Chapter Twenty Seven

“What were you thinking?” She said. “I don’t care how much money it brought in! A naked construction worker?”

“He had shorts on.” Mike retorted.

Really?” Mallory Johnson, Pastor Mike’s wife, was furious. She had known that Meadow Song would be the main event but did not know the details of how it was going to play out. The surprise had caught her completely off guard. She had been purposely distracted just before the Naked Construction Worker came out on stage to take care of a lame issue in regards to distributing parting gifts to the women. By the time she had realized what was going on, everything had gotten completely out of hand and the majority of the women had crowded the stage. Interference at that time would have caused absolute pandemonium. The women who were offended had already left anyway.

It had been a long day. The residual had been mixed through both services. Some people were upset and some thought it was great and that this church was the coolest church they had ever gone to. The bottom line was that through ticket and CD sales they had managed to raise almost enough money for the entire parking lot expansion.

Mike was numb to Mallory’s lectures and focused mainly on what was going on ahead of him on the road and out the driver’s side window. He looked in the rearview mirror. His daughter was looking out her window trying hard to remove herself from the ongoing argument. She had looked forward to seeing Meadow Song too but was also disappointed at the inappropriate exposure.

In his mind Mike was justified in his actions. His wife didn’t understand the pressures of what he was going through being a pastor. He wanted to be successful like other pastors in the area who seemed to have it figured out. Give the people what they want and they will come back, making you and your church successful. Sometimes stirring the pot got people talking.

Seven Mile Community Church’s numbers had been dropping for the past couple years. Pastor Mike accounted it to competition in the valley. It seemed like new churches were cropping up everywhere. With the bad economy and all that was going on in the world, going to church was big business. People needed to be comforted and they sure did not want to hear about Hell and Doom and Gloom. They got enough of that all week long from the news. What they wanted was a positive, uplifting message to get them through the week. He felt like he was walking a tightrope between the government and losing their not-for-profit status and the people in the church wanting to hear a good well presented message. Sunday service needed to provide an entertaining atmosphere or people were not going to stay. That is the way it was in this business.

Suddenly a car veered across two lanes of traffic in front of them. Mike slammed on the brakes and instinctively held out his right hand to protect his wife from careening forward hitting the dash, but she wasn’t there. She was gone. He looked in the rearview window and his daughter wasn’t there either. Her clothes were in the seat but she, her body, was gone. Disappeared in thin air. His heart immediately dropped realizing what had just happened. The beer truck in front of him slammed to a stop and through his shock, his response was delayed and he rear ended the truck deploying the airbag into his face. The hard cover over the steering wheel flew off with such force into his nose causing it to bleed immediately. He searched for anything to stop the bleeding and grabbed his wife’s scarf. She wouldn’t be using it any more he thought!

“Are you okay?” the beer truck driver asked.

“Yes, do you have a pocket knife on you?” Mike asked.

“Ya, here.” He said handing Mike a box cutter. “This is going to sound weird but the car in front of me t-boned another car that ran a stop sign and no one is driving either car!”

Mike cut the airbag out of the way and got out of his car. “Yes, I know. They were raptured.” Hearing those words come out of his own mouth brought everything home to him. He was a pastor. He knew the rapture would one day happen. He had taught that sermon when he was younger so many times. What had happened? He looked back at his wife’s clothes in the front seat of their car. She was gone; home to be with Jesus.

Why did this surprise him, he thought? He had led his church right through the falling away, the apostasy. 2 Thessalonians 2:3. He had taught about it when he was younger. It wasn’t like he didn’t know this period of time was coming. It was written in black and white plain as day. He had even been convicted about compromising with a watered down teaching, but still, his desire was to make the church into something big, which ultimately surpassed teaching the truth.

He said to the beer truck driver. “See? My wife is gone too. Her clothes are here but her body is gone, to Heaven, to be with Jesus.” Mike looked up towards heaven and the beer truck driver’s eyes followed in suit.

“Whoa!!! No kidding?” he said looking at Mike in shock.

“Go look to see if their clothes are lying in the front seat like my wife’s are.”

The driver headed towards the front of the truck. Mike walked over to the back of the beer truck and tested the handle. To his surprise the door opened. He stepped in and grabbed a half rack of beer.

Screw it, he thought What’s the point?

On his way back to the car he stopped, turned around and put the half rack back.

He was in a daze. The road ahead of him was so congested there was no way of getting through. He stepped back into his car and turned around slowly heading back to the church. Many people would be showing up there soon. He wanted to escape what he knew was coming upon the world any way he could. But he knew there would be no escape now.

Chapter Twenty Six

The spring produced much more water than Sam had expected and fortunately he had built into the collection device an overflow large enough to accommodate the extra flow. Sam knew that water was the most important commodity needed in the event everything went south. What was unique about this spring was it flowed under several hundred acres of solid rock. Its source was from the snowmelt higher up the mountain twenty miles away. Flowing under that much rock kept the water cool but also filtered it very efficiently and not much could leach through to contaminate it. He also knew how hot the high mountain desert climate got during the summer months and most likely the flow of the spring would be dropping in another month.

By the end of the day they had the spring dug out, the plumbing installed and the spring was working well. It needed to be filled in with clean rock, gravel and native soil. With the flow confined to the PVC, the hillside where the spring once flowed gradually began to dry up. They piped the water down the steep hillside to a head of ten feet where they set up a ram pump that pumped the water back up the hill to a tank that was to be buried in the ground by the caves in the cove area. That water would be saved in the cistern for use during the hot summer and early fall, when water was scarce. They still needed to bring the five hundred gallon tank up the hill and put it in the hole but were waiting to do that in the evening at dark in the event someone might be watching. Sam did not want to advertise all of the work they were doing.

Sam had devised a refrigeration system using the residual water left over from the ram pump operation. The excess water gravity fed through a buried PVC pipe to an insulated underground pit house. The theory was to use the material removed to dig out the underground storage to fill bags to construct the walls for the underground building that would be used as the cellar and refrigeration system. The excess cool water would run through a half inch copper pipe running serpentine down the wall in the deepest part of the dugout to keep perishable food cool and then piped out to water plants in a below grade greenhouse. The refrigerated room would be insulated with foam board and dirt dug into the side of the steep north east facing hillside. The underground greenhouse would face the southwest. By being below grade, the mass of the walls would be heated by the winter sun during the day and would keep it warm through the night. The plan for this trip was to get the spring operational, get the tank in the ground and begin filling it with water. If they could remove or loosen as much of the dirt as possible for the other structures, that would be a bonus. Filling the bags and building the walls would take some time.

It was hot on the open hillside. Sam was finishing up with the overflow plumbing from the tank in the ground. Cory had gone down to the gravel pit at the bottom of the hill and was returning with the last load to fill in above the spring.

Marty started barking erratically at Sam and ran to the edge of the hill looking down to where Cory was coming up the steep road.

“What in the world are you barking at?” Sam got up from under the cliff wall and walked over to where he could see Cory. Marty just kept on whining and acted like he wanted to go back to the truck. “What? You silly dog.” Sam looked across the valley. It was a beautiful afternoon. Large puffy clouds were moving rapidly high above the desert floor. Two redtail hawks circled on the rising air currents searching for their next meal. He could see for miles. There was a slight breeze that did little to cool the skin on the hot sloped hillside. Sam went to the cooler and grabbed a bottle of water. The ice had melted but the remaining water was cold. When he shut the lid to the cooler, the ground shook underneath him. He wondered to himself if he had felt that or was he just getting tired. He opened the bottle to take a drink and the ground let loose under him. It was like fluid and the sound was deafening. He turned to face the rock cliff in time to see a large chunk of the wall break off and fall in slow motion to the hillside in a cloud of billowing dust. The ground was like trying to stand on a water bed and it took everything he had to stand in one spot. A boulder dislodged and fell off the wall landing where Sam had been working, breaking the pvc connection. He turned to look down at Cory coming up the hill. Rocks were rolling all over the hillside down to the valley floor. Sam headed down the slope to get away from the cliff wall. Marty was barking and leading the way towards the truck. The ground was heaving up and down dramatically and he felt drunk running down the hill tripping and falling down. He sat up and watched as a large rock rolled down towards Cory. Cory was still moving up the hill. Why couldn’t he tell what was going on? The large rock was tumbling faster and faster in a collision course straight for the small skidster. Sam yelled at Cory waving his hands as hard as he could. Cory looked up at him and Sam pointed to the rock just as it hit the front of the loader in the front of the bucket spinning it in the road. Instinctively, Cory dropped the bucket preventing it from flipping over and tumbling down the hill.

Sam looked up across the valley floor below him. He noticed a great amount of dust fly straight up into the air in spiraling streaks. “What in the world is that?” he said out loud. He tried to place where that was. It was at the old cemetery. That was so weird. Surely no one would be blasting at the old cemetery and there was nothing there to cause all of that dust. The streaks flew up into the sky like bottle rockets without exploding. It seemed like instantly out of nowhere the clouds turned very dark and ominous. It looked like a huge storm was blowing in and the wind was picking up. The thought of the storm in the dream Sam had came to his mind.

The ground finally stopped moving. Sam stood up still dizzy and headed down to where Cory was standing surveying the damage of the boulder lodged against the bucket. “Boy,” he said somewhat unnerved. “That was a close one!” as Sam walked up. “I am not sure how we’re going to get this boulder dislodged. Maybe that excavator can do it but I think that rock may be too big. I may need to go back to town to get a larger piece of machinery.”

They started making their way back up the hill talking about the crazy earthquake. Marty did not want to follow them and stayed back at the Bobcat whining and barked at Sam. All of a sudden a large white piece of ice the size of a softball hit in the dirt next to Cory and then another one and another. “Wow! That is hail!” Sam said and started running up the hill. “We need to get in one of those caves!” Chunks of ice were hitting around them on every side. Sam whistled to Marty and Marty passed them up to the cave. A large hailstone hit Cory in the left shoulder almost knocking him to the ground and another hit his cheek instantly causing it to swell. Sam grabbed a hold of his arm and guided him up to the cave. Lightning flashed in the sky and immediately a colossal boom echoed down the ridge as they dove into the first smallest cave. They were barely able to fit all three of themselves into it but it provided adequate protection from the ice falling from the sky. It didn’t take long and the whole hillside was covered in hail and the temperature outside dropped twenty degrees. The sky was very dark; almost black and the contorted clouds twisted in the sky erratically. Sam told Cory about the strange sight that he saw coming from the cemetery. Cory’s face was black and blue and his eye was swollen shut. “Boy Cory, that eye doesn’t look good. I need to get you to a doctor.” Sam said.

“Yeah, I don’t feel very good either.” Cory responded somewhat loopy. Sam figured that Cory had a concussion. He tried to call Robin on his cell phone but there was no reception. “The hail storm probably knocked out the tower.”

The hail had stopped and was melting rapidly now. He looked down to the valley below which was covered in white. The once dry stream beds were moving in a river of ice. It was going to be a challenge getting out of there.

Sam looked at Cory. “Do you think you can make it out of here or do you want me to go for help?”

“I am going with you, dude!” Cory said with a distorted smile. Sam laughed. “All right hang on!”

They both slipped and slid down the road to their rigs. When they arrived they were both shocked to see the damage that lay before them. Cory’s truck was decimated with dents and the windshield had been completely shattered to the point you could not see through it. Sam’s truck was virtually untouched in comparison. One section of the back window slider had been broken and there were two or three dents in the hood and the sidewalls but that was it. The tree that he had parked under had been stripped of leaves but saved his truck. There was a limb which had broken the window in the back of Sam’s truck. Sam opened the door for Cory and Marty jumped in the back seat glad to be back in his truck. As Sam walked around to the driver’s side of the truck he remembered Robin putting the blood of Jesus over him, Marty and the truck when he left the previous morning.

The clay in the soil made the tires fill up with gumbo mud tossing clumps thirty feet in the air as they drove the once dirt roads back towards the pavement. Sam slipped it into four wheel drive and was thankful for having all of the fuel in the back tank for the added weight.

Remembering the view from up on the hill, Sam knew that they would have to cross one big draw before they hit the pavement. He started praying under his breath, “Lord please help us get through that crossing!”

When they came to the rise overlooking the draw, he could see the mixture of ice and mud flowing swiftly. He remembered his dad warning him when he was a kid about crossing the draws and gulley’s in a flash flood. He said, “I don’t know Cory, this might get a little hairy. You better hang on!”

Cory grabbed the handle above the door and nodded back at him with a warped smile reminding Sam of a bull rider cinching himself to a rank one.

Sam dropped the clutch sending the truck in motion down the hill towards the fast moving slush with mudslinging in the air and the tail of the truck swinging side to side wildly. When they hit the bottom, there was a small dip in the road causing the truck to bottom out before becoming airborne. Sam saw Marty in the air in the back seat through the rearview mirror. They were committed now. The truck sailed to the middle of the ice filled stream sending ice and mud in all directions. Sam had the pedal all the way to the floor and the initial force of the drop caused the lugs on the tires to grab traction on the bottom of the rocky creek bed, lurching the big truck across the stream. Just as the front tires cleared the other side, the motor bogged down and the swift ice swept current pressed hard against the side of the truck pushing it downstream. Sam shifted down to second gear and punched it causing the front tires to spin in the mud but they were losing ground quickly. “C’mon you can do it!”, Sam cried out, and the left front tire caught traction on a large rock obscured by ice. It was just enough traction to pull the truck out of the water relieving the force against the side panels and slowly climbing out of the stream.

“Yeah Baby!” Cory hollered. “One down!”

Sam laughed. The gravel road got progressively better as they approached the old cemetery. A truck came flying down the road towards them slowing cautiously. The old rancher had a terrified look on his face. Sam rolled down his window and said, “You’re going to have a tough time crossing the creek. We almost didn’t make it.”

He answered in a shaky voice, “I am not going back that direction. There are things flying out of the graves at the cemetery!” and he took off up the road showering gravel behind him.

“I think that ol boy might have been hitting the sauce pretty hard this afternoon.” Cory said laughing.

“Yeah, I don’t’ know. I have seen that ol rancher out here since I was a kid and he is tougher than most. I heard he eats nails for breakfast and he just looked really scared!” Sam said. “I wonder what in the world is going on?”

As he pulled up on the old cemetery they noticed that all of the graves were open like they had been blown open with dynamite. “Oh crap! That doesn’t look very good!”Sam said.

Cory said “Look over there!” And pointed towards something crossing the road in front of them.

Sam grabbed the binoculars and glassed in that direction. “Oh Lord. What in the world is going on!” his voice was shaking.

“What?” Cory said concerned.

“I don’t know what that thing is but it looks like some sort of demon.” It turned and looked at them sitting in the truck like it had heard them speak and leapt over the fence and into the field. “Oh, God! What is going on?”

He slipped the truck into gear grabbing his cell phone speed dialing Robin. The phone was busy. He tried Erica and Ben. All busy.

He drove faster down the road. Cory called Monica.

“Hey Monica!”

“Cory! Where are you? It has happened!”

“What has happened?” Cory said annoyed.

The Rapture Cory. People are missing.”

“Where are you?” Cory asked.

“I am here”.

“Where is here, Monica?” his voice was shaking.

“Home, Tyler is gone Cory. His clothes are here but he isn’t. Please come home Cory!”

“Okay, we are on our way.”

“Have you heard from Robin?” Sam yelled.

Cory looked at Sam and shook his head. A car flew past them down the road almost hitting them and Sam swerved to avoid them sending road dust into the air. The closer they got to town the more chaotic it became. Cars were in the ditch, stalled in the middle of the road without drivers. Smoke billowed up from sporadic fires, some caused by transformers, others by automobile accidents. Sam and Cory drove down the county road in silent shock trying to process the scene in front of them.

“Why are we still here Cory?” Sam asked, hoping that the answer would be different than what he already knew.

“I know why I am here Sam. There is no denying it. I have blatantly under-estimated the sin in my life. You need to figure out for yourself why you are still here Sam. We both had a shot at grace and we both, obviously, compromised and blew it. Now the age of grace is over and we have only one chance left. This one we cannot screw up! ” Cory said without firmly.

“What do you mean? What happens next?”

“If this is the rapture Sam, it is going to get very difficult. It won’t take long now. Someone will make an announcement probably declaring that aliens were responsible for the disappearance of the people, who have really been raptured by God. This person will probably rise to the top overnight probably through war. I am sure if we could hear the news, Israel has already been attacked by Russian and Iranian forces. Nuclear weapons were probably used but they won’t be able to destroy Israel. God will intervene. This war will probably cause the leader of the New World Order to come forward. He will most likely be the antichrist. The bible says that there will be a strong delusion that will be so real that even the elect will be deceived. I don’t know what that will be, but most likely aliens will make an appearance soon, most likely next to the Most Holy Bishop from Mother of Apostles Christian Church. This will be so real and convincing that they will deceive many if not all people. They will probably say something like they were the ones that created us and because we are destroying ourselves they had no choice but to step in. They will sat that they had to remove Christians because they would not conform to the truth. That will set up all Christians to be singled out and killed. The  antichrist will come up with something that everyone will have to do to worship him. Everyone will need to do this in order to buy or sell. It might be a mark, or a chip, maybe an implant who knows, but it will ultimately give us a choice that will ultimately compromise our relationship with Jesus. If you choose to take the mark or  follow the delusion the antichrist sets up along with everyone else, you will lose your eternal life. Through it somehow, they will attempt top make us worship the person that rises to the top and if we don’t do it, they will cut off our heads. You might as well get it in your head that you’re going to lose your head if you want to have eternal life. The only way we will get to heaven now Sam is to die for our belief in Jesus. This is going to be very difficult. There are going to be earthquakes and famines like never before. An asteroid will hit the sea wiping out a third of the sea life and poison a third of the oceans and springs. That might be what people call Planet X or Niburu. Then the bible says that Locusts will come out of the pit like smoke. Those are Satanic demons sent to inflict pain with a sting like a scorpion. If you get stung, it will be unberarable for five months for anyone who does not have the mark of God on them.” Cory paused and said “Then Sam, it’s going to get bad.”

None of the stoplights worked and other drivers didn’t use them anyway. As they passed by a store, a man came running out with an armload of food dropping some cans on the ground. Cars were crashed on the side of the roads and intersections. Occasionally an ambulance drove by. It was like trying to put a band aid on a trauma patient. People were in the streets screaming deliriously for their children and loved ones that had disappeared and the calamity the disappearances had created.

Sam dropped Cory off at his house and told him that he would be back but he needed to find Robin.

The cows greeted Sam running along the fence as he drove down the driveway and Erica’s car was still in the driveway which made his hope leap in his heart. Marty ran ahead of him as he hurriedly walked into the house. He could smell her. “Robin!” he called for her anxiously. His voice echoed in the house, it seemed hollow to Sam, returned unheard. Empty. “Erica, hey Linda! Is anyone here?” Nothing.

Marty had made the rounds through the house and returned back to him staring at him differently. “Where is Mom, Marty?” Marty looked at him with his head cocked to one side and ran down the hall to the bedroom. Sam followed him to the master bedroom. Marty stood sniffing a pile of Robin’s clothes on the floor. That wasn’t like Robin to leave her clothes in the middle of the floor, Sam thought. He did not want to admit what he knew in his heart. He knelt down to grab the empty clothes and could feel her bra still hooked, inside her shirt, her panties were inside her Levis; all of them were piled up on top of her flip-flops.

