeling of knowing you’re falling but not being able to do anything about it forever. I am so afraid. I have so many doubts! What if I do something that sends me to Hell?”

I am here on this earth to declare exactly two things: that Jesus is the one, true, living God, and that He loves you.

That voice of accusation you hear in your head, that’s the devil. He’s lying to you. He wants you to believe that God couldn’t possibly love you. How God hates it when Satan tells you that lie! Can’t you see? Satan whispers that God doesn’t love you, that He will punish you, but Satan has no physical evidence to back up that theory. On the other hand, God says, “I love you,” and He does have actions to prove that! He sent Jesus to die on the cross, He came to propose to you, to bring you back, to rescue you. The crucifixion is the grandest public display of affection anyone could ever give you! “This is how far I will go for you!” Jesus is crying out as He hangs there. “I will cross the universe for you! I will travel through this world for you! I will put my life on the line. I will throw myself over top of you and cover you so the whip will fall on My back instead of yours. I will be tortured and I will do it with a smile in My heart because I’m thinking of you. I’m seeing your face in My mind’s eye and praising God because you and I will get to spend eternity together. Oh, My beloved. I will go through Hell for you. I will risk your rejection for the chance at holding you in My arms…these arms that placed the moon into the sky…for you…these hands that molded the stars…for you…”

Because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to punish you. Jesus took all the punishment. He stands before you and declares that He has taken the punishment and that no sin can be held against you. Jesus stands in front of you and stretches out his arms, blocking you, shielding you from any punishment because He takes it on Himself. Romans 8:1 declares there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Colossians 1:22 says, "But now He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you HOLY in His sight, WITHOUT BLEMISH and FREE from accusation."

You are PURE. You are BLAMELESS because of Jesus' death. God does not punish you, ever. There will be natural consequences for your actions but it is not punishment from God. When God looks at you, He sees you walking down the aisle, clothed in a white wedding gown, radiating beauty. When He hung on that cross, He was thinking about that moment: you, walking down the aisle to Him, pure as can be. He faced death and He did so with joy because He knew that He'd get to spend eternity with YOU, His bride, His beloved. You are the princess of the Prince of Peace. He will satisfy all your needs. He will overwhelm you with His love. Oh, how He delights in you!

Zephaniah 3:14-17 says this, "Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your punishment, He has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. On that day they will say to Jerusalem, 'Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.'"

And so, we lift the cross, lift it high, lift it high. That is where we fix our eyes – on the love Jesus poured out. For His love is higher than the mountains we face, His love is stronger than the power of the grave. On and on and on it goes! It overwhelms and satisfies my soul! His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me…His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me!

It is not rest from schoolwork we need. It is rest from guilt and condemnation. And who better to give us that rest than the Prince of peace, Jesus?

Jesus, help me come to You first and only with my needs. You are my Prince of Peace. Who would be better to go to than You?