Sam collapsed on the floor. “Robin!” He knew. Of course, she was unwavering in her faith. She was the only person he knew that was uncompromising in her love for Jesus. He had always known deep in his heart that he never had that same relationship that she had with Jesus. So many times she had tried to explain it to him. All he had ever wanted was her. He buried his face in her clothes smelling her sweet lingering perfume. “Oh Robin,” he sobbed. “Lord, please show me what I need to do to be back with her again. You gave her to me and now you have taken her. I know that she is not coming back here but please Lord, show me how to get to where You took her.” That was the most sincere prayer Sam had ever prayed in his life. He was lying on the floor tears in his eyes and noticed across the floor one of Robin’s contacts. He picked it up in his fingers and said “Please Lord, remove the scales from my eyes and give me the eyes to see!

Chapter Twenty Five

As the girls walked back into the conference the next morning refreshed from a good night’s sleep, they could feel the energy coursing through the crowd. Robin wondered if the energy was coming from the Spirit’s presence and the women’s conference in general or was it in anticipation for the Meadow Song presentation. Based on the murmuring going on in the ladies bathroom, she would say the latter.

Since Erica and Linda had shared their testimony the night before, several women had come and embraced Linda. Robin could tell that the love they shared with her had greatly impacted Linda and she was coming out of her shell with confidence. She had acquired a direct kind of love with little tolerance for compromise after living on the street. She had seen the other side of life and knew the consequences of rebellion and how compromising with the world lead to destruction quickly. Young women struggling with rebellion in their marriage or family life at home were drawn to her and because she had lived that life on the street could relay directly to them firsthand dangers of that life that most people never hear about. Her testimony was very powerful and during the breaks she always had a group of young women around her. Robin watched her and was amazed at the transformation that she had witnessed in Linda in just a week. God was pouring His Spirit into her quickly; her discernment was sharp and definitely a God given gift. She read people well and Robin sensed that she wondered about Heidi.

After lunch Monica came out onstage with the Seven Mile Christian Church musicians and began to play the latest Meadow Song hit song. One by one the surprise guest entertainment that had been leaked out so effectively came out on the stage joining them. Monica was in her element as the four men came onto the stage dressed as construction workers. The women stood up applauding them. Robin remained seated and could not see the stage. Suddenly there were great cheers across the room and Heidi started whistling and saying, “ Whoo Hoo!!!” while moving toward the front of the stage.

Erica and Linda turned to Robin with complete shock on their faces. Robin stood up and saw that the musicians for Meadow Song were dressed as four construction workers, with the lead singer not dressed at all! Robin was aghast! She looked around the room and the majority of the women were working their way forward surrounding the stage. What had just happened? How did this go from a Christian Women’s Conference to a lady’s night strip club in a matter of seconds? There were only a handful of women that were as shocked as she was. She looked back at the stage and there were women tucking money into the pockets of the musician’s tool belt. Both Erica and Linda came over to where Robin was standing in utter shock. “What is going on, mom?” Erica asked.

“I don’t know but it is completely inappropriate!” Robin answered and then abruptly said, “and we are leaving!”

They gathered up their belongings and headed towards the exit with a handful of other women joining them.

Robin saw Pastor Mike watching the scene on stage next to Katie, the secretary, and they were both enjoying the show. Pastor Mike caught Robin’s eyes of disgust and his smile disappeared.

Chapter Twenty Four

The work Sam wanted to accomplish on the property went over and over in his mind preventing him from sleeping. All he was doing was tossing and turning so he slipped out of bed and quietly got dressed. Robin and the girls had returned later than planned from the conference and had stayed up half the night talking so he knew she was exhausted.

He started the coffee and took a shower in the main bathroom so as not to wake her up. He had packed his bag and put it in the truck the night before so he was ready to leave. He was leaning over the island countertop going over his list of the things he needed to take from the barn when he heard someone coming down the stairs. Robin came in the kitchen wearing her purple t-shirt, her eyes squinting at the bright light. “I reached over and you were not there,” she said.

“Yeah, I was tossing and turning so bad I was afraid I was going to wake you.”

She came to him with her arms in front of her and he wrapped his arms around her. “Were you going to say good bye?” she said sleepily.

“Yes, honey, before I left I was going to come in and give you a kiss. I didn’t want to wake you. You had a late night.”

“Yeah, it was fun. Erica and Linda shared their testimony together. It was really good. I talked some more with Heidi about Ben. I wish he would call. ”

“I know honey. I wish he would too but he has to figure things out for himself.” Sam said rocking her back and forth.

“I know, it’s just hard,” She said nuzzling into his neck. “What time are you leaving?” she teased.

“I have time!” he laughed, squeezing her.

“Shhh…” Robin whispered, “Heidi is asleep on the couch in the other room!”

Sam laughed. “That would be awkward!”

Robin swatted his butt saying, “I made you a lunch and some snacks in the refrigerator in the mudroom.”

“Man! How’d I get so lucky getting you?”

“God knew you needed help!” she laughed. “When are you going to be back?”

“Probably Sunday night,” he said.

“Okay, please talk to Cory about Monica. I will be praying for you.”

“Thanks, honey, I will. I love you.”

“I love you too Sam. Please be careful!”

She walked out to the truck and laid her hands on the hood of the truck and on Sam’s shoulder and prayed. “Dear Heavenly Father I ask that you please watch over my husband and our dog and ask that you cover them, the property and this truck with the blood of Jesus. Guide them with your firm hand and give him wisdom, in the name of Jesus. Amen.”

Sam said, “Thanks honey.” As he opened the door, Marty jumped into the front seat. Robin watched Marty sitting next to Sam drive down the driveway. She had an uneasy feeling in her stomach. He watched her in her purple t-shirt and thick black glasses in the rear view mirror disappear as the garage door went down, thanking the Lord for her.

Sam stopped by the gas station on the way over to Cory’s topping off trucks fuel tanks including the seventy five gallon tank behind the cab and filled five additional jerry cans with diesel. He wasn’t sure how much they needed to get the work done, but wanted to take advantage of having the equipment on site and did not want to waste time running back to town to get more fuel.

When he got to Cory’s place, Cory was binding down the equipment on the trailer. Cory asked Sam to grab a pipe next to the shop as a cheater for tightening the chains. As Sam walked by the window, he noticed Monica’s car parked back behind the shop. It was a weird place to park her car and Sam asked Cory if there was something wrong with it.

“Yeah, she blew a head gasket in it, so she needs to either get it fixed or buy a new car. I told her that she and Tyler could stay here until she got on her feet. She is driving my car in the meantime.”

“Oh! Hmmm,” Sam stuttered,. He didn’t know quite what to say. He wasn’t expecting Cory would come right out and blatantly admit Monica was living with him and the way he explained it made perfect sense. She needed help and he was helping her out. Surely they were sleeping in separate rooms and everything was on the up and up.

Cory could tell that Sam was shocked and said, “Yeah, I know it isn’t right but it is actually working out pretty good. I told you before that I didn’t really want to get married anyway. I think she is getting accustomed to it.”

“Yeah, I remember you saying that. I just wonder what people in the church are going to say.” Well so much for that theory, Sam thought.

“You know? Monica told Pastor Mike that she needed to stay here for a while. He told her that she really shouldn’t, but, really, that is all that has been said. Besides, he isn’t going to say anything. He wants my tithe check every two weeks.” Cory said laughing. “What’s he going to do? Kick me out of the church?”

Sam thought to himself, Boy, when Robin hears this she is going to blow a gasket!

Sam was leaning up against the tracks on the excavator and asked, “Cory, you know so much about the bible and end time prophecy and you have told me multiple times how we are in the midst of it; it blows me away that you are willing to live with Monica instead of marrying her? I don’t get it. As much knowledge as you have about God, I would think that you would be afraid of Him coming down on you with this decision.”

“Yes, I know!” Cory said. “Me too! I know better and you would have thought that I would feel guilty about this, but I don’t’. I even know that this is probably a mistake! It is really weird!” he said, finishing up with the last binder. “Monica felt guilty initially, but now she is fine with it too. We are going to go with; God’s grace is sufficient on this!”

“I sure hope it is for your sake! “ Sam felt guilty saying that as soon as the words came out of his mouth. Surely God’s grace is sufficient. After all, how big is your God, Sam? “I know one thing, I will sure feel a lot better when we get a place set up to bug out when it hits the fan! I was up all night thinking about what we needed to have to get ready.” Sam said.

“I think this is a wise move Sam. Looking around at the world right now and the decisions that our leaders are making, I can see where this country is going to fold up soon and it is going to be wise to be self sufficient.” Cory said. “I think we are going to need to get a group of like minded people together and have a plan set up not for if things go south, but for when they do!”

Sam thought about the irony in what Cory had just said, calling out the leaders of the country for dropping their standard, but wasn’t he doing the same thing with Monica?

Chapter Twenty Three

Chapter Twenty Three

“One of my clients at the office mentioned that he needed some things done around his farm so I mentioned it to Ben and he called them” Heidi said. “He has been up before daylight and worked until dark every day this week. You raised a hardworking son Robin.”

Robin enjoyed hearing the accolades from Heidi but still wished that Ben would call home. He had never acted like this before and this stubbornness was unusual for him. Robin could tell that not hearing from Ben bothered Sam too, but he never said anything about it. She noticed the hope in his eyes when either of the phones rang and more so the disappointment when it wasn’t Ben. It was taking a toll.

“I will meet you there at 4:00 p.m. in the foyer and we can find a table where we can all sit together” Robin said to Heidi.

“Sounds like a plan!” Heidi wondered how this weekend would go since Ben was choosing to stay at her place and she was going to the women’s conference with Robin. It was awkward and she had tried to relay some sort of neutrality to Robin. They had talked mid week on the phone and Robin had expressed her gratitude for Heidi taking Ben in. She had acknowledged that he was old enough to make his own decisions and live with those consequences. Robin knew she and Sam had made their point and any additional pressure from her or Sam would ultimately push Ben further away. Having Linda living there at the house with them and hearing her side of what happened when she left home gave them a renewed perspective of grace. Robin had come to the conclusion to lie this all before the Lord. She acknowledged that she was not in control and He was. It was a perplexing situation and she was thankful to at least know how Ben was doing and also knew that Heidi would keep an eye on him. He was physically safe; now time needed to do its work.

The conference was packed and there were more women there than Robin expected to see. She saw women from other churches that she had met over the years and it was exciting to catch up with them. Erica was taking Linda around introducing her to all of her friends. Many of the college girls from their weekly bible study signed up too. Many of them were curious about the transformation of the girl who had crashed their bible study and wanted to meet her.

The lead speaker called for attention and gave an introduction of this year’s “In the Trenches of Faith” women’s conference and opened in prayer. At the close of prayer, Monica and Seven Mile Church’s musicians led four worship songs with the last song that had been made popular and written by Meadow Song. The large group of women went wild on that one. Many of the women had their hands waving in the air, clapping and dancing together in the aisles. Heidi joined in and Robin looked over at Erica and Linda watching her in surprise and laughed. Afterwards they played an icebreaker game to help one another get to know each other. Linda did very well at that game and loved the activities and interaction with everyone. She had been alone on the street for so long and felt very happy with all of these women who were having fun and praising the Lord together.

Dinner was served as the first guest speaker, Carol Fontaine, opened with her testimony about her work in Iraq as a nurse. She had not known the Lord before she went to Iraq. After seeing the countless number of casualties come through in front of her, she had become numb to seeing death. Death had lost its sting and had become such a common daily occurrence until an Iraqi woman, about twenty eight years old, came through one night. Carol had learned enough of the language that she could carry on a conversation with her. Carol had just come in on duty for a long night shift. Most of the patients had taken their medication and were sleeping or in a medicated stupor. A patrol jeep pulled up to the hospital and a squad leader carried her in, placing her on a gurney in the hall. She had obviously been beaten to within an inch of her life and was barely coherent. It was a slow night; the doctors had just left to get something to eat and would be back within an hour. With the patient on a gurney, Carol held her hand and sat with her until the doctors returned, asking questions to prevent her from losing consciousness. What struck Carol was the peace that this woman had. The squad leader had told Carol that the word on the street was that her husband and three small children were killed in front of her, and she was raped, beaten and left for dead. The weak woman began to recount what had happened to Carol. They were all Christians in an underground church and were meeting that afternoon for prayer and worship. They had to sing quietly when they worshiped so no one outside would hear. She recalled that one of the other families had brought someone new to the group the previous week and the young lady said she knew he was not a Christian. Carol asked her how she knew and she told her that the God Yeshua from inside of her told her. That afternoon she noticed that man did not come back. They were in the midst of worship in the basement of a local store when they heard many loud footsteps above them. Everyone in the basement pushed the children into the corner and told them to be very quiet.  They surrounded them with large boxes and clay jars and draped a large rug over them. She lay with the children to help keep them quiet. She could see what was happening from under the heavy rug. “I whispered to all of them how much Yeshua loved them, even unto death. I told them to stand firm no matter and that Yeshua would help all of us get through this. Those little ones had seen so much death they understood what I was saying” she told Carol.

The Muslim soldiers found the hidden door to the basement and discovered all of them hiding there. When they found the holy bible they became furious and killed the older men and women with a sword. They began raping the younger women in front of the men when one of the children began to cry. “I tried to keep him quiet by putting my hand over his mouth but he cried harder and he wouldn’t stop,” she said. “When they pulled the rug off of us, one of the men grabbed me and beat me then started to rape me. It made my husband furious and even though I told him not to he tried to stop them. They cut his head off with a sword. My poor small children were watching and I could not get to them to cover their eyes. They saw me looking at my children and one by one they put them on a large box and told each of them to renounce Yeshua and give homage to Allah. Proudly, she said, They refused and took their death honorably. One by one they killed each of the children in front of their parents. We all cried and held our breath praying. Our children now are in heaven with Yeshua! I praised Yeshua loudly when they killed the last one! That was the last thing I remember. They beat me angrily. I do not know if anyone else in the group is still alive or not. Maybe they are all with Yeshua, I do not know. I don’t understand why Yeshua did not take me too.”

Carol’s testimony was very powerful. Every woman in the building could put themselves in her place watching their children killed in front of them.

Carol’s closing statement was: “I do know why Yeshua kept that woman alive and it was just long enough to share those words with me that night. She died the next morning. With her testimony I saw how strong the power of Jesus was even in the face of death to a child and that is why I am here before you now! Each of us has a testimony that will impact some person somewhere significantly. For you to keep it to yourself is like keeping the precious gift of eternal life hidden from someone that desperately needs it. What is the worst that can happen to you in this world? You could get your head lopped off and be with Jesus. In the words of Queen Esther, ‘if I perish, I perish.’  Even those children understood that. I encourage any of you at any of the numerous breaks over the weekend to share your testimony with someone.”

Robin looked over at Linda who was whispering something to Erica. Erica looked back at her and then nodded. She wondered what that was all about.

The last speaker of the evening had spoken and the Lead Speaker came up to the microphone. “Before we close tonight I want to give anyone an opportunity to share their own testimony that would like to.”

Erica looked at Linda who nodded dramatically raising her hand. They worked their way up to the stage to the microphone and when they got up in front of the large crowd the shock hit Linda. Erica could sense Linda’s stage fright and began their story from her perspective.

“The day that I met my friend” as she put her hand on Linda’s shoulder “had been the worst day of college life. My best friend that I had been roommates since college started told me that she was moving in with her boyfriend and leaving me to pay for the apartment by myself. I did not want to ask my parents for more money because they worked very hard. On the way home from school I got a flat tire and no one would help me change it. I am so glad my dad taught me how.” The crowd laughed, some applauded and Erica continued. “The day was not going well and I was having a pitty party for myself, driving too fast and not paying attention where I was going and got a ticket for going 42 in a school zone. That was going to cost an extra two hundred and fifty dollars that would have paid for the extra rent. When I got home I sat and cried. I did not want to teach Bible Study that night, so I asked one of my friends to teach for me. She accepted and I had planned to stay home and sulk but the Lord would not have that. I was making toast for dinner and burnt it filling the apartment with smoke so bad the fire alarm went off. I opened all of the windows but the apartment smelled like burnt toast so bad that I decided to go to Bible Study anyways.

It was the strangest night. One of the guys wanted to use the new amplifier the church had just purchased but could not get it working properly. For half an hour we tried to get it to work. When we finally did, it was extremely loud and the more Jason tinkered with it, it began to work properly. By the time we had it dialed in, we started playing, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” like three times.

Linda cut in at that moment. “That is the song I heard echoing down the street over and over. It was like Jesus was calling me as I walked down that alley searching for a warm place to sleep. When the music played the warmth of Jesus’ love intertwined with the memory of my grandmother singing it covered me. My Grandmother shared bible stories and sang with me before I went to sleep at her house. Each time the music stopped I began looking for a place to lie down and I would get so cold. Then the music would start up again pushing me on. That night I recalled hearing my grandmother tell me the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. As I walked down the alley, I looked to each side of me and there were giant red brick walls towering up on each side of me and the music was God’s voice calling me into the Promised Land.”

Linda shared her story of becoming an addict which led into prostitution and how God had healed her addiction to Meth that night when she prayed with Erica.

Sharing her best friend’s suicide was difficult and her tears flowed freely. It was also the first time she shared her story completely sober and it was like healing to her entire body. She sensed the power in sharing her testimony. When she was finished she told the audience that she was so thankful for Jesus and how He had used Erica, Robin and the nurse speaker that night. In closing she said, “Without Jesus I am not sure where I would be tonight. I owe everything in my life to Him and will follow Him where ever He asks me to go!”

Robin remembered the last speaker’s testimony at Broken Lives the day before and how he had given all of the credit for his success to Pastor Rob Landon and “the program” in comparison to Linda’s testimony. The perspective came clearly into view.

Chapter Twenty Two

Marty barked excitedly running scattering the chickens in their pen around the barn out to the driveway looking down the road. Sam stepped out of the barn just as Erica’s silver Honda turned the corner from the county road a quarter mile away. Marty barked, running in circles looking at the car and then back at Sam. Marty knew the sound of everyone’s rig and he was the official welcoming committee. He was not allowed to run out and greet anyone down the lane as they drove up and had been taught to wait until they got out of the rig before he approached the car. So he sat on his wiggling butt in great anticipation. When she opened the door he met her with a surge of dog love. “Hi Marty! I missed you too!” Erica said as she wrapped her arms around him.

“Hi honey, you’re home a day early?” Sam asked.

“Oh, I talked to my professors to see if I could skip tomorrow so I could go to the women’s conference at church with Mom and Linda. Mom bought me a ticket just in case I could get off. I sure don’t want to waste her money! Meadow Song is going to be playing there!” She said with excitement. “Can you believe it? Mom was saying that there has been such a surge in ticket sales to attend this surprise concert Pastor Mike moved the conference to the church’s auditorium.”

“Hmmm… really?” Sam thought back to his last conversation with Pastor Mike and getting enough funding for the parking lot and expansion project. I see what he is up to! He thought to himself. Robin had mentioned the upcoming women’s conference and he had made tentative plans with Corey to take a small excavator and Bobcat out to the property to work for the entire weekend provided the deal closed by Friday. It was conditional though. Robin told Sam that sometime over the weekend he needed to talk to Corey about Monica about their living accommodations. Sam reluctantly agreed. He felt that it really wasn’t his business to tell Corey how to live his life. Robin had argued that it was biblical, that an elder should go talk to Corey, and Monica should not be in a leadership position and living like this. If Corey didn’t adhere to the warning then a group of men from the church needed to talk to him, and if Cory still didn’t take action, then he would not be allowed back in the church. Robin had brought up the fact that Cory and Monica’s actions had even justified Ben’s recent change in direction and ultimately his walk with the Lord. Ben was a sensitive subject and the conversation petered out at the mention of his name. Ben’s disrespect towards his family still disturbed Sam. “I need to go check on the cows and calves”, which usually meant that he needed to go out to the barn and process everything. Sam had just walked into the barn when Marty’ announced Erica’s arrival.

After giving his daughter a hug and a kiss on the forehead, Erica popped open the trunk. Sam grabbed Erica’s suitcase out of the trunk and was following her into the house when his phone buzzed in his back pocket. Setting her suitcase down, he answered, “Hello?”

“Hey Sam, this Sheila at Valley Title Company. We have received notice that the owners in China have signed paperwork for the Jaykee Creek property. It looks like I will have everything ready by the end of the day today and you and your wife can sign the paperwork first thing tomorrow. There isn’t any reason why it can’t be recorded by noon”.

“Wow! You do very good work! I was skeptical whether you would be able to pull this off!”

“Yes, this isn’t normal but we do a lot of work with your lawyer and he is very good. I also wanted to tell you that everyone here at the office was very impressed with you and your wife and your offer to that missionary family. That was another reason why we were able to get this done so quickly. When we heard about your kindness and hearing of that little girl needed the money to get treatment, we all wanted to contribute something too, so we worked late last night to get this done for them”.

“Well thank you!” Sam replied.

“In fact,” she continued, “when your lawyer mentioned that you were also wiring an additional twenty five hundred dollars to help them, one of our girls here at the office approached the corporate office to see if they would match your generosity”.

“Oh wow! That was nice of her!”

“Yes,” she continued. “This is so crazy! The secretary she spoke with at the corporate office in New York happens to be a relation to the cousin of one of the missionaries. Their family has not been able to touch base with them because of the lack of internet access and phone service where they live is so unreliable.”

“Yes, we have had that problem communicating with them too.” Sam said. “It truly is a miracle that we were able to get this contract signed.”

Sheila continued, “Sam, the corporate office decided to double your contribution and fly the little girl and her family to Singapore for medical treatment”.

Sam stood there stunned, “You’re kidding me?”

“No, I am not!”

Sam remembered the note in the glass bottle up on the barren windswept hill buried under the rocks of the corner post for who knows how many years: And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Sam hurried into the house opening the door he hollered, “Robin! You are not going to believe this!”

Chapter Twenty One

Linda was laying in her new bedroom listening to new sounds of people stirring early in the morning. It was peaceful and homey but she was still a little apprehensive staying with Sam and Robin after their initial meeting. She liked Robin a lot. She was a good mom; very protective and forgiving. She neither justified nor condemned what her son had said but did apologize for his outburst. Linda had learned to read people well. It was the nature of her business and a skill that sometimes determined her survival on the street. The argument that she had inadvertently witnessed reminded her of one that she had been a part of when she was younger. She could relate to what Ben was going through. She had left like that too but now Linda was able to see the residual effects she had bestowed upon the family she walked away from. The pain and anguish that Robin tried so hard to suppress in order for Linda to feel welcome and the anger and frustration that Sam didn’t hide very well. Her new friend Erica was such a strong and powerful supporter of hers. Linda had wanted to leave this family but through Erica’s strong insistence and friendship she had agreed to give it a try for a week.

Linda walked into the kitchen and both Sam and Robin laughed. Her brown hair was standing straight out in multiple directions, she had borrowed a sweatshirt of Erica’s that was at least once size too large for her as were her pajama bottoms.

“Good morning Linda!” Sam said, “How did you sleep?” Robin asked her if she wanted some coffee and she nodded. “I slept so good!” Linda said, smiling sleepily. She sat in a chair at the table pulling her knees up to her chest with her feet on the seat of the chair. “It has been such a long time since I have slept in a real bed all night!” Linda had washed off all of her makeup the night before and there was one bruise by her temple that was yellow and healing up. Her eyes were still a little hollow but there was a sparkle in them that Robin keyed in on. It was her soul coming back alive! Robin put a large cup of coffee in front of her with some cream in a small container if she wanted to add it. Marty came over to Linda and put his head on her hip. Linda really liked Marty and gently stroked the side of his cheek. Marty loved her attention and accidently snored out loud in bliss.

“It sure looks like you did,” Sam said. Linda could tell that Sam was not sure of her being there and could sense his awkwardness. “You two girls have a great day” he said, walking over towards Robin. She handed him his lunch box and gave him a kiss. Marty broke away from Linda and followed Sam to the door. Sam turned and spoke to the dog saying, “You keep an eye on the place while I am gone Marty” and patted him on the head.

Robin leaned up against the granite countertop on the island and asked Linda, “What do you want to do today?”

“I don’t know. I would like to read my bible for a little bit,” she answered.

“Well you are welcome to join me in my daily routine if you’d like and we can do it together.” Robin offered.

“What is your daily routine?” Linda asked.

“I always start off the day in prayer. I have found when I skip prayer in the morning it makes for a rough day! After I pray, I read the bible. I have been doing this thing where you read the bible in a year. You can join me where I am at. After that I think we need to go shopping and get you some clothes!”

“Oh that sounds fun! My mom and I used to go shoppi…ng when I was younger.” Linda stuttered realizing what she was saying. She had not allowed herself to embrace those old memories. Robin moved on acting like she never noticed.

“This afternoon there are going to be some guest speakers at the church sharing their testimony of the Broken Lives program. I thought maybe we could stop by, listen to them and find out about the meeting times if you’re interested.

“Oh that would be good. I am a little nervous about it but Erica told me that the program had really helped you and Sam when you were younger”.

“Yes, it was very helpful for me. My life was a mess and they helped me get on track. I met a lady there who became my mentor and showed me how to embrace my relationship with the Lord. It was like she introduced me to the Lord. I want to help you like that if you will let me Linda”.

“Thank you Robin. Your family has been great. I cannot tell you how much it means to me. If Erica had not stopped me that night I am not sure if I would be alive today”.

There were about twenty people at the Broken Lives meeting. The first man that got up to give his testimony shared how he and his wife were Christians and their relationship was very solid. Pressures from the demands and deadlines on the job eventually took their toll first on their church obligations which eventually broke down their communication. He was climbing the ladder rapidly at a law firm. It started off with a long lunch with cocktails and evolved into working late several times a week. His secretary seemed to understand him and the struggles of climbing the corporate ladder and he allowed it to go too far one night at work and then everything fell apart. His wife sensed that all of this work was having negative impact on their relationship and decided to surprise him with dinner. She walked in and… After his divorce, he started drinking and could not stop. Eventually they fired him and he ended up on the street at the mission.

He came to Broken Lives by way of a visiting pastor who invited him to a meeting at a Bridal Ridge Community Church in California. The church had a unique program that really worked to change how you looked at yourself and revealed to you how God had a plan for your life. It was a cutting edge program similar to AA developed by Pastor Rob Landon changing the way we approached God.

After attending for a  year , he met a lady through the program and they married and began a new life together. They were both councilors now, proud to be coming alongside Pastor Rob Landen and the Broken Lives program.

Robin looked over at Linda. She was completely engulfed in his story, tears rolling down her cheeks. Robin got a tissue out of her purse and gave Linda one.

Hearing Rob Landon’s name perked Robins interest. She listened closely to what the speaker was saying.

He finished off with, “My wife and I owe everything to Pastor Rob Landon and his Broken Lives program. Without them I certainly would still be on the street”. Something about their testimony bothered her but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

The next two speakers had similar stories. One lady had especially touched Robin’s heart when she shared her testimony about one of her children who ran away from home . That hit too close to home with her. Each of the speakers dedicated their success to Broken Lives and Pastor Rob Landon.

When Linda and Robin were driving home, Linda commented on the success of the program.  Still something wasn’t right, but she could not put her finger on why this had left such a bad taste in her mouth. Linda commented on what the last speaker had said, “You can go anywhere in the country, to any church where the Broken Lives program is offered and same curriculum will be there.” Robin had missed it because she had still been reeling from the second lady’s testimony. What Heidi’s said when they were at coffee came back to her mind:

“the material Pastor Rob Landon wrote for “the program” was in nearly every church in the country and that Broken Lives program had been significantly if not entirely responsible for the transformation of up to eighty percent of the broken homes and restoring families. It is making a significant impact on the churches and communities across the nation if not the world.”

Robin then remembered looking up on the web, Pastor Rob Landon coming alongside the Most Holy Bishop, embracing the Mother of Apostles Church and announcing that all faiths worship the same God.

Robin was sick to her stomach. The deception was much deeper than she ever realized.

Chapter Twenty

Fortunately for Ben the jeep started right away. The old Willy’s had a starter on the floorboard that sometimes made it challenging to start, especially when in a hurry. He sure wasn’t going to win any speed races with the six cylinder and the low gears, but it got him away from his dad’s fury. He had never seen his dad that upset before and wanted to put some time and distance between each other for a while. This whole episode came about so suddenly throwing him for a loop. He needed some place to stay to gather his thoughts. His only refuge was at Susan’s place where she lived with her mom, Heidi, in Kuna.

Ben called Susan and told her what had happened. She wasn’t overly surprised that Ben’s folks responded like that. They were more conservative than most people.

“Wow Ben. What are you going to do?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I know I am not going back there until things calm down though. I have never seen my dad so mad. I really set him off.” Ben answered.

“I wonder if mom would let you stay in our barn for a while. We could clean out the loft and the old office. There is a bathroom and a shower in there too. That would be so awesome to have you here!”

“But Susan, how is your mom going to respond when she finds out that we got caught having sex behind the church?” he asked.

“Oh she would be furious for having sex and getting caught in the church parking lot, but not because we had sex. She thought we have been having sex for the last six months! When we went to Bend at Christmas, we talked about it. She didn’t believe me when I said we hadn’t done it. She even offered to put me on the pill. Some of that was to regulate my monthly period, but she did say that she didn’t want me having an accident.” Susan explained. “Let me talk to Mom. I bet she will be okay with it, she likes you. Come on over here and by the time you get here I will know something. Just don’t say her anything about getting caught in the church parking lot!” Susan laughed.

It was about an hour drive over to Kuna and Ben needed the time to process everything that had happened earlier that morning. It seemed like his whole life was falling apart. Now his folks were upset with him which would have an adverse effect on school. It was a strange turn of events and he didn’t know what to do. Why was having pre-marital sex such a big deal anyway?

Heidi was working with a three year old sorrel in the round pen when Susan came out to talk to her.

“Mom, can I talk to you?”

The sorrel was trotting around in circles clock-wise, then Heidi gave it a command turning it to gallop in the opposite direction. The horse had worked up a sweat and was getting tired. Heidi dropped her hands to her side and the sorrel stopped, turned and walked towards her. “Good boy” she whispered, clipping the lead rope to the halter she led the horse out of the round pen toward the pasture. “What do you need honey?”

Susan walked along with Heidi to the lush green pasture opening the gate for her. “Well, Ben and his folks got in kind of an argument and Ben left home. He just called me and told me about it. He is coming over here right now and I told him that I would talk to you.”

“Oh that’s too bad. What did they get in an argument about?” Heidi asked.

“Well, Ben told them that we were having sex.”

“Oh! Yeah, I bet that didn’t go over well with Robin!” Heidi exclaimed. “What was he thinking?”

“Obviously he wasn’t. Anyway, I guess they got in a huge argument and Sam got very angry with him. It scared Ben so bad he jumped in the truck and got out of there. He doesn’t have a place to go right now and I was wondering if it would be alright if he stayed in the barn for a few days?

“Hmmm… I am sorry to hear about that. He is such a good boy. I guess we can talk about it when he gets here.”

Heidi liked Ben a lot. He was hard working, smart and had more character than most grown men she knew. She had always hoped that Susan and Ben would stay together and eventually get married. With him heading off to school in Moscow next year would determine where their relationship was going. He was a good looking young man and the college ladies would be all over him. Susan still had one year of high school and Heidi hoped that she would stay focused on Ben while he was gone to Moscow.

Heidi had given birth to Susan when she was seventeen, Susan’s age now, and had raised her on her own. It hadn’t always been easy. There had been a couple of guys that lived with them over the years as Susan was growing up and Susan had gotten very attached to them. When they left, it had been difficult for the little girl. She had always wanted a daddy like everyone else and as she got older Heidi could see that Susan could tend to be a little promiscuous desiring that male companionship most girls got from their dad. It didn’t help that she was well developed and quite attractive. There was never a shortage of suitors until Ben came along. Ben’s calm demeanor had an effect on Susan and having him around made Heidi’s life with her daughter a lot easier. Heidi was surprised that Ben had left home over an argument. They were such a solid and stable family although she did think Robin was a little too strict with her Christianity sometimes.

“C’mon in Ben!” Heidi hollered over the barking dogs. She was pouring glasses of iced sun tea for all of them and offered one to Ben, “How are you doing Ben?”

Ben sat down at the counter next to Susan. “Well it has been some kind of day, that’s for sure!”

“Ya, that’s what Susan was saying. She said you left in kind of a hurry. Did you pack a suitcase?”

Ben laughed and said, “I forgot it under my bed; along with my toothbrush.”

“That’s a strange place to leave your toothbrush.” Smiling at Ben. “I am sorry you’re going though this right now Ben. Those rough discussions are hard on everyone and yet it is part of cutting the apron strings. I am sure your folks are concerned. Have you talked to them?”

“No, Dad is pretty mad at me.” Susan kicked Ben under the counter and Ben looked at Susan. She shot him a look that said, be careful what you say!

“I said some things that I probably shouldn’t have said.” Ben continued.

Heidi was at the sink washing up vegetables for dinner. “We all say things like that once in a while and it usually bites us in the butt. Then you have to go back later to eat crow.” Turning back towards them she said, “after you do that about half of your life, you learn that what you’re thinking is usually best left unsaid!”

Ben laughed, relaxing him. “The problem is that we don’t agree on a whole lot anymore.”

Heidi said, “Yup, every person comes to a point in their life where they have to stand up for what they believe in. But you can’t be standing in someone else’s front yard expecting them to change to how you believe.”

“Yeah, I think that is what dad was kind of saying.” Ben took a big drink of iced tea. “Heidi, I need a place to stay until things cool down a little.”

“Well Ben, you’re more than willing to stay in the barn. There is a shower and a bathroom out there. Susan will get you a towel and washcloths. It probably needs to be cleaned up some. You probably need to let your mom know that you’re okay. It isn’t fair to let her worry no matter how much you don’t agree with her.”

“Okay, thank you.”

Susan and Ben went to the barn to clean up the place for Ben.

Heidi texted Robin, “Ben is here n sleepn in the barn 2night. Wanted u 2 know”.

Robin responded immediately, “Thank u Heidi!”

After dinner Ben went to bed thinking of what Heidi said about calling his mom. He was still upset about her holding him to walking the Christian walk that he really didn’t want to call her, at least not yet anyway. He wanted to make her suffer a little bit. She just didn’t understand his life. It was too difficult to walk according to the standards that she held. Besides, it was easy for her because she already had a family. She didn’t have to go out in the world and deal with people like he did especially heading to college now. College was more liberal than her way of life. She had no idea how hard it was when you’re the only one standing out from the crowd because you did everything right. Ben was tired of getting teased all the time. His mom was out of touch with reality now days.

Truthfully what bothered him the most was he knew  if he went back home, his parents would make him talk to Pastor Mike about Cory and Monica living together. Tyler would think he was a snitch and Cory was a pretty popular guy in the church. He was the “Man of God” everyone wanted to be like. All of the youth group guys thought Monica was really hot too. If he said something about their relationship he could just imagine the crap he would take. The thought of all the guys in youth group coming down on him was too much.

Robin was in bed next to Sam who was sound asleep. She was praying quietly, tears in her eyes, a heaviness in her heart, like a piece of her soul was missing, “Lord please watch over Ben. Keep him in your hands and a firm hand on his path.” as she drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Nineteen

“Ben let’s get going, were going to be late for church.” Robin hollered for the third time.

“I don’t feel like going to church today, mom.” He responded back from his bedroom.

Sam had just come in from checking on the new calf. “Where’s Ben, we need to get going?” he asked Robin.

“I don’t know what has gotten into him. He is acting strange. He says he doesn’t feel like going to church. I have asked him three times now.”

Sam went to Ben’s room and knocked on the door. “Hey chop, chop were going to be late. Let’s go!”

“I don’t want to go today.” Ben said stubbornly.

This was unusual for Ben. They never had to ask him twice about going, he was typically waiting on everyone else. “What’s up, son? You always want to go to church.”

“I just don’t feel like it today.” Ben said.

“Well, get going, and we will talk about this later.” Sam said impatiently. “You know how your mom hates to walk in late to church. I am right with her on that too, so let’s get going!”

The last thing Ben wanted to do was talk about this later with his folks. He dreaded going to church and running into Pastor Mike. The last look he gave Ben was enough for him to hide for the next hundred years. He was tired of going to church anyway. There were too many rules and those rules confined his freedom. After tasting that forbidden fruit with Susan he couldn’t get it out of his mind. He thought about her all the time and wanted to have sex with her again and she felt the same way. What was the big deal anyway? It was their bodies; they should be able to do whatever they wanted. It wasn’t like they were hurting anyone else. The more he thought about it the more he felt like he needed to move out and get a place of his own so he could live how he wanted to live. Living under the roof with mom and dad was too confining anymore. The problem was that he wanted to go to school at the University of Idaho in their Agriculture program. If he moved out, he might lose mom and dad’s blessing for assistance. He didn’t want to get a loan. The smart thing to do was to live here at home until fall and then he could have a place of his own in Moscow. Reluctantly he got dressed and hurried out to where they were sitting in the truck. He could tell his mom was annoyed at being late.

Robin told Sam that Erica was going to bring Linda out this afternoon to meet them and she thought it would be nice to have them stay for dinner.

They arrived at church five minutes early. Cory Jacobs was walking in at the same time and stopped to talk to them. Robin asked him how Monica was doing, his face flushed and Robin wondered if it was just an early spring sunburn. “Oh, she is good. She is going to be leading worship this morning actually.”

“Oh good, I would like to visit with her!” Robin exclaimed. Sam told Cory about going back out to the property to find the corner pins with Aaron. He asked Cory about the old road up to the spring and how hard it would be to get equipment up there to develop it. Cory had an older small excavator that he could let Sam use if he wanted to haul it up there.

Ben scoured the building to see if Pastor Mike was anywhere to be seen. He saw him talking to an elderly gentleman on the far side of the church so he headed in the opposite direction to where his family normally sat. Once he got there he opened his bible and stared at the pages.

Sam shook Pastor Mike’s hand on the way to their seats. Pastor Mike acknowledged Robin and asked how Ben was doing. “Good, I think, he’s finished with school now and trying to figure out what the next move was in life.” Pastor Mike followed Sam’s glance over to where Ben was sitting reading his Bible.

Pastor Mike looked at Sam quizzically wondering if maybe Ben had told them about Mike catching Ben and Susan behind the church. Mike chose to hold his tongue and give Ben an opportunity to talk to him personally.

Sam and Robin worked their way over to where Ben was sitting. Sam sat next to Ben where he was still staring at his bible. Sam reached over and took Ben’s bible and turned it around saying “You will understand it much better if you read it the right way up.” and smiled at Ben.

Ben’s face flushed. “Dang, I just can’t catch a break!” he spoke under his breath. It all compelled him to pray, “Please Lord just get me through this service without running into Pastor Mike.”

Monica stepped up to the worship platform to open in prayer. Before she began she caught Robin’s eye. Robin gave her a supportive smile and Monica looked away abruptly, stuttering with her opening prayer. The lights dimmed and worship began. Monica avoided looking over at Robin. She knew that Robin would find her after service and ask how things were going with Cory. She did not know what she was going to say to her so she devised a plan to grab Tyler and quickly go somewhere with him. Monica and Cory had driven separate cars to church to give the impression they were living in separate places.

After service Sam, Robin and Ben were working their way out of the crowded church. Pastor Mike was shaking hands and when they passed he put his hand on Ben’s shoulder smiling said “How are you doing Ben?” Ben’s knees were shaking and he couldn’t think clearly. Everything was a blur. His hands were sweating profusely. He was searching for anyway out of this situation. “How’s Susan?”

“Oh, hi Pastor Mike. Susan is great!” he said in a complete panic. Suddenly he saw Tyler and said “Oh hey, there’s Tyler, I have to go!” and hollered to Tyler.

Robin looked at Sam with an “Okay, that is weird” kind of look and she saw Monica heading in that direction too.

“Hey Monica!” She called out. Monica saw her and knew there was no avoiding the meeting, she reluctantly gave Robin a hug. “How are you doing Robin? That dress looks so good on you!”

“Well thank you Monica! How are you doing?”

Monica spotted her son, Tyler, talking to Ben. Tyler was lavishing the attention that Ben had suddenly given him. “Oh there’s Tyler” she exclaimed! “I need to take him downtown and we are running late! It was so nice seeing you Robin.” She turned abruptly heading in Tyler’s direction. “Hey Tyler are you ready? We need to get going or we’re going to be late.” Robin saw the confusion on Tyler’s face as his mom pulled him away abruptly from the conversation with Ben.

Robin went over and put her hand on Sam’s arm “Something is up with Ben.”

“What?” Sam asked.

“I am not sure but we are going to find out!” Robin said determined.

Ben was already sitting in the truck staring blankly into the parking lot when Sam and Robin got there. Sam looked at Robin acknowledging the strangeness in how Ben was acting.

“Are you alright Ben?” Robin asked.

“Yes, why?”

“I don’t know you seem a little preoccupied.” Robin started “You kind of cut Pastor Mike off when he was talking to you and that seemed out of character for you.”

“I just needed to talk to Tyler about some stuff, that’s all.”

“Oh what is going on with Tyler?” Sam asked.

Ben panicked he hadn’t had time to think of a good answer and blurted out “Well I wanted to ask him how it was going living with Cory now. He said it was weird living there the other day at youth group.”

“What? Monica and Cory are living together?” Robin said shocked. That explained why she acted the way she did after church.

“Does Pastor Mike know about this?”Sam said.

Ben was having an out of body experience. Everything was coming down on top of him. He couldn’t keep all of the stories straight and wished he hadn’t said anything. “No, no one knows about it and I wasn’t supposed to say anything.”

“Well we need to take this to Pastor Mike because this is not right. Monica is leading in worship and Cory is a prominent man in the men’s group. This is not acceptable for any Christian leader in the church!” Robin said determined.

Ben realized how this had completely unraveled. The last thing he wanted to do was to sit down with his parents with Pastor Mike. He blew up and said “I am not going to be a snitch on my best friend! He asked me not to tell anyone.”

“Well honey this needs to be dealt with. Premarital sex is a sin in God’s eyes and when it is in the church then it effects the whole church body.”

“Man, you are so Holier than thou, mom! Everyone has sex now days. You need to get with the program!” Ben screamed.

Sam slammed on the brakes and pulled the truck off the road almost putting it in the ditch scaring everyone in the truck and the cars following him. He turned around to face his son and said “Don’t you ever talk to your mother like that again!”

Robin gently put her hand on Sam’s arm and softly said to Ben. “What is going on Ben?”

Ben had tears running down his face and he was looking out the window into the field. He had one eye cautiously on his dad. Sam had never been aggressive like that with Ben and it was frightening.

With a sigh Ben told his parents what happened after youth group, how Pastor Mike, his wife and their daughter had caught them having sex in the truck in the parking lot of the church.

Robin was shocked and started crying “I cannot believe that you did that Ben. We have tried to raise you to be a good Christian man and model what that is supposed to look like.”

They drove in silence the rest of the way home. Robin stared out the window touching a Kleenex to the corner of her eye.

As they pulled into the driveway Sam told Ben. “You need to understand something son. This is not going to be happening under the roof of our house. You need to talk with Susan and stop this and change the course of the path you’ve turned on.”

Erica and Linda had arrived while Sam and Robin were at church, they were now coming out of the house towards the truck. Everyone looked at them, the truck doors were all open and Ben said, “Yeah right dad, you will not allow me to love my girlfriend but you’re going to let a prostitute live in your house!”

Sam lunged for Ben but Ben ducked and ran to the Willy’s Jeep sitting in the driveway. Robin grabbed Sam’s arm and said “No Sam! Let him go!” Erica turned to Linda in shock who was looking at the ground ashamed.

A rooster crowed from the barn.

Chapter Eighteen

Sam laid on the bed watching as Robin stood in front of the mirror taking her makeup off, Sam fidgeted with her phone and jumped as suddenly it began to ring. He picked it up and it was Erica “Oh, hi dad… is mom there?”

“She is taking her makeup off do you want me to relay a message to her?”

“No, that’s okay can I talk to her?”

“Sure” he rolled off the bed and handed the phone to Robin. She mouthed “who is it?” and he said “It’s your daughter.”

Taking the phone from him she said “Hi…. No, I haven’t had a chance to…. I will call you when I know… I know honey….. I understand…. Yes dear…. I love you.” and she hung up.

Sam laid back on the bed watching his wife. He loved watching her do her nightly routine. The things women did to make themselves presentable in their own eyes. He never understood why she went through all of that. She didn’t need to for his sake. “So what’s Erica want?” he said laughing.

Robin was finished at the sink and came over to the bed kissing Sam deeply and then lay down across from him wearing her purple t-shirt and her black thick glasses. Her hair was up, she was irresistible to him like that and she knew it.

“Okay, what am I getting roped into!” he said.

Robin told Sam about Erica’s bible study the other night and the girl that had walked in off the street and how she felt that the Lord had healed her addiction to Crystal Meth.

“Wow! That is something!” Sam said listening intently. He was very proud of Erica. She had a heart like her mom and him.

“Ya, Linda has been staying on the couch at Erica’s place for several days now. Erica wants to get her into the Broken Lives program at our church. Sam she wants to know if she can stay here for a while in her old room until she can get on her feet. She has nowhere to go Sam.”

Sam rolled off the bed and walked towards the sink. “I am not so sure having a prostitute-addict in our house is such a good idea Robin.”

“Ex-prostitute and addict Sam. She is a new creation in Christ old things have passed away.”

Sam picked up his toothbrush and brushed his teeth. When he was finished he walked over to the bed and lay down propped up on an elbow with a sigh. “Ya, I can’t argue with that. Is this what you want to do?”

“Yes, can we try it for a while? Sam, she doesn’t have anyone and her parents won’t take her back. She is only 17.”

“Well we need some boundaries. She needs to understand that this is just a test to see if it will work out.”

“I will mentor her Sam. This is going to go so well! Thank you!”

“Well Robin, now we need to talk about that property Aaron and I went out to look at. I think time is of the essence.” He told her about the sign being blown away and how he felt bad for the missionary family over in China. If they were expecting to use this money to pay for doctor bills and the sign blew away they are really in trouble.” He told her about finding the note and the quarter from 1948.

“What did Aaron think about the place?” Robin asked.

“He loved it. He actually put dibs on one of the caves!”

She laughed “I like him, he is very knowledgeable. How much is the property and what do you think it is worth?”

“They want fifteen thousand. Aaron and I talked about it. With the spring, it is probably worth twenty thousand.”

“So now what are your plans with this place?” she asked.

“Well especially after talking to Aaron today. I would like to develop the spring, build a small place with a greenhouse attached to it and get a little prepared in the event things go south. Like Aaron said we may be heading for some tough times.”

“Here is my honest opinion, Sam. I am concerned that if you buy this place you are going to spend every weekend working on it and skip going to church like you did during hunting season. That being said we were planning on finding someplace special to tithe on the money you got from your uncle, I think we should give it to the missionaries in China for their little girl. And I think you should pay twenty thousand for the property if you’re going to buy it. Those missionaries are doing God’s work.”

It amazed Sam how he could pray to the Lord for something specific and Robin consistently confirmed what he prayed for.

I will call them and set it up on Monday with the lawyer. If there aren’t any problems with the title we could close in a week.

Chapter Seventeen

The house smelled like Robin had been cooking all day and both men’s appetite was ripe. Marty went immediately to the kitchen abandoning the men to sit at Robin’s feet, his performance stellar, eyes adoring and tongue drooling. “I missed you too, Marty!” She grabbed a biscuit from the cupboard and rewarded Marty for his performance.

“Are you two hungry as well?” She asked giving Sam a kiss as he walked in the kitchen.

They both answered “Yes!” in unison.

“Good!” Robin handed a plate of well seasoned rib eyes to Sam and asked Aaron if he wanted something to drink.

“Water is fine. Do you mind if I wash up?” Aaron asked.

Robin pointed towards the bathroom down the hall, put his glass of water on the counter and went out to talk to Sam.

“How was your day?”he asked as she snuggled up next to his side. He had just placed the steaks on the grill and turned to embrace her.

“It was really good!” she said and kissed him.

“How was you and Aaron’s trip to the fort?” she teased.

It was very good! Man Robin, Aaron has so much knowledge about end times! He blew me away! You would enjoy talking to him.”

When the steaks were finished they all sat down at the table and Sam blessed the food.

“So Aaron, did you hear about when the most Holy Bishop was elected back in 2013? The number thirteen seemed to weave throughout the entire election?” That was just about the only thing Sam knew prophetically thanks to Robin but he wanted to get the two of them talking.

“Yes, I did Sam, it definitely piqued my curiosity. What is more interesting to me lately is his stand on abortion, same sex marriage, and then some of his statements he has made in regard to merging religions. I was quite shocked when I heard he said Jesus failed when he died on the cross.” Did you hear about that?

“Yes,” Robin jumped in “Wasn’t that strange coming from a Holy Bishop? What a contradiction! Jesus dying on the cross paid for everyone’s sin. Forever! It is the foundation of our belief!

“Yeah, it is beginning to look like this Holy Bishop is a proponent for Chrislam, the one world religion.” Aaron answered. He could tell that Robin knew her prophecy. “Now he is getting involved in our politics here in the USA and other parts of the world. Did you know that he is the only Holy Bishop ever to address congress!”

“I know!” Bible prophecy “being fulfilled before our very eyes!” It will not be long and there will be a one world religion, one world monetary system, and one world government. This character is showing signs that make him a good candidate for the false prophet. It will be well worth it to keep an eye on him and that church.”

“All of these religions have been at each other’s throats for thousands of years and now one man comes along and says, hey, were all on the same team! That is messed up” Sam interjected. “There sure has been a lot of innocent blood spilled over religion.”

“Yes, religion has spilled a lot of blood and will continue until the end. At one time the Mother of Apostles even controlled the word of God during the dark ages.” Aaron answered.

Wasn’t that part of the rebellion with Martin Luther back in 1544?”Robin asked.

Aaron was impressed with Robin’s knowledge “Yes, Mother of Apostles insisted that their bishop’s needed to stand between the people and God Almighty for confession of sins. The Holy High Bishop declared a mandate stating that in order for the people to be saved and forgiven of their sins they needed to pay a higher cost towards charity in the church of course and do good works.”

“There are many pastors of mega churches on television today doing the same thing!” Robin said. “Send your tithe for this prayer shawl and God will heal your broken hip and bless you tenfold!”

“Yes that is called Prosperity movement telling poor, hurting people if they give money to their ministry then God will multiply their savings substantially. Quite a few churches teach that by their charities or deeds they are saved from Hell which directly says that Jesus’ death on the cross was not sufficient.” Aaron said taking another helping of asparagus and morel mushrooms. “This is good!” complimenting her.

Robin wiped her mouth with her red checkered napkin “Yeah, that’s not what my bible says! For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Those bishops are all men just like us and are all subject to deception.”

“Jesus said multiple times to test those that come in His name­, Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them!” Aaron said. “It amazes me how people are falling for this half baked religion!”

Sam mumbled under his breath “yeah, you got that right!” he had his own personal opinion of Mother of Apostles.

Aaron took a big gulp of water and set his glass back on the table.

“I came across something a while back and it is very curious to me. I am not sure what to think about it but it is shrouded in coincidences and conspiracy theories. You have heard of the four horseman of the apocalypse?”

“Yes” Sam said happy to have some knowledge of what they were talking about “The white horse, red horse, black horse and the pale horse. Right?”

“Yes.”

“Isn’t the one on the white horse the antichrist?” Sam said.

“Well that is just it. I am not sure if he is the antichrist or a ruler. I was thinking about this the other day and threw some numbers together and, well, it shocked me.”

Let me run this by you guys,” Aaron offered “Do you remember when our president won the peace prize before he was elected? He hadn’t actually done anything except run for president with a peace agenda.”

“Yeah, I remember, that was bizarre,” Sam said.

Okay so listen to this, the day he was chosen for the peace prize happened to fall on October 9, 2009, the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. That caught my attention but hey, no big deal. They presented the award to him on December 10, 2009 which was Hanukah Eve. That seemed started looking like a coincidence. Was there a pattern forming here? That night in the same town of Oslo, Norway a strange aberration in the sky appeared. Some said it was a rocket. I had never seen anything like it before. They called it the Norway Spiral. Have you seen it? “Hmm… no,” both Robin and Sam said looking at each other.

“Well, listen, there’s more.” Aaron continued. “In the book of Daniel it gives specific numbers between events that will occur. Listen to this. 1260 days after being chosen for this award the president rode into Jerusalem on tenth day of Nissan on the Jewish calendar which also happened to be the same day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem. The Presidential plane flew the vehicle which was made especially for the president over to Jerusalem. Ironically they nicknamed this vehicle “the Beast” because it was impenetrable, well, it broke down so they had to borrow a rig from over there just like Jesus borrowed the colt the day he rode into Jerusalem. Now, is this a coincidence? When the president went through the streets the Jewish people waved flags and laid palm branches down much like they did when Jesus rode through. The day after the apostles and Jesus arrived in Jerusalem Jesus spoke to the apostles telling them about the abomination that causes desolation standing in the Holy place where he did not belong spoken of by Daniel the prophet. That same day, eleventh day of Nissan, March 22, 2013 the president stood in the Holy place , the church of the Nativity, where Jesus was born. There are a lot of coincidences occurring there. In almost every parable that Jesus taught regarding the end times he spoke of the Master or the King and how he was always delayed. Personally, I think the rapture was supposed to happen sometime in 2013 but the world got on their knees for three days during the first part of May 2013. United in prayer and fasting for the direction where our nation was heading, God gave us a period of grace to turn from our sins just like He gave Nineveh in the book of Jonah. Unfortunately as you can tell by today’s news our country has chosen the wrong direction and now the time to pay the fiddler is fast approaching.

I am afraid there is nothing that can prevent the course we have chosen for our own destruction.”

Chapter Sixteen

Aaron got his compass out spreading the map over the hood of the truck and adjusted the map to the layout of the land. There was an old dilapidated three strand barbed wire fence that looked like it might surround the property, it seemed like the fence lined up with the map. Aaron got out his metal detector and was shocked to find an old corner pin buried under a pile of rocks at the corner of the fence. “Wow, that was fortunate!” he said. “When we drove up here I’ll be honest with you I didn’t think we would find anything!” He set up the rest of his survey equipment and off of that pin headed up the hill. Green grass was coming up everywhere with the wildflowers starting to show. Marty was paralleling them up the hill exploring the exciting scents of deer, coyote and other smaller animals, occasionally giving a halfhearted chase to a cottontail. It didn’t take long before steep hike and pleasant afternoon had the men shed down to a t-shirt. They followed the fence line across the top of a rocky hill to a post with a platform on the bottom piled up with rock to hold the post upright. There was a section pin on that corner buried into the rocky ground. They could see the next corner standing off in the distance like a lone sentinel guarding the property. The breeze was constant and felt good in the warm sunshine. When they came to the next corner Aaron took out his metal detector and searched everywhere for a pin but couldn’t find it. “Hmm, maybe it is under the pile of rocks where the corner post is.” Sam moved a couple of the large rocks and found a tin container tucked in under the rocks. He pulled it out and it had something inside of it. The lid was almost rusted shut. He sat down on a large rock and really cranked on the lid. With constant pressure it broke free revealing the contents. There were seven horseshoe nails for mending fence, a silver quarter dated 1948 and a small glass medicine bottle that had a note inside. The top was rusted tight. Sam tapped it against a rock to loosen the rust and it opened. He unrolled the plain white paper and in handwritten pencil was scratched roughly:

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you

“Hmm..” Sam pondered looking at Aaron. “Do you think there is some sort of hidden treasure around here?”

Sam took a photo to show Robin and then put all of the contents back the way he found it.

“Boy, hard telling Sam, that is a comforting scripture. Was the person who used to own this a Christian?”

“Well his nephew is a missionary in China. “ Sam replied.

After searching for some time and not finding the corner pin they headed down towards the last one.

“Hey Aaron, I want to show you this spring and the caves, it’s really cool!”

They had to circle around through the middle of the property to get in under the steep bluffs. The spring was flowing well and was vibrant with life. As they approached the stream Marty growled testing the breeze that was drifting towards them. Both Sam and Aaron stopped as one large and two smaller Mule deer bucks bounced like they had springs on their feet from under a lone Cottonwood tree below them. “That buck had a decent rack!” Sam said. “He could be a toad come hunting season!” Aaron agreed as they continued up to the spring. Wildflowers were growing on both sides. It was a green oasis in the little cove. Aaron crawled inside one of the caves saying “Okay dude, if everything falls apart this one is mine!”

“You’re on buddy!” Sam laughed. Lower down the hill below the spring there was a lone cottonwood tree with grass growing around it. Aaron stopped there taking his vest off and getting his water bottle out, he sat on a large rock. Chukars were calling further up the canyon and a group answered just up the hill. “Man this is a nice place Sam. Look at that view!” Sam got into his pack retrieving his water and a package of elk jerky that he had recently made. Marty wasElk Jerkey recipe cooling off in the spring water running down the hillside. Hearing the plastic bag being removed from Sam’s pack got his attention and he moved closer to Sam. Sam threw a piece of jerky over to Aaron and also to Marty.

Aaron laid back in the tall grass chewing on it looking towards the sky. “I bet the view of the stars here would be phenomenal!”

“Yeah, I bet you could see forever this far from the city lights.” Sam agreed.

Did you know that Mother of Apostles have an observatory and it is fixed in the southeastern skies and has been for the last five years?”

What are they looking for?” Sam asked laying back as well.

“Many people think they are looking for the return of a brown dwarf star that is due to pass by earth. In theory it will potentially affect the earth’s gravitational pull and may even cause the earth to wobble on its axis. That is interesting because that coincides with what the Bible says will happen in Revelation. Some people call it planet X or Niburu, others call it a conspiracy theory. Mother of Apostles seems to know that something is coming in the skies though. Why would a church spend that much money on an observatory? It is crazy. Do you know that observatory is one of the strongest telescopes in the world. It’s very secretive which adds to the conspiracy theories surrounding it but there is one thing that is especially odd…” Aaron paused for effect and Sam looked over at him. “…they call the thing Lucifer!”

“What?” Sam sat up on an elbow looking back at Aaron, “No way! Why? That’s just weird!” especially coming from a church.”

Sam was perplexed. He never cared for that church since he was little and hearing Aaron talk about some of this stuff confirmed his gut feelings. Sam laid back down staring at the sky and contemplated about what Aaron was saying, he knew Aaron believed it too…They didn’t just have a telescope named Lucifer, were being led by Lucifer himself!”

You want me to really blow you away Sam?

“Sure” Sam said, figuring that it wouldn’t take a lot at this point.

I believe when the rapture of the church does happen, the False Prophet which I believe is sitting on his throne will announce to the world that Christians were taken by Aliens. It is all being set up preprogramming the people right now with all the movies about aliens and zombies. Even the president has mentioned there could be an alien presence and I heard the other day that the Russian president was ready to come out with a statement about it.

“Do you believe in aliens Aaron?” Sam asked.

Well, Sam, back to what Jesus said. In those days it will be like it was in the days of Noah. In those days, Satan’s angels saw that women were fine and came down having relations with them which produced offspring that were super human. They called them “the men of renowned or giants, and the Nephilim” Those were the ones when the Israelites came to the Promised Land and sent the spies in, they saw all of the giants. The spies said that they were like grasshoppers in their sight! Really big dudes!” I know this sounds crazy but there have been skeletons of these giants found all over the world.

It has always been Satan’s plan to corrupt the lineage of Christ to prevent the Savior coming to this earth. By sending the fallen angels to have sex with human women it corrupted the human DNA. There were only seven uncorrupted people on the planet, which were Noah’s family; when God sent the flood that wiped them out.

So to answer your question Aaron I don’t believe in aliens per se but do believe that “aliens” are actually Satan’s fallen angels sent to deceive mankind for the last time. When thousands of Christians disappear from the earth, these fallen angels will proclaim that they were the ones that created us and have come back to intervene on our planet to prevent our own self destruction. I think that is what is the strong delusion written in the 2 Thessalonians is referring to. Satan has used Hollywood to preprogram the people of the earth to fall for this delusion. Through this delusion will come the one world religion, one world government, one world economic system. They will say that the Christians were the ones who would not comply with the rules that they have set forth and consequently needed to be eliminated. Look around the world how it is being primed for it. The finality of it all will be taking the mark of the beast. If you do not take the mark of the beast you must be one of the Truther people or whatever they will call them. I think that when people take the mark of the beast, which I believe will be something under your skin, it will somehow do something to your body to change your DNA dooming you to eternal Hell. In Revelation it speaks about how people in those days will seek death but death will elude them. That there is eternal life.” Aaron sat up and put on his vest saying “This alien invasion and the mark of the beast will be Satan’s final deception and it is coming together exactly how it was written in the Bible. I just don’t know exactly how it will happen.

As they were walking down to the last corner pin Sam thought about what Aaron had shared with him. He had known Aaron for a long time and had always respected him. He said what he meant and did what he said. He was a guy you could count on no matter what. One of those guys that if you were stuck in the middle of the night in the ditch somewhere in the mountains you could call and know he would be there. They just didn’t make guys like that much anymore.

Suddenly a robin dove out of her nest. Sam ducked dodging the attack but the bird was persistent diving towards him several times. Marty barked at the bird and Sam laughed.

“Wow! That robin is sure protective of her nest!”

“She sure is!” Sam laughed and thought about what Aaron just said remembering his prayer at the gate.

Chapter Fifteen

Heidi was already at a table in the corner drinking a latte when Robin walked in. She left her order for a chocolate mocha at the counter and joined her.

“How are you doing?” Robin asked her, “Have you settled in after the holidays?”

“Yes, it has been nice to get the holidays behind and get back into the routine again. How about you? How are you and Sam doing?”

Robin told her about her phone conversation with Erica and the young lady who had walked off the street into their bible study. “Erica says that she is positive that this young lady has been completely cured of her addiction to Meth! Poor girl has nowhere to go that she has been living on the street for over a year now. For the last couple of days she has been staying at Erica’s place sleeping on the couch. It is crazy but she has been reading the bible nonstop since she got there. Erica hinted that maybe she could come to the farm and stay with Sam and I until she can get on her feet. I am going to ask Sam tonight. I am not sure how he is going to take it. You know how he feels about drugs. She could relapse and that could be a mess. Oh that reminds me”, said Robin, “Do you have any information on Broken Lives Fellowship Group?”

“Actually I do” Heidi said “When I was in California at that revival Pastor Rob Landon from Bridal Ridge Christian Church was there and he spoke about it. He was telling the audience how humbly proud he was to announce that Broken Lives Recovery Fellowship was in almost every church in the country now and their success rate was astounding on addiction recovery. I haven’t been there for years but I am positive that the group still meets at Seven Mile and probably uses the same curriculum that Rob wrote.

“Hold on, Rob Landon is connected to Broken Lives? I knew he wrote “A Well Designed Life” but I didn’t know that he was involved with Broken Lives.”

Yes, Heidi confirmed “Bridal Ridge wrote the material that we used in Broken Lives Fellowship Group when we were there. That was Rob Landon’s message at the Valley Revival how the material he wrote for “the program” was in nearly every church in the country and that Broken Lives program had been significantly if not entirely responsible for the transformation of up to eighty percent of the broken homes and restoring families. It is making a significant impact on the churches and communities across the nation. To hear him talk about it, it is probably global now.”

“Hmm…” Robin wondered, “I heard some time ago that Pastor Rob was coming alongside the Most Holy Bishop in France. He was reaching out to bring Muslims, Christians and Holy Mother of Apostles together and had implied that we all serve the same God! I also heard that he said in an interview that gays would go to heaven. I have friends that are all worked up over that! ”

“I didn’t hear any one mention that at the Valley Revival.” Heidi said.

Robin got her phone out of her purse and searched the internet for the Valley Revival. When she found it she played it for both of them watching as the Bishop pronounced on stage how he wished to honor Protestant’s faith and beliefs with a holy kiss claiming that both faiths had common ground and needed to acknowledge their differences to be unified together.”

Listening to it made Robin’s stomach churn and she told Heidi “Oh! That is just not right! In the book of Revelation an angel reprimanded John twice for bowing down to him. This is way off here!”

Robin continued to search and then handing the phone to Heidi said “Oh it looks like I am not the only one that thinks this is warped” People are talking about this everywhere!

Something’s not right here, I have been hearing about this “Chrislam” movement that is spreading through churches today. It is like a unified tolerance for all of the world’s religions covered by love and it is actually blurring the lines to say that we all serve the same God. From what I have studied that is not possible! I am not saying that we shouldn’t love anyone at all. We need to. Jesus called us to. But we are also called to give and account for what the gospel stands for and that is not compromising with other religions.”

Robin thought for a moment while the waitress brought her Mocha over. After she had left, Robin said to Heidi, “I think this may be what Paul was talking about the apostasy or the falling away of the church in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Do you suppose that we could be seeing the beginning stages of the one world religion?”

“I don’t’ know Robin” Heidi had concern on her face “How can this be? I mean, are you saying that all of those people are not saved? I am not sure that I agree with that.”

“Absolutely not” Robin said “At least not yet anyway. But I am wondering if there isn’t a sinister deception taking place in many of the churches. Heidi, Satan has been at this a long time and he knows his time is short. I mean, he convinced a third of the angels in heaven to turn away from God and they even lived with Him! In Heaven! So really, who are we? Do we really think that we are wiser than the angels that dwelt with God?” Robin paused taking a sip of her coffee. “Heidi, think about this, we rely on the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us to reveal deception? But we will not hear His prompting if we are not spending time reading the word. I would wager that a majority of Christians are not studying their bibles and do not get on their knees to pray every day.

“Well I know I am in a lull right now. I just started that job in Kuna and have been over at mom’s in Oregon for the holidays. We moved into that new place… hmmm. You know? I cannot remember when it was that I honestly got on my knees to pray. Wow!” Heidi was perplexed.

“There you go! See? Any one of us can let life get ahead of our time with the Lord. That makes us complacent and in turn leaves us to trust pastors to get into the word for us. I am telling you complacent Christians are susceptible to deception. Jesus said multiple times, many will come in My name. Do not be deceived. It distinctly says in the book of Revelation when God is talking to the seven churches and specifically to the church of Laodicea, “I wish you were hot or cold but since you are lukewarm I want to vomit you out of My mouth!“

“That is really scary Robin!” Heidi said.

“No, that is a complacent and deceived Church Heidi. The thing is it is something that can be changed easily if we are made aware of what is going on.”

“Okay Robin, but what about all of the good things that are coming out of those churches? There are a ton of people getting saved and baptized. Look at all of the fruit that is coming out of those churches. They help orphanages, the homeless, Robin they are doing God’s work. Every week hundreds are coming to the Lord. Surely God is at work in these churches.”

“Right Heidi, but if these new Christians who  are being saved and are being convinced that they serve the same God as Muslims, Buddhists, Mother of Apostles and every other religion then which God is the one they are actually serving? There is only One True God and He demands that no other God be before Him. We are saved by grace and Mother Mary, Buddha or Allah cannot offer that. Only Jesus can give us the grace to forgive us of our sins because He died for us. It is conditional. We are saved when we believe that only He, Jesus died for us. Period. I am afraid these people are being deceived. The bible says that “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

A deceiver is not a deceiver unless he deceives well. The Bible says not to be deceived by wolves in sheep clothing. I think that is what some of these pastors are. Unfortunately the people that are being deceived have a better relationship with the pastors deceiving them than they do with Jesus.”

“Well, say what you want Robin but I do get fed at that church. I feel good about myself when I leave there and learn a lot from their teaching. I think I will chew on the meat and spit out the bones.” Heidi said drinking her last bit of coffee.

“Ya, I don’t know Heidi, something isn’t sitting right with me on this. You know, you can boil a frog by turning up the heat a little at a time and you can turn a huge boat with a slight bump on a small rudder. The bible says “A little leaven leavens the whole lump!”

Just be careful you don’t choke on a bone!

Chapter Fourteen

Sam’s phone rang at 4:30 A.M. Robin nudged him awake saying “Who in the world is calling at this hour?”

Sam quickly got out of bed fumbling for the phone that was plugged into the charger on their dresser. “Hello?”

His eyes wouldn’t focus properly and the number didn’t look familiar. When he answered the connection was distorted with static “Hi, you left a message on my phone about the property I have for sale up Jaykee Creek in Idaho.”

“I am sorry I think you have the wrong number. Do you know what time it is?”

“I am sure this is the number that called me and about a week ago. Are you sure you never called me about the property out Jaykee Creek?” the voice was crackling and hard to understand. Sam strained to listen to what the caller was asking.

Oh, yes! Okay, Yeah, I called and left you a message a couple of weeks ago. How many acres is that piece of property and what all can you tell me about it?” Sam replied sitting on the edge of the bed.

“I am sorry, I apologize for not calling you sooner. There is no cell phone reception where we live and I only get my messages when I come into town. It is easier for me to communicate via email. My wife and I are missionaries currently teaching English to students in a small village in China.” His voice sounded distant, there was a delay in the response as though he truly was a world away, and definitely not in the same economy.

“It was my uncle’s place and he passed away last year leaving it to me. I have only been there once when I was little. The property is close to twenty acres but I think most of it is hillside and sagebrush.”

“Yeah, I have walked it and it is rocky and steep. What did you want for it?”

“I am not sure what property values are in Idaho for a sagebrush hillside. We were thinking about fifteen thousand?”

Sam asked him if it had been surveyed recently and the young man on the phone said that he wasn’t sure if it ever had been and Sam would need to look into that to be certain. They exchanged email addresses and contact information and Sam told him that he would get back to him one way or the other.

The caller on the other line said “If I don’t answer the phone please leave a message. Our daughter has been sick and is in the hospital. The bills are piling up and we need to pay them or she will not get the medical attention she needs. I promise I will call you back if you leave a message.”

Robin was lying in bed with her black glasses on looking at her phone but listening to Sam’s side of the conversation. When he was finished he relayed the other half of the conversation to her. She listened quietly and when he finished said “What are you thinking?”

Sam explained, “That is a screaming deal for the property, honey. I feel bad for them. Having a little one in the hospital right now and not having enough money. I am telling you there was desperation in his voice.”

Robin had a huge heart for anyone that needed help. It was a gift that God had blessed her with. She always seemed to have something to give to someone when needs arose. She had recognized Sam’s giving heart as well which softened her heart towards him. Various groups at Broken Lives gathered after meetings and had always asked her to join them, one time towards the end of the class she decided to concede and meet with the group. She had also overheard someone invite Sam and heard him respond that he would attend. As she parked at the restaurant she saw Sam had arrived before him. On that particular evening a relentless storm of rain-snow mix was passing though, it was the kind that soaked and chilled a person to the bone. There was a homeless man in front of the restaurant trying to find refuge from the storm standing under an awning. The restaurant owner was yelling at him ordering him to leave. The Broken Lives group rushed by the chilled man trying to get out of the weather without so much as a glance. Robin moved her focus to Sam as he got out of his truck. He had a dog in the front seat and before leaving his truck Sam had quite the conversation with the dog, somewhat apologetically he closed the door, leaving the dog inside. It made her laugh out loud which surprised her. When he passed the homeless man he nodded at him and slowed as he passed the owner who was still yelling at him. Sam turned around, took off his Carhardt jacket and gave it to the man and then walked him back to the truck in the pouring rain and slush. Going back to the driver’s side Sam started his truck and together they drove off. She later asked him why he never made it to the restaurant the week before but Sam didn’t say much about it. “Oh, a friend needed a ride home and I didn’t want to eat any pie any way.”

The phone call from China woke Sam enough that he knew he wouldn’t go back to sleep. He went to the sink and brushed his teeth then stepped into the shower, still thinking about the conversation with the teacher from China. The hot water felt good on his back.

Steam was rolling out from the shower and he asked Robin “Do you want to go out to Jaykee Creek and look at the property again? Maybe Aaron could come along with us and see if we could find some corner pins.”

“Why don’t you and Aaron go look at that sage infested hill side and I’ll stay home and fix you both a nice dinner.” Robin could tell by the tone in his voice that he was interested in the land. Her thick black glasses were fogging up. She took them off, along with her pajamas and stepped into the hot shower.

It was a very good shower.

 

Chapter Thirteen

She had started off simple enough smoking pot in high school at a party. It was fun and became an every weekend occurrence with her and her best friend. The following year they started getting high before school, at lunch, after school and sometimes she would go out for a walk after dinner and smoke a little just to take the edge off. One day they tried a little speed and that was fun. It gave her a lot of energy and she liked being alert while the pot made her so mellow. It was a good mixture. One day a guy at a party offer them some meth. It was inexpensive and they thought it would be fun. It was her friend’s birthday so she bought her a hit. The high was exhilarating but  the down had taken both of them down further than they ever had been before. It was depressing and in order to maintain a level of normalcy she bought another hit the next day. Just a little to get her back to the “normal” feeling so she could then stop. The problem was “normal” never came back. Before long things were spiraling out of control. She needed the meth to maintain and was running out of money. First she stole money from her mom and dad and even her little brother. That turned out bad and alienated them from her. She started turning tricks because men would pay her to have sex with them. She was young and good looking, at first. The lows consistently got lower and before long she didn’t care how she looked which in turn affected how much guys would pay to have sex with her. Her friend spiraled out of control faster and harder than herself. They had fallen into a toilet bowl and someone had flushed the toilet. One day Linda’s best friend had a bad trick. He beat her and made her do things sexually she had never done before. Afterwards she could not stand to look at herself adding that to the low from the addiction to Meth she wandered around the streets aimlessly completely hopeless. Linda followed trying to pull her out of the hole she felt like she had fallen into but her friend would not respond. She had nothing to live for. She had lost everything, a nice place to live, her family and now even her self-respect. She was walking over an overpass over the freeway and stopped. She stared at the traffic coming towards her. It wouldn’t take much to just jump off this bridge. Maybe a few seconds of fear but then it would be over. She was so tired of being thrown around and forced to engage in every degrading kind of sex that a guy could dream up. This would solve all of her problems. She didn’t even know where she was going to sleep tonight. The last time she saw her mom she had been so disgusted with her. Her dad wouldn’t even talk to her. He called her a slut. The first time he called her that she had cried. It hurt so badly, and then it made her angry. She got so angry that she purposely took the rougher clients to get back at her dad. He would be sorry some day she thought, but he never was. Why didn’t he understand that all she wanted was a hug and for him to be proud of her. Why was that so difficult to see? Why couldn’t he tell her that she was his little girl. Something was pulling her to the rail, like a moth to a flame. She was sure that she could hear a voice inviting her into the next world. It would be better after she died. The pain would be gone for good. There would be no more guys trying to touch and prod her. She swung her leg over the rail. Cars were honking at her like they were inviting her to jump. It was going to be okay now. She heard someone calling to her over the honking horns and the rush hour traffic. Something was compelling her to let go, whispering for her to fly. She let go one finger at a time in slow motion until there was only one finger left. She felt it slip slowly then releasing into a last desperate attempt to fly away from her hopeless reality into the grill of a loaded dump truck.

Linda watched in horror. She had screamed at the top of her lungs for her friend but she was deep into a trip on meth. She was gone for good. Linda was completely alone now. She knew better than to hang around. The traffic from both directions were stopped and backed up. Sirens were getting louder. She started walking aimlessly; heartbroken, hungry, cold and so alone. Walking in complete numbness, oblivious to her surroundings, all night and all day. It was getting dark again. She heard faint music coming from somewhere but could not place where for certain. She was drawn to it. The melody was familiar and somehow comforting. She had heard that song once before when life was simpler. Through her meth induced stupor she was drawn to the music pulled by an invisible force that she could not or did not want to control. She had given up on trying to control anything in her life and just followed the tug. It was coming from a church building. She walked up the steps. The large wooden doors were open and creaked when she went through them. Hearing the sound of the closing door, some of the young people turned and stopped singing in shock to see her standing in their sacred place of worship. She could see it on their face. She was a whore. Dressed in a short skirt, blouse with no bra, more makeup than usual to cover side effects of nasty bruise a guy had given her for payment and the meth aging around her eyes. It was the attire of the trade she had been forced to work. The girl playing the guitar and leading the music stopped for a second when their eyes met but regained her rhythm quickly. Everyone was dressed much differently than she. Although out of place, the building was warm and so was she. Maybe she could sit there just long enough for the chill to go away. She did not fit in with these people. She sat in the last row close to the door in case she needed to escape. When the music stopped Erica invited Linda to come closer and join the group. Everyone turned to look at her and she could feel the judgment and condemnation for who she was. It was more than Linda could take and she got up and walked out the door. Erica gave her bible and her lesson for the night to the first person she passed and headed at a run out of the church. She met Linda going down the front steps.

“Hey, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot! Please forgive me!”

Linda turned to look at her but couldn’t say anything. Inside of her she wanted to cry out but the words wouldn’t come. She saw the true love of someone that honestly cared for her. She wanted to cry but couldn’t and just sat down where she was. Erica sat down next to her and put her arm around her. Linda was shaking uncontrollably. Erica could feel the leanness of her thin body. She asked Linda if she was hungry. Linda nodded. Tears were coming now, streaming down her face. She felt the love in Erica’s touch. Not the touch of a man wanting to fulfill his desire but love of a sister, a friend, like how her mom used to touch her when she was little. She had not felt that gentle touch in so long and it was almost painful.

Erica took her hand and led her to her car. She set her in the passenger seat and ran back in the church to get her coat and purse. Everyone wanted to know what was going on with that girl. Erica asked one of her friends to take over for the night that she was going to take Linda to get something to eat.

Driving to a hamburger joint around the corner Erica asked her name. “Linda” was all she said. Erica did not press further. Linda was eyeing this new person. She had learned not to trust anyone because no one was trustworthy in her world. This person was different, she wasn’t sure why. She had a genuine urgency and concern for her well-being. She wanted to trust her but was too afraid to try.

Erica pulled up to the speaker and asked Linda what she wanted. Linda shrugged not looking at the menu. Noting the response Erica took it upon herself to order a double cheeseburger deluxe with a large fry and a chocolate shake. They sat in silence while Linda wolfed down her sandwich. When she was finished she burped out load accidently and apologized quietly and then said “Thank You.” Linda felt like she could trust this new friend. Erica listened quietly when Linda began telling her story. She tried not to show how shocked at what Linda was telling her, but she had never heard anything about this lifestyle before.

For Linda, there was a release sharing what the last few months had built up to and watching her friend kill herself. She had been carrying it and never realized how it had tightened all of the muscles in her back, neck and shoulders. The difference was physically noticeable. One by one the knotted muscles relaxed.

Erica was prompted to ask her if she knew Jesus. Linda told her that was what had brought her to the church that night when she heard that song they were singing. “Put your eyes upon Jesus, Look into His wonderful face… My grandma used to sing that song to me when I was a little girl but, no I don’t know Him. I don’t think He wants to know me either. I saw how everyone looked at me when I came into the church. I don’t fit in there.”

“Oh Linda, Jesus wants to know you so much! That is why He called you into our church! We are all sinners that have been forgiven with His grace! You caught everyone by surprise tonight. If you give them a chance they will love on you.”

“I am so tired of people lovin on me!” and they both laughed!

Jesus has something better for you Linda. “He will take the addiction away all you have to do is ask Him.”

“Really Erica? I want that so much. I am so afraid that I am going to end up like my friend in the middle of the freeway.”

“Let’s pray” Erica grabbed a hold of Linda’s hand “Dear heavenly Father, I thank you so much for my new friend Linda and for bringing her into our church tonight. Lord she is going through a really tough time in life right now. I ask that you touch her heart, heal her pain and Lord please cure her of her addiction. Lord you know what she needs in this life and I ask that you please give her what she needs. You and I both know that she needs you and when she is ready Lord I ask that you lay it on her heart to call upon your name. Your word says that anyone that calls on your name will be saved. That you stand at the door and knock and if anyone hears your voice and answers you will come into them and sup with them. Linda heard your knock tonight and answered.”

Linda interrupted saying “Yes Lord, I am so sorry that I am a sinner. My life has not gone the way that I wanted it to go. Jesus I am scared, I don’t know what to do. Please help me!”

Erica felt Linda’s hand jump and she opened her eyes. Linda was looking at Erica in surprise mascara running down from her eyes. “What was that?”

“What?” Erica said.

“Something just flushed through my body.” she said dropping her hands from Erica’s. “Seriously, something is different. I don’t know what it is but it is way different! That down depressing feeling is not here right now. This is kind of freaking me out!”

“I think that was Jesus. He just answered your prayer.” Erica said with a big smile on her face. “I am telling you that doesn’t happen all of the time. Sometimes people don’t feel the touch of the Lord, not to say that they are not saved by His grace but it is just different.”

“I think you are right!” Linda said excitedly “I feel so different.”

“Do you have a place to stay tonight?” Erica asked.

“Not really, I usually try to get into the rescue mission or one of the shelters but I think it is too late to check in now.”

“I have a couch and a sleeping bag if you want you are welcome to crash at my place tonight.”

“Thank you. but I can sleep on the street.” Linda said reluctantly.

“Ya, no. That’s not going to happen.” and she headed to her apartment.

Erica called Robin from her bedroom after they got home and Linda was settled on the couch.

“Hi Mom, what was the name of that recovery group where you met daddy? I have to tell you about what happened tonight at Bible study!

Chapter Twelve

Ben was looking around for Susan. She was supposed to be there fifteen minutes ago and youth group was about to start. Tyler, Monica’s son, was sitting next to him. He was two years younger than Ben and looked up to him with great admiration.

“When did you and your mom move into Cory’s place?” Ben asked.

“About a month ago, it’s been kind of weird. He acts like he wants me there but I feel like I am in the way a lot of the time. I have my own room and everything but it doesn’t feel like home, you know?

“Ya, so you didn’t have to change schools did you?” Ben asked looking over his shoulder again to see Susan walk in the door.

“No, he lives on the school district boundary so that was good. Mom said we are going to live there just until we can get on our feet. Our car broke down and she didn’t have the money to fix it so Cory said we could live at his place until Mom could save enough money to either get it fixed or get a new car.”

“What happened to Monica’s car?” Ben asked.

Ben was savvy when it came to working on cars and enjoyed it a lot. He had rebuilt an old ‘58 Willy’s Jeep for his senior project in shop class. Robin’s brother had sold the Jeep to Sam when they first started dating and it sat in the machine shed next to the barn covered up with a tarp for the last ten years. Sam and Robin had presented a deal to Ben that if he wanted to use the jeep for his senior project they would buy the parts and when it was finished he could either buy the jeep from them at a reduced price or they would match what he had saved for a newer rig provided he maintain a “B” average. Ben had to work much harder than his sister for the grades but had kept his end of the bargain.

Ben had rebuilt the motor, the master cylinder and upgraded the steering assembly, rewired the 6 volt electrical system fixed the dents and gave it a new coat of paint. The instructor was impressed with Ben’s eye for detail and tenacity.

Tyler was telling Ben something about how the Subaru head gasket had gone out, and how it overheated. But Ben was not listening, his eyes were on Susan.

He had known Susan since they were very young when Heidi, Robin and Sam all attended Seven Mile together. When she was in sixth grade Susan and her mom moved to Kuna where Heidi joined a practice with a dentist as their hygienist. She had purchased a small farm in the country where she and Susan taught riding lessons and boarded horses on the side.

Ben and Susan had met at a Fourth of July Christian Concert put on by the local churches and featured popular Christian musician groups. Susan had recognized Ben from a distance while she was working at the food stand through her church in Kuna. Ben was there with Matt, one of his friends from youth group. Matt had spotted Susan and was interested in her. Ben didn’t recognize Susan, she had changed a lot from the skinny sixth grader he once knew. Matt had spent a small fortune on fast food in an attempt to talk to Susan. Unfortunately for Matt there was a lot of competition for Susan but she had made it very obvious of her interest in Ben.

Susan had just recently started coming to Ben’s youth group on Thursday nights. Heidi let her drive the big red Dodge Ram flatbed pickup and whenever Susan made an entrance every guy in the youth group noticed. Her long blonde curly hair bounced when she entered the room; it was like throwing a shiny plug into a pond full of hungry bass after a long winter. Susan loved the attention and it had the tendency of making Ben jealous. She could have any guy in the room and she flaunted it. Ben was more reserved and Susan’s aggressiveness threw him off balance.

The youth leader called the gathering to attention and Susan made her way over to where Ben was sitting with Tyler. After the youth group was over Ben and Susan usually went to the Dairy Queen restaurant with a couple of the others for a shake. Ben and Susan were sitting in a booth when she nudged him. He looked at her and when their eyes met he followed hers to the open purse. There was a condom in a package in her purse. His heart panicked and he looked back at her eyes. Her eyes opened wide and her mouth opened in a dramatic “Oh dear!” and she laughed.

“Where did you get that?” Ben whispered.

“When I was in Bend at Christmas my cousin had several in her drawer so I took one!” Making her dramatic face again.

Ben’s heart was racing. He wanted to remain in control of this situation but felt like he was losing all resemblance of it. He didn’t know how to respond. They had talked about doing “it” but he didn’t know what to do. All of this was going through his head and Susan said. “Let’s go back to the church parking lot.” Susan was acting very aggressive and that was intimidating Ben a little but he wasn’t going to back down.

They had done some serious petting but had never taken it to that level. Robin had explained to Ben when he started dating Susan that having sex was much more than recreation. It was meant to be a covenant with God between one man and one woman. She had explained to him that if he would wait until he was married that the Lord would bless his marriage and his family immensely. She had stressed that it was very important not to give in to any temptation and had requested that the two of them always be in company with some of their peers at all times.

The problem for Ben was that his peers were having sex everywhere and the older he had gotten he figured that his mom had lost touch with reality and didn’t understand that things were much different than when she grew up. You couldn’t turn the television on without seeing sex on every channel or at the very least there would be some woman scantily clad talking about erectile dysfunction. Every one of Ben’s friends had experienced sex and frankly he was embarrassed when they all talked about. It was everywhere he went at school, on the football team, at work and even a lot of the guys at church had experienced sex. He figured that he was the only person on the planet had never had sex. He knew of kids at school who had sex when they were in grade school! Ben tried to talk big but really had no idea what he was talking about. Then when he threw Susan into the equation it got very complicated. She could have any guy she wanted and if he was not willing she wouldn’t have to look far to find someone who was interested in her body. He was intimidated because he really didn’t know what to do. His peers all teased him assuming that he and Susan were having sex often and the way she acted it seemed obvious to everyone. She had told Ben that she had never done “it” before but he wondered if she was being honest.

“Okay” he said nervously. It was 9:00 and it was pretty safe to say that no one would be at the church parking lot at this time of night. It was dark and there was a corner next to the utility shed in the back parking of the parking lot that seemed optimal.

Susan pulled the Dodge pickup around and backed it in facing the back of the church. There was one light on inside the church that someone had forgotten to turn off but there were no other rigs in the parking lot. She turned the radio on to a country music station and looked over at Ben who was nervously looking back at her.

“Are you sure this is what you want to do?” he asked her.

“Don’t you want to?” she replied. He could tell that she was nervous too. “Are you kidding? Of course I do” Sam said “I just don’t want to have God mad at me. I mean isn’t this sin?”

“Well, Jesus already paid for our sin and He knows everything so I am sure He knows that we are going to do this. Right?” Susan justified.

“Yea, I don’t know if that is how it’s supposed to work” Ben said.

“Are you chickening out Ben?” Susan teased kicking her cowboy boots off and moving across the seat closer to him.

“No, I just want to be right.” His hands were shaking and he took off his jacket. She started helping him and he was helping her in a heightened frenzy.  He caught the scent of her sweet perfume and it seemed to draw him in towards her, the heat of her body reeled him in numbing his senses. Turning back was impossible. They were both naked in the front seat and she grabbed the condom wrapper out of her purse and handed it to him. He fumbled with it and she finally took it from him and opened it. He told her that he wasn’t really sure how it worked and between the two of them got it figured out. The windows were completely steamed up adding a sense of seclusion to the heated situation. As he pressed in towards her she held him back nervously saying “I have never done this before Ben.”

“I am not exactly sure what to do either.” His whole body was shaking uncontrollably.

“Yeah me either except what they showed us in health class and watching the stallion with the mares.” Ben made the sound of a horse and they both started laughing breaking the tension of the awkward moment.

Their sexual desire had built up so intensely that it didn’t take long and he was done. The second they were finished conviction poured over both of them. They both started putting their clothes on without saying a word both deep in thought.

Ben was thinking about how it was over now and there was no going back. His mother’s words came back to him “This is a special gift between you, your wife and God. Wait until you are married and you both will be blessed.”

He looked over at her. She had her panties on and was putting her bra on. He smiled at her trying to make the condemnation go away and there was a wrap on the truck window. Susan screamed scrambling for her shirt on the floorboard of the truck and Ben jumped frantically pulling on his pants. His shirt was unbuttoned and un-tucked. It seemed like it took forever to find their clothes and get dressed. Fortunately the windows were fogged and Ben said through the door “Who is it?”

Both of them looked at each other in terror when the answer came back “Pastor Mike. What are you and Susan doing in there Ben?”

“Oh Sh…” Ben mouthed. Susan’s curly hair was all over the place and her lipstick was smeared on one side. She was zipping up her pants and he was trying to get a sock on and it was going on backwards. When she had her pants zipped up she hit the button rolling down the window on Ben’s side. Ben knew it was “time to pay the fiddler” and opened up the truck door and stepped outside in his socks. To his horror he saw not just Pastor Mike but in his car was his wife and their teen age daughter. Disappointment covered Pastor Mike’s face making Ben want to crawl under the truck. All he could do is look down to avoid his eyes. He felt like he had let down everyone he knew and loved.

“So, What’cha two doing?” Mike said knowingly.

Ben looked up at him. Pastor Mike was looking directly into his soul, he was so ashamed he just wanted to crawl off and die.

“I thought you were stronger than this Ben” Pastor Mike said and shaking his head he turned and walked back to his car and drove away.

Ben turned around and looked at Susan. Her hair was going everywhere and she was looking in the mirror attempting to get it to settle down. Her shirt was un-tucked. He looked at himself and realized that his shirt wasn’t buttoned properly, one button off all the way down. “Dog gone it…” he muttered and then saw the used condom lying on the floorboard of the pickup in plain sight.

Busted.

Chapter Eleven

Sam’s phone vibrated on the desk making him jump, “Hey Sam, this is Mike can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Oh, hey Pastor Mike what’s up?” Sam got up and closed the door to his office.

“I was just checking on that parking lot paving and expansion project for the church.” Pastor Mike Johnson replied.

He, Sam and Cory had all met the previous month to come up with an affordable way to pave the existing parking lot and expansion to accommodate for new growth in the church. With growth came complaints, one of which was adequate parking. Folks just didn’t like walking through mud puddles in their Sunday clothes.

“Yup, I met with Cory yesterday to put together the proposal. I have it right here in front of me. I was just about to send it over to you.”

“Awesome Sam, what is the cost for the church?”

“Well, Pastor Mike, you really should see the breakdown of time and materials to really grasp the cost of this.”

“You’re scaring me Sam. Can’t you just tell me over the phone?”

“I sure can Mike” Sam replied “It looks like the total will be $56,800.”

There was silence on the other end of the phone.

“Hello? Mike? Are you there?”

“Yeah Sam, I am here. How are we going to pay for this Sam?”

“Well,” Sam said clearing his voice “I believe that if God is behind this whole expansion project then He will provide for it won’t He? I think you need to announce this to the congregation and tell them we need to raise the extra money. Ask them to commit over and above their tithes as an act of faith.”

“Sam, tithes are down. People are struggling to making ends meet and they definitely do not want to hear that the church needs more money. The tithes we are getting barely pay my salary and the operating costs of the church. We cannot even afford to help the missions this month, not to mention the government is threatening to take away our 501C3 nonprofit status unless I conform to their guidelines.”

“What? What are you talking about Mike?”

“Yea, I got a letter the other day laying out what I can and cannot preach about. They say if I preach about homosexuality and this transgender thing they will remove our not for profit status. If we lose that and people do not get their tax deductions we will no longer get the tithes we need to operate. I have no other choice but to comply.”

Sam couldn’t believe what he was hearing and said. “Well, I say God is bigger than that. Surely the congregation would continue to tithe whether they got a tax deduction or not.”

Pastor Mike responded “I am just not sure that is something I am willing to put to the test Sam. Maybe we can come up with another way to raise some money. One thing is certain we need the parking lot to bring in more people and that will bring in more tithes. It is simple math.“

“Well” Sam said, “I am sure God will work this thing out Mike”

“I hope so Sam, I sure hope so. Thanks for getting me the bid.

Pastor Mike hung up with a big sigh. “Well we are not going to make that kind of money doing a car wash that’s for sure.“ he said out loud.

“Katie the church secretary had been listening in to the conversation.

” Pastor Mike?” she asked from the office just outside.

“Yes Katie?”

“I didn’t mean to listen in on your conversation but your door was open and well I couldn’t help it. I was kind of thinking, maybe we could get someone to come in and put a concert together? Maybe we could sell tickets.”

“Yeah, we could do that” he said his voice trailing off. She knew that he was brushing her off by agreeing with her but what he didn’t know was that she had a connection. Her girlfriend’s sister was getting married in a month and one of the singers of Meadow Song was going to be a groomsman at the wedding. She had dated him back in the day before he had gotten all famous. Travis had contacted her for a date at the wedding but she had turned him down. The group had planned to do a surprise appearance for his bachelor party. Just maybe, she wondered, they could be persuaded to do a small parking lot fund raiser. She looked on the calendar and noticed that it coincided with a women’s conference that was being held at the church the Friday before the wedding. Her wheels started turning.

He had given her his number in the event she changed her mind and well, maybe her mind could be changed!

After the conversation Sam sat at his desk, stunned by Pastor Mikes suggestions. He had to tell Robin about this as he reached for the phone.

“That explains why the sermons have been so watered down lately. Pastor Mike doesn’t want to offend anyone or they will not get the tithes to operate the church!” Robin remarked in furry.

“Heidi was right! Seven Mile is just like all the other churches in the valley, watering down the messages to bring in the people. It all comes down to money just like everything else in the world. That’s what they called it tickling the people’s ears in the bible Sam!”

After Sam hung up Robin stewed over their conversation the rest of the afternoon. Pastors have stopped delivering sermons on the book of Revelation and end time prophecies because they didn’t want their churches labeled as a doom and gloom church. If they mentioned money heaven forbid they were money hungry. Congregations wanted to hear how much God loved and forgave them not about sin and the consequences of sin. They were completely compromising the word just as the bible said would happen in end times.

Robin called Heidi to confirm coffee on Saturday.

Chapter Ten

As they were getting ready for bed Robin mentioned to Sam about the revival concert Heidi had shared before dinner.

“I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but something in my gut turned as she was telling me about this man kissing the pastor’s feet. It’s just weird. What really bothers me even more is the pastor implying that Muslims, Christians and Mother of Apostles all praise the same God. That is just not right, it’s deceptive.” Robin exclaimed.

Anything that is associated with that Mother of Apostles church turns my stomach. I was thinking about Reverend O’Riley the other day as a matter of fact, I was reminded of our last meeting.”

Sam had shared with Robin the abuse that had gone on with O’ Riley and his “penance for sin” that he had collected from his mom growing up, but Sam had never told her the complete story of how it ended; mostly because his actions that day had scared himself. All he ever told her was O’ Riley will never bother my mom again.

“What happened to make Reverend O’ Riley stop visiting your mom, Sam?” Robin pressed cautiously.

Sam sat on the edge of the bed with a big sigh and Robin laid down across the king sized bed propping her head up with her hand on her elbow.

“Geez…. Sam started, staring at the patterns in the bedspread. “It was early summer in my junior year.” Sam reflected. “I had been hired on with ol Callahan, off of Ten Mile Road, mending fences and working with the cattle on his place. We had moved the mother cows to the high country and on our way back through I stopped by mom’s place to pick up my gloves that I had forgotten and left at home. O’ Riley had not been around in a while and when I saw his rig in the driveway my blood boiled.

Robin sat up pulling the pillow to her chest listening to Sam intently. Sam stood up and began pacing back and forth across the bedroom staring off in the past.

“When I opened the door of the truck I heard a muffled scream coming through the screen door from inside the house and I lost it. O’ Riley was yelling “Repent” over and over. I grabbed the first thing I could and that was the whip that I had been using to separate the cows which was hanging on the gun rack. I remember telling myself to calm down as I ran towards the house but the anger surged up in me so fast. It was uncontrollable a blinding fury that I could taste in my mouth. I actually felt myself losing control and allowed myself to do it. I remember that it had been a long day and I was exhausted but it was like this unbelievable force of energy was shooting through my veins. I went in through the front screen door, down the hallway and caught O’ Riley with his pants down. His hand was on the back of my mom’s neck burying her face in the bed covers. She was crying, her blouse had been ripped off of her and her skirt was pulled up. He turned to me and gave me the meanest glare like I was infringing on his holy act of penance. I am sure that I have never been so angry in my life. The fury that came up out of me scared me, Robin, I really think I could have killed him.”

Robin was clutching the pillow tightly against her chest. Her knuckles were turning white in horror listening to her husband’s confession. She was trying to picture this scenario with the deranged Reverend, her sweet mother in law and Sam. She had never seen Sam lose his temper but understood how this would inflame him.

I took the whip and as hard as I could came down across his white ass. A deep red mark appeared instantly and blood came to the surface. He screamed in pain turning towards me swinging at me angrily and I hit him with the whip across the front of him as well. He fell over backwards trying to cover his nakedness and I raked the side of his face with the spur on my boot and stuck the butt end of the whip in his mouth. He was laying there gurgling and his face went from red to bluish purple. His feet were kicking wildly knocking over the lamp and the nightstand. He was grasping for anything and ironically found the bible that had been sitting on the table and threw it at me. Mom was pulling on my arm screaming for me to stop. When I realized that she was yelling at me I stopped and removed the whip from his bleeding mouth. If she wouldn’t have stepped in I am sure he would be dead. He was laying there gasping for air and I grabbed him by his sacrificial holy garments and drug the son of a bitch outside with his pants down around his ankles and dumped him in the front yard. I told him that if he ever showed up at our place again that I would finish this and kicked him hard in his naked welted white ass when he got up on his knees crawling towards his car.

Reliving the experience got Sam’s adrenaline pumped up. He was wiping sweat off of his forehead with a towel, “Oh my goodness, Sam! Did you ever see that horrible man again?” She asked gasping, “I can’t believe you’ve kept all this inside you for so long.”

“Mom and I stopped going to church after that. I ran into him one afternoon in line at the grocery store. Our eyes met and he looked down avoiding me like the plague. In fact he even walked out of the store. Seriously, he left his groceries sitting in line at the counter and walked out of the store. I heard later from an acquaintance at Mother of Apostles that he had requested to be transferred to a church in Salt Lake.”

Chapter Nine

Ben came dancing in the kitchen and put his arm around his mom who was layering lasagna noodles in a large glass pan.

“What are you so happy about?”

“Susan is home! Mom, it has been such a long vacation.” He said dramatically.

“I know it has been honey. Why don’t you ask her and her mom over to dinner tonight? We are going to have lasagna and I made too many noodles so we will have more than enough to eat.”

Ben went across the granite island where she was working and sat down texting Susan on his phone. Within seconds a beep came in with a response.

“What time mom?” Ben asked.

“How about 6:30, your dad won’t be here until 6 or so.”

Robin texted Sam and asked him to pick up some garlic spread for the French bread and let him know that they would be having Susan and her mom Heidi for dinner.

Sam and Robin had met Heidi when they had all gone to Broken Lives Fellowship group. She had a nasty breakup with her ex-husband had a difficult time trusting anyone since. She had dated often earlier but it was too hard to find a Christian man that truly walked the walk. She had come to the point where she was tired of compromising and stopped dating.

Before Sam and Robin had married, Robin and Heidi were very close. They had since drifted apart but still remained friends. Heidi was now attending another church in town so they didn’t see each other as much. It would be fun to catch up with her.

Lasagne_0894_1When they arrived Heidi was very impressed with the lasagna cooling on the granite counter top. Erica was putting the final touches to the table setting on the long farm table. She had changed the Christmas centerpiece with some fresh flowers that she had picked up from the store earlier. Sam, Ben and Susan were out doing the chores so the girls sat and visited.

Heidi was very excited about her trip to Oregon. She had an opportunity to attend a revival concert that Meadow Song was playing in at a friend’s Community Church in northern California. Meadow Song was one of the most popular Christian groups in the country. They traveled globally to bring Christian music to the world. Heidi expressed how exciting it was to see so many Christians at the revival reaching out to the Muslim community and the Mother of the Apostles Church. To see them all come together praising God was very emotional. Heidi commented about the stirring message that the pastor of the large Christian Church gave. He had called everyone together to embrace each other’s differences and pray to God together. She was especially touched by the depth of love that the most holy appointed Bishop from Mother of Apostles gave to him afterwards by kissing his feet. What humility. They had offered an alter call at the end and hundreds of people came forward to be saved. It was one of Heidi’s most moving experiences ever.

What Heidi was saying stirred Robin’s spirit and she asked Heidi,

“Do you think that they were all praising the same God?”

“Of course they were!” Heidi said.

“Hmmm. Well that just doesn’t make sense to me; I am not sure how that can be possible. Muslims consider Jesus to be a prophet, not God and the Mother of Apostles pray to Mary to intercede to Jesus and the Bishop is given the power to forgive of sins through penance usually by how much they give financially and the charity given. That is works and implys that Jesus dying on the cross was in vain. That makes me curious about this.” Robin wondered out loud.

“Well I am pretty sure they were praising the same God. I mean I assume they were… “ Heidi said. “But I sure see what you mean when you say it like that.”

“ And the Bishop was kissing the pastor’s feet?… That is just not right.” Robin said. “That just gives me a wrong feeling inside.”

“Well he did say before he did that how he wanted to wash that pastors feet but because they didn’t have any water on stage he was going to offer him humility by kissing his feet instead.” Heidi said.

Marty came in barking excited to see everyone in the kitchen. That was his favorite place and with all of the people there it ensured him some scraps afterwards. Sam, Ben and Susan all hung up their coats and removed their muddy boots in the mudroom and joined the girls in the kitchen. Sam and Ben relished Robin’s lasagna and even though the first serving was enough they had to have another helping. It was only right.

After supper they were so full that they both needed to go outside and check on the cows to walk off some of the lasagna. After clearing the table Susan and Erica both joined them. The night was clear and cold and the skies were filled with stars. There was no moon and the Milkey Way lit up sky like a highway from one end of the horizon to the other. Marty stared out into the darkness beyond the where barn light reached growling a warning when a coyote howled answered by another. The scent of worn leather hit their noses walking through the barn past the tack room. Erica’s gelding nickered upon hearing her voice and she stopped to rub his nose. One of the cows was still eating on the remainder of the hay left in the feeder while the other two drank noisily out of the water trough.

Sam and the kids all leaned up against the rail fence looking out into the back pasture. Ben and Susan were whispering and giggling, happy to be back in each other’s company.

Night sky_140908_0072_1“Back to school” Erica said

“Yup” Sam replied. Both of them stared at the incredible display of stars across the sky. Marty stood on his back legs between the two of them with his front legs on the second rail nudging Erica’s arm.

“It sure was a good Christmas with you here honey” Sam said to Erica.

“I know Daddy” she said and leaned her head against his shoulder. He put his arm around her and kissed the top of her head. She felt safe and he felt like his little girl was leaving forever.

Heidi helped Robin clear the rest of the table and put the dishes in the dishwasher. Heidi shared with Robin about the rest of their trip to Oregon and how her mom was dealing with life now that her dad had passed away. Robin listened but was still processing what Heidi had said earlier. When they had finished tidying up everything they both sat down at the kitchen table drinking coffee. Heidi looked at Robin seriously and asked her.

“You seemed concerned about that revival thing I was telling you about. Are you seeing something there that I don’t see?”

“I don’t know for sure but I think it might be something we need to look into Heidi. Things are changing rapidly in the world right now and something inside of me is telling me to pay.”

“I have been noticing that too Robin.”

“How is your church? Do you like it?” Robin asked.

“Well, I am searching for a new church right now.” Heidi said “It is so hard to find one anymore that teaches the truth. I really like when the message on Sunday makes you think all week. Sometimes a convicting message is a very good thing. It is like pastors are compromising, preaching a watered down message. “

“It is funny you say that Heidi. I was thinking the same thing after church last Sunday. It is like Pastor Mike is too concerned about offending anyone like if he offends someone with the message it will adversely affect the incoming tithes or attendance!”

Everyone came in through the mudroom laughing. Marty ran in and greeted Robin and Heidi. They both stood up and Heidi gave Robin a hug and said “We need to do this more often.” Robin agreed and walked Heidi to the door. Sam, Robin and Erica stood at the back door watching Heidi and Susan load up into the red Dodge Ram. Ben was over at the driver’s side of the truck saying good bye to Susan. Suddenly Robin ran over to the passenger side of the truck motioning Heidi to roll down the window. “Let’s get together one of these Saturday’s for coffee.” Heidi grabbed Robins hand and agreed over the rattling of the diesel motor.

Chapter Eight

Cory’s stomach growled when he walked in the door smelling the pot of stew simmering on the stove. Monica was sitting on the couch arms crossed staring blankly out the window. It was not unusual she was there, he had given her a key and she had spent the night more frequently in the last month.

“ Hey! “ he said setting his shotgun and pack down in a chair in the living room. The orange Vizsla bounded ahead of him crashing into Monica. She held him back from jumping on her and Cory sensed her annoyance. He wondered if it was directed at the dog or himself. “Hey.”

“Boy is it cold but hey, I got five birds, Sam and Ben both shot four…” as he was talking he could tell she was not interested in the hunting trip. “Are you okay?”

“We need to talk Cory.” Monica replied sharply.

“Okay, what are we talking about?” he asked sitting across from her on a footstool. He had an idea what might be coming.

“Are you going to marry me?” She said sternly.

“Wow! I wasn’t ready for this conversation right now…” he said, knowing very well that this conversation would be on the agenda soon.

Monica didn’t reply with words directing her eyes at Cory. The intensity of her stare made him uncomfortable. He got up putting his shotgun in the gun cabinet and took the dog out to feed and kennel him. On the way back into the house he grabbed an armful of firewood. Monica was still sitting on the couch with her arms and legs crossed staring out the window at the snow coming down heavier.

Cory dumped the arm load of split firewood in the wood box with a loud crash. A wisp of wood smoke escaped into the room when he cracked the door on the wood stove stoking the fire with a large piece of red fir. He turned the damper down on the stove pipe and turned back to Monica. Her eyes avoided his. She had a Kleenex in her hand and was dabbing the corners of her eyes and her nose. She was a tough girl and had been through a lot in her life. It was unusual to see her cry.

Cory went over and sat down next to her on the couch and she looked from the window back to him. Her blue eyes contrasted her black hair and the red in them exposed her heart. He grabbed her hand which was ice cold like usual. Grabbing both of them he put them under his shirt on his bare stomach to warm them up.

“Here’s where I am at Monica, I love you very much and want to share my life with you but I have to be completely honest with you, I don’t want to get married. I was married before and well, marriage just doesn’t work anymore. My ex-wife took $85,000 when we got divorced. I just can risk taking another hit like that again not saying that you would do that of course. I mean, look at all the divorce going on everywhere. It is just about at epidemic proportions. It’s even happening in the church. Did you know that the Davidson’s are getting a divorce?”

She pulled her hands from under his shirt and covered her face with both of them. She really did not care whether the Davidson’s were getting a divorce or not. Her long black hair shook as she began to sob quietly. He moved his arm around her and pulled her to him. She fell against him unresponsive.

“Why don’t you move in here?” he said.

Her hands dropped from her eyes to her lap and she turned to him. “Really? What part of that is right Cory? How would God bless that?” she said through her tears completely disgusted.

“Monica that is the way things are now days. God knows our hearts and our love for each other. His grace is sufficient, He already paid for our sins on the cross. We’re covered. Don’t you believe that Jesus died for your sins Monica?”

“Yes, you know I do.” She said “I just want to be right with Him and want to be married…. to you. What are people going to say at church?”

“Who cares what they say! We don’t have to tell them anyway. It is none of their business.” Cory replied.

“What if you are wrong? What if God doesn’t approve of us living together? You know we are heading into the end times. I do not want to be left behind or go to Hell.”

Cory laughed nervously. “I know, me either, Sam and I talked about end times today when we were hunting. Listen, I believe that God loves us and is pleased with the work we do for Him. I mean look at the work you do for Him, Monica. You are an incredible singer and so beautiful. Everyone at church looks up to you. You touch so many people’s lives sharing God’s love with everyone you meet. His reward to you in heaven will over exceed our life together. If I am wrong and we miss out on the rapture then we always have the seven year tribulation period for a second chance.”

That didn’t sound right to her but when he leaned over kissing her lips firmly and pulled her to him the closeness of his solid body and strong hands on her made her melt in the security of the moment. All she wanted was to be held tight. Cory knew what she liked and knew exactly how to touch her and he always touched her perfectly. Surely God had given this man to her, he was everything she ever desired in a man. He worked hard and his business thrived, he was extremely attractive, he was in excellent shape and when they made love it was… unbelievable. Everything was too perfect not to be right. Maybe Cory was right. After all God does know everything and knows our feelings for each other. God would change him if she prayed hard enough and eventually he would come around and marry her. Right now she just needed to give him what a man wanted, hand it over to God and let God do what God does.

She responded and they made love passionately on the floor in front of the fire. When they were finished she lay naked in Cory’s arms with the warm fire crackling next to them. Robin’s words went through her mind.

“Are you sleeping with him? You know you need to stop. God will not bless your relationship when you are walking in sin. Sin interrupts your communication with Him.”

Monica shuddered and shoved the words further back into her mind and held Cory tighter, so thankful that God had given him to her.

Chapter Seven

Sam’s phone buzzed a little after 3:00 pm. It was Robin.

“Hey, you busy?”

Sam got up and went into the conference room and closed the door.

“Hey honey, how’s your day going?”

“I have been thinking about that dream you had last night”

“Yeah I have been too.” Sam replied “I can’t shake it actually”

“Sam, I think that dream was from God.”

“What do you mean?” Sam said.

“Sam, I looked it up in the bible. Listen to this. This is what it says in Joel 2:28” Robin read it to him

 

“And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. “

 

“What? Are your trying to tell me that I am old?” Sam tried making light of what Robin was saying. She was being serious and it was making him nervous.

“Sam, I am not kidding, please think about it.” Robin pleaded. “What time are you going to be home?”

Sam told her that he needed to work late so he would be home around eight or nine and asked her to have Ben do the chores.

Sam did think about the dream and had been thinking about it all day long. He went back to his office. They had a large contract that they needed to get out that week and this dream had interrupted his thought process.

Many of the other employees were leaving to go home. Aaron stopped by and poked his head in the door. “Hey, you working late tonight? He said.

“Yes, I have to get that Middleton Plaza job knocked out.” Sam said, remembering that Aaron was kind of a Jesus freak. “Hey Aaron, you got a minute?”

Aaron walked in and sat down “Sure what’s up?”

Sam got up and closed the door behind Aaron. “I am not sure how to say this, but I had a really weird dream last night. Between you me and the fence post it scared me pretty bad.”

Sam relayed the dream to Aaron and noticed that Aaron’s eyebrows went up a few times. “What do you think about that? Do you think there is anything to it?”

Aaron said “Well, hard telling Sam. I know in the bible it talks about in the end times that men will have dreams and visions. I think that is in the book of Joel if I am not mistaken. I would have to look it up for sure.”

“Aaron, do you think we are in the end times? Really?”

“Oh yeah, I do Sam. The bible says to keep an eye on Israel. That is God’s time piece. When you see what is going on over there right now you can tell that time is very short. The bible says that Jerusalem will be a stumbling block for all nations. Right now, because they are expanding settlements in Jerusalem the whole world is against it. The world is dictating what they can and can’t do in their own cities! How crazy is that? Would you put up with your neighbor telling you what you could and couldn’t do? So now, everyone wants to take them out. Every nation in the whole world is against them right now, just like it says in the bible. I tell you what Sam everything that is coming down was written in the bile and it is like it was a screenplay. All the actors are in place perfectly!”

“Do you think shit is going to hit the fan Aaron?”

“Yes, I do Sam! It sure says we will go through it in the book of Revelation. I hope I am not here to endure it though! I plan on being gone in the Rapture, but if not the Lord will get me through it. He always does! Have you ever read the book of Revelation Sam?”

“No, Aaron, I haven’t. I have heard how scary and hard to understand that book is and just kind of bypass that book and the book of Daniel as well.”

“Sam, I encourage you to read both of them especially the book of Revelation. Did you know that Revelation is the only book in the Bible that has a blessing associated from reading it. One at the beginning of it, chapter one verse three, I think and also one at the back of the book in chapter twenty two verse seven or eight”…

“Hmmm… okay Aaron, thanks. I appreciate it.” Sam said standing up.

Aaron stood up too and opened the door to leave and turned to Sam and said “Hey Sam, Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior?”

“Oh yeah, I did that at a Monty Edwards Evangelical Conference at the Super Dome in Seattle in ‘93. It was an all men’s Conference, it was amazing. In fact the Lord cured me of chewing tobacco there at the same time. It was awesome!”

Wow, that is cool! You actually got to see Monty Edwards? I think he is still alive isn’t he? He is like the greatest evangelist in America!” Aaron was impressed.

“Yeah I don’t know if he is or not. I think his son Tony took over his ministry.” Sam replied.

“Well Sam, if you ever want to sit down and talk about this end time stuff just let me know. I love it!”

“You know Aaron I might just take you up on that one of these days.”

“Don’t wait too long Sam. I would hate to see you left behind!” Aaron had an infectious smile that made Sam smile.

Sam closed the door behind Aaron and remembered the For Sale sign on the property where they went chukar hunting. Maybe Robin was right? Maybe God was telling him to get ready, to get prepared for a storm about to hit this world.

He looked for the photo and dialed the number.

Chapter Six

It was the darkest sky he had ever seen and it unnerved him. The billowing black clouds were ominous moving quickly, churning like water coming to a rapid boil. Sam ran outside smelling the storm. Every direction he looked, the sky was closing in on them. There was no escaping it.

He had seen that kind of sky only once before in Wyoming many years ago when a tornado went through Cheyenne. The wind was so strong that you couldn’t stand upright. Hail the size of a golf balls pounded the earth breaking windshields in cars, stripped trees of their leaves and completely decimated entire wheat fields that night in a matter of seconds. The next morning looked like a war zone. Cars riddled with dents like they had been hit by a ball pin hammer.

This was different; he sensed something more sinister. Sam had the feeling that there would be no escaping this one. There was nowhere to hide and it was coming from every direction, closing in faster than he could react. Lightning and thunder wrapped around him in the sky tormenting him violently with each bolt that shook even the ground.

He had the sensation that he was losing his family and needed to reach them, to warn them but he was stuck and couldn’t move. He could see them, they were right there. He could almost touch them. They were sitting in a lush green park, completely oblivious to the tumultuous storm. In a panic Sam was desperately calling their names but they could not hear him. Robin and Erica were sitting on a blanket having a picnic. Their hair wasn’t even moving in the wind surrounding them. The sunlight covered them brilliantly shining on them. They were laughing. Oh his beautiful wife and daughter! Sam was screaming for Ben to pay attention and he was ignoring him off to the side, not on the blanket, but in the shadow of the storm. He was talking to Susan who was sitting in the grass. The sunlight was not shining on them and their hair was blowing in the wind. Susan held her hair down so it would not blow in her face. They were both laughing, ignoring Sam and the blatantly obvious storm quickly enveloping them.

Sam was angry now, yelling at the top of his lungs for Ben to pay attention but Ben acted like Sam didn’t exist. Sam was running towards them as fast as he could but could not reach them. It was like he was running in deep water, fighting every step.

He never got closer, remaining at the same distance. Sam was jumping over obstacles and ducking under flying debris. It was like a vine had hold of him pulling him back. Giant limbs of trees were hitting him in the face. He was doing everything in his power to break through to warn his family until he finally collapsed when a giant tree limb landed on him pinning him to the ground. No matter what he did he could not wriggle himself free.

Marty was barking and Robin was calling his name.

“Sam! Sam, Wake up Sam!” She was on top of him with both hands shaking him. He was drenched in sweat, shaking, breathing hard and his heart was racing. He looked at the clock and it said 5:55.

She rolled off of him and he sat up on the edge of the bed.

“Wow, I am so glad that was a dream!” I could not get your attention!” He said.

“Do you remember it? What was it about? Sam, I could not wake you up and it was like you were fighting me. That was really scary.” Robin was about to cry, visibly shaken.

She watched as he got up and went into the bathroom to get a drink of water. Looking in the mirror he saw the sweat glistening off of his forehead. His salt and peppered hair was drenched and matted. There was a red crease between his eyes; like he had grimaced so hard it left a mark. His eyes were bloodshot. All of his muscles were weak in his back and arms. He felt like he had just gone a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson.

Sam paced back and forth while he relayed the dream back to Robin who was sitting up in the middle of the bed listening intently. Looking at the clock he gasped “Oh man, I have to get going. I have a meeting at eight!”

Robin went downstairs to start the coffee and make breakfast for everyone. S

he had a busy day ahead too.

Chapter Five

Robin and Erica both slept in after Sam and Ben had left chukar hunting. Sam and Robin didn’t usually attend the later service and hadn’t been to that one in a while. Monica led worship that morning and kept looking over at Robin and Erica. She had always admired Sam and Robin’s marriage. All she ever wanted was a marriage like they had and had hoped that Corey would marry her someday.

She had been married once before to a man who was not a Christian. They met right out of high school and had two boys right away together. He had started drinking excessively after the last one was born and would not touch Monica anymore. She felt that they should try to find a church and had tried to get him to go look for one with her; but he had no desire and whenever she brought it up a fight ensued so she stopped bringing it up.

One night he didn’t come home until late the next morning. She asked where he was and he said that he had drunk too much playing pool. After closing time he had fallen asleep in the car in the parking lot because he was too drunk to drive home and didn’t want to get arrested. She asked him why he didn’t call her that she would have come down and picked him up. He said that he didn’t want to hear the complaining all the way home. That hurt her.

Later that afternoon she took the car to the store to get some groceries for dinner. Loading the groceries in the car her cell phone slipped in between the seat and she couldn’t get it out. She got out of the car to reach from behind the seat and found a bracelet lying on the floor, and it wasn’t hers. Her heart raced. She was blinded by fury on the way home so much that she ran a red light. A car screeched next to her almost hitting her and she swerved down into the ditch to avoid the accident. She knew enough not to stop or she would be stuck so she punched the gas and pulled back up onto the road. Tears were welling up in her eyes but she was too scared to let them go. Her whole body was shaking uncontrollably. The person that had almost hit her turned around and walked up to the window of her car. Monica jumped when they tapped on the window. Looking up Monica saw a mature woman with a concerned look on her face. She knew she was going to get yelled at for running the red light and she slowly rolled the window down ashamed. The lady asked her if she was alright and Monica started crying trying to explain everything that had happened.

The lady introduced herself as Mallory Johnson. She was married to Mike Johnson pastor at Seven Mile Community Church. She was just returning home early from church because she had a migraine which had for some strange reason just disappeared. Maybe it was fear of being in an accident! Mallory asked Monica if she wanted to pray and whether she knew Jesus or not.

Monica said that she had gone to Bible Camp when she was a little girl and had accepted Jesus as her Savior but she hadn’t gone to church since. Mallory prayed with Monica and then writing her phone number down on a piece of paper gave it to Monica with specific instructions to call her if she needed anything.

Praying seemed to calm Monica’s nerves, a little. She drove home to confront her husband more confident.

He was drinking beer watching football when she got home. Monica felt unusually calm when she pulled the bracelet out of her purse and asked him whose it was. He said “How should I know?” but his eyes told a different story. She never said a word just kept looking straight into his lying eyes. It was too much for him and he got up yelling at her accidently knocking over the lamp on the table. “Why are you accusing me of this?” he yelled, storming around the house dramatically.

The two boys heard the yelling and came into the living room with their eyes open wide. Tyler was fumbling a Leggo piece in his hand. With a scared questioned look on his little face he looked up at his mom and said “Mommy, are you okay?” Monica had tears in her eyes and her bottom lip was trembling. “Yes honey.” She lied.

Her husband brushed past the youngest boy knocking him down. He started crying and fury overcame her. The tears left instantly and motherly protection came over her. She jumped up and told him to get out of the house! He turned to Susan looking square in her eye and said “No. I am paying for this house. You get out!”

Without any hesitation she grabbed the two boys and her purse and left. She drove down the road and called the number that Mallory had given her. Mike and Mallory brought them into their home until they were back on their feet. Monica started attending Seven Mile Community Church with them and soon became part of the worship team.

After church Monica approached Robin and Erica. “Do you think that the guys are doing any good?”

Robin replied with “I hope so. I sure will be glad when hunting season is over with! You have such a beautiful voice! I really enjoyed praise this morning. How are you doing Monica?”

“It’s all good.” Monica said but Robin could tell there was more. Monica asked her if she could ask her a question and Robin said “Absolutely!” guiding her over to a bench in the foyer.

She started in telling Robin how much she admired her and Sam’s family and then asked her if she had any advice for what she should do with Cory. She wanted to get married but he just didn’t seem like he wanted to. Robin didn’t know what to tell Monica. She asked her if she could ask her something personal. Monica said that she could, knowing what was coming.

“Are you sleeping together?”

Monica dropped her head nodding, looking at the floor. Robin hugged her. She remembered what it was like to be so alone. She whispered to Monica quietly “You know you need to stop. God will not bless your relationship when you are walking in sin. Sin interrupts your communication with Him.”

Monica just nodded wiping her eyes and said “Thank you Robin.”

Robin told her to call her anytime if she needed to talk.

Pastor Mike came up to the ladies saying to Robin “Where is that husband of yours? Robin’s cheeks flushed and Monica recovering quickly answered “He is hunting with Cory. It’s the last weekend of bird season.” Mike laughed and said “I am glad I am not with them it looks pretty miserable out there!”

 

Later that night Sam and Robin were in bed. Robin had a pillow against her back with her knees up reading her bible. Sam had just lain down and was watching her with her hair up wearing no makeup and her thick black glasses. She knew he was staring at her and she set the book down and turned to him with that “Stop looking at me look!” That made Sam laugh and he pulled her towards him to kiss her. She fell lazily over onto his chest. He stroked her hair and told her about how well Ben did hunting that day. She was laying there listening to his heart beat enjoying the closeness.

“I am worried about Monica”

“Why is that?” Sam asked.

She told Sam about their conversation at church. Sam listened to her stroking her hair. When she was finished, they both laid in silence. Sam broke it with “Cory won’t marry her.” Sharing what they had talked about. “That’s just not right Sam” Robin said sternly. “He needs to tell her then!” she sat up and rolled over on her side away from him, pulling the covers up close to her neck.

He laid there thinking.

She was right.

Sam fell into a deep sleep completely exhausted.

Chapter Four

 

When they pulled up to Cory’s house the garage door was open, the light was on, and there was a plastic dog kennel in the driveway next to a red cooler with a shotgun case leaning against the garage wall. Cory walked out just as they pulled up in the gray three quarter ton Ford crew cab.

Cory Jacobs had an excavation business that Sam’s engineering firm used often for some of the work that they did. He was a stocky man, shorter than Sam and built like a wrestler; Sam thought he was a good guy to have in his corner when needed. Cory also went to Seven Mile Community Church where Sam and Robin attended. Cory was dating Monica Anderson, one of the worship leaders at their church. Cory was a prominent and the couple was well liked.

Ben got out of the pickup and said “Hey Cory!” Cory grabbed him and gave him a bear hug. “Dad said you got a new dog! What kind is it?”

“A Vizsla” Cory said “He is a motor with a nose attached to it!” He opened the kennel and a long legged, long eared slender dog burst out. Picking up the kennel Sam put it in the back of the truck and strapped it to the sides so it would not slide around. “I brought an old sleeping bag along to put over the kennel if you need.” Sam said. “Or he can ride in the cab with us. It is pretty cold out and he doesn’t have much hair!”

“Oh, I think he will be okay in the back” Cory said. “I have a coat for him too. That sleeping bag is a great idea!”Snowy Road_4323

It was beginning to get light when they hit the back roads. It was heavily overcast and the wind was blowing steady out of the east which meant more snow was on the way. There were no tracks in the fresh snow ahead of them and the truck burst through three foot drifts in swales where it was allowed to collect.

Cory was telling Sam about how slow it was at work and how the economy seemed to be slowing down. “It is just kinda crazy out there. They say the economy is back to normal but work is awful slow. It doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe it is the weather.” he said. “Something in my gut just isn’t sitting right with everything that is going on in the world right now. It’s not just the economy either it’s everything. Everyone seems to be at war or threatening war and then it’s like everyone is against Israel too. That is such a podunk little country it doesn’t make sense why the entire world is surrounding them!”

“Ya, All the Arabs are against everyone. I just don’t understand those Muslim countries. They even hate each other. I say let them all go at it and let them shoot each other.” Sam replied.

“There has been a ton of earthquakes over in Japan too.” Cory continued. “It seems like the whole world is falling apart. This isn’t the same country we grew up in. It seems like it is like backwards. What’s right is wrong and what’s wrong is right. It’s very bizarre, definitely not the country we grew up in that is for sure!”

Ben was listening from the back seat and piped in saying, ”Did you hear about that earthquake yesterday in Oregon?” Susan said she felt it. “It was like standing on a waterbed. Stuff was falling off the shelf at her grandma’s house. It was kind of scary she said but it sounds cool to me!”

Cory answered them saying “Well you know what the Bible says about this? When you see wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes in various places with all these other things happening too, start looking up!”

“Oh ya, the Rapture” Sam said “Do you think it will really happen in our lifetime? I think they have been saying that for every generation since Jesus died! We will probably see the country collapse before Jesus comes back but I don’t know about the rapture.”

“Ya, crazy times. “ Cory said. “Hey can you pull off somewhere so I can unload some coffee?”

All three and Marty got out to relieve themselves. The snow was a at least six inches deep and all of them wrote their name in the snow except Marty.

Sam decided to throw the tire chains on the front tires of the truck. “It’s better to have them on before we get stuck!”

With all three men working together they had the chains secured on the front tires in matter of minutes. The wind was blowing hard and it was cold on their hands even with gloves on and the heater felt good when they resumed.

“If we can find them, the birds should be sitting tight with all of this snow and wind.” Sam said. “There is a place up this road that Robin and I looked into buying up this canyon a few years ago. She doesn’t want to buy the place but I sure feel drawn to it for some reason. Do you mind if we stop by and check it out?”

Cory agreed and they turned up the remote road driving deeper into the canyon. The chains on the front end added much more traction and the truck cut an aggressive path through the fresh snow. An occasional jack rabbit left its signature occasionally crossing back and forth across the desolate road.

Sam pulled up to a gate with the resemblance of a road behind it. An old “For Sale” sign dangled off to the side of a post whipping in the wind. The phone number was faded but readable. Sam got out and took a picture of the number with his cell phone. He cupped his hand blocking the wind to look up the hillside at a rocky bluff three quarters of mile away up a steep hillside. Going back to the passenger side of the truck he motioned Cory to roll down his window. Both Ben and Cory rolled down their windows. Marty stuck his head out too not wanting to miss out on anything. Sam pointed up to the reddish colored bluffs and said “I bet there are some birds up there at the base of those bluffs. Do you want to give it a shot?”

For you girls, this is a chukar

For you girls, this is a chukar

“You bet!” Both Ben and Cory agreed looking into the bleak snow covered high mountain desert landscape. Ben wondered how anything could live in this country but he was ready for a good hike even if it was going to be a cold one. He had been cooped up since football season and was ready to test his knee.

 

They loaded up their daypacks with extra shells. Robin packed a nice lunch for both of them individually marked and wrapped up. Sam told Ben “Your mom is amazing!” and Ben agreed wholeheartedly shoving the remains of a chocolate chip cookie in his mouth.

They hiked up an old road which wound its way towards the bluff. The snow was deep but fluffy and the climb was steep heating their bodies rapidly. The cold wind stung their faces causing them to pull their coat collars up and the wool hats tighter over their ears. When they got closer to the top Cory suggested splitting up and walking three abreast side hilling across the mountain about fifty yards apart. Sam agreed and Cory volunteered to take the top position and Ben took the bottom. Chukars typically flew down hill using gravity to aid in their escape advantage. Ben and Sam waited for Cory to climb higher up the hill before splitting up and working evenly across the mountainside. The wind was at their back howling louder the higher they climbed, the cold brutally cut through their winter coats.

Suddenly Cory shot above them. Both Sam and Ben looked up as a flock of at least twenty Chukars dove over the top of them like bombardiers on a sortie. Both of them raised and fired missing cleanly the first shot. Sam lead the next shot by a country mile and the bird rolled as did the next. Ben fired one more time, connecting with a bird which set his wings and sailed down in the bottom. Marty excitedly headed for the first bird that Sam hit. Sam was digging in his pocket to get more shells when two other birds flew overhead. His gun was empty and he yelled at Ben who whirled around and dropped one on the first shot. “Nice Shot Ben!” Cory exclaimed from on top of the bluff. Ben had a big smile on his face. That shot had surprised him too! Ben picked up that bird and told Sam that he was going to take Marty down to the bottom to find the bird that had set its wings. Cory hollered at Sam letting him know that he was pursuing another covey that had flown up above him and would catch up in a little bit.

Sam wanted to check out the spring at the base of the bluff and told Ben to meet him there after he found the bird in the bottom. The closer he got the more interesting protected area looked; it was a cove hidden in the rocks. The wind was whipping the snow causing his face to sting and his eyes to water. Visibility became nearly impossible. As Sam approached the edge of the spring he was surprised to discover green plants growing at the edge of the spring, even covered by several inches of snow. He blinked his eyes struggling to see clearly.

Suddenly the wind stopped. Clearing the tears from his eyes he looked around. He had entered a windless protected area at the base of the rocky bluff. He turned and took a couple of steps back only to discover the wind nearly knocked him over; one step made the difference between a fierce wind and perfect calmness. That was so cool he thought. The semi-circular open area was about seventy five yards across and there were five recessed caves into the base of the bluff. They didn’t go far back into the bluff, only about ten to twenty feet. The top of the bluff was sixty feet above and the face was red sandstone. He walked over to the largest cave and realized that there was water trickling down from the roof at one end. The water formed a small pool before seeping over the slope down to a freshwater spring that formed in the center of the cove area. Standing back he surveyed the landscape and determined that the spring in the center probably created the cove by eroding from underneath the bluff collapsing the material down the steep hillside. The caves themselves were formed by springs eroding the sandstone through a process of ice wedging in the winter forming the room sized caves. What amazed him the most was the green grass and water cress growing in the water and how lush it was for being the first part of January. The green in contrast to the deserts harsh winter surroundings was amazing. He set his gun down and took his pack off to explore a little closer. He crawled into the cave and sat down looking out at the valley floor below him. He could easily see for twenty miles. On a clear day he could expect to see fifty or even a hundred miles.

He couldn’t quite stand upright in the cave but with a little work this could actually be livable if you were a cave man kind of guy. He walked around to the other caves. They were smaller and had similar attributes. There was no evidence of human activity like black soot against the rock or trash lying around. Taking a closer look at the spring he noticed how clear the water was and it was actually moving forming a stream that eventually disappeared a hundred yards down the slope. There were fresh deer, rabbit, chukar and coyote tracks. He wondered how safe it was to drink. He went over to his pack and sat down rummaging through it until he found a small pill container with a couple of Ibuprofen in case of emergencies. He put the pills into and extra plastic baggie and used the bottle to get a sample of water. As he was putting the pill container back he found his compass and checked the coordinates for the aspect noting that the hill side faced south southwest. In his mind he imagined what and where the sun would be like in the summer. He was amazed at how the plants could grow protected inside the cave where the water dripped. The rock face collected heat during the day and prevented the plants from freezing at night. He went out in the center of the semicircle and kicked the snow out of the way to reveal a rich black soil. A garden would grow well here provided you could keep the critters away. The soil on the hillside along the bluff was rocky and not good for growing. The little area created just enough wind break that the soil being carry by wind depositing it right around the spring and over the years of natural recycling plant material it had built up the sandy loam into a rich fertile soil. The sixty foot cliffs surrounding the cove would provide adequate shade from the searing summer heat. Upslope drafts from the valley floor would cool the summer temperatures and generate wind power. By the way it was howling only 30 yards away electricity would not be a problem. His engineering mind kicked into gear taking in all of the possibilities of this little paradise. If a person got in a bind they could use this as a shelter; especially if there was any truth to what was happening in the world outside this small paradise This fortress was only an hour from town and very secluded. He wondered how many people knew about this place. Cory’s discussion earlier that morning about the rapture came to mind. If “shit really hit the fan” as he was hearing so much about lately, this would be a great place to ride it out.

He heard Ben shoot twice and watched as he and Marty searched excitedly for something. A surge of pride swelled up in Sam as he sat on a large boulder and watched. Ben was a good son. He worked hard at whatever he did. It had been only a few years ago that Sam had spoken sternly to Ben about the laziness Sam was beginning to him. Sam recalled his words, “That may be okay for your friends but no son of mine is going to be lazy!” Ben matured the following summer when Sam was able to get him on the survey crew at work pounding stakes. The survey crew worked long hard days and that was good, but the downside was, he had brought back some language from the job. Robin insisted Sam have a talk with Ben and nip that bud immediately. Ben respected his parents and did his best to honor them but it was tough when he was working with the survey crew. They cussed like sailors and were always checking women out downtown. They made it a point to eat their lunches at the park to watch women in their short shorts walking and jogging on the greenbelt. For a teenage boy it was hard to stand against that peer pressure. Sam had told him that he couldn’t save Ben from that and he was getting old enough now to start making those hard decisions and living the way God desired him to live; not like the rest of the world lived. He explained to Ben that it wasn’t going to be easy but that he needed to stand up at some point for what he believed in. Sam thought Ben responded well to their talk but did notice how the crew teased him afterwards. It was hard for Sam to watch but he also knew he couldn’t step in either. He didn’t know how well Ben would do under that peer pressure. Honestly Sam was relieved when that summer was over and Ben was back in school. Ben was a good looking young man and the girls took notice which was altogether another problem. Sam had experienced the same problem when he was younger, and still did. Women had always found him attractive and often approached him aggressively. That temptation was tough for any man. Since he had met Robin twenty four years ago nothing could make him waver for the love he had for her. He thought about her and her sense of humor. It brought a smile to his face. He remembered seeing her the first time she walked into the Broken Lives Recovery Fellowship group at Seven Mile Community Church. He knew the minute he laid eyes on her that he was going to marry her. She, however, was not ready and had no interest in any man. Period. She had recently gone through a nasty divorce laced with brutal physical and mental abuse. Her ex-husband had been a jealous controlling type that constantly accused her of cheating. He had been intensely insecure and after living under that canopy of fear, she was not about to test the water anytime soon!

It didn’t matter to Sam; He would wait forever for Robin. He just knew that he knew and when it came down to it, Robin was the only reason that Sam went to Broken Lives. Broken Lives was a unique recovery program that had found its way into every Christian church in the country. It was similar to the AA program but had nine steps. Rob Landon, a renowned pastor and author from Bridal Ridge Christian Church in northern California had developed the program. It was a revolutionary new approach to healing broken lives that was almost an epidemic in society as a whole and eroding even into the church. Every church in the nation used the same material and Broken Lives was very proud of the fact that any person could go into any church in the country that was in “the program” and the material and the curriculum would be identical. No other material was permitted to be introduced so that Broken Lives would maintain its successful reputation. Bridal Ridge Christian Church was one of the largest churches in the nation and every Christian had heard of Rob Landon. He had written a book called “A Well Designed Life” for a teaching tool that many pastors used in almost every church and bible study group in the nation. In an interview Rob Landon had humbly reported that A Well Designed Life was said to be the most printed Christian books second only to the bible. Rob Landon had become a household sensation overnight and had speaking engagements globally with some of the most influential people in the world. His church at Bridal Ridge supplied all of the printed materials for Broken Lives distributed to all of the churches nationwide and the income from his book had blessed his community church to the point that they could afford to purchase a Lear Jet and an on staff pilot to fly him to all of his speaking engagements. The structured Church program that he had created was so successful that it grew Bridal Ridge Christian Church into one of the most prosperous churches in the country. He began teaching other pastors how to use the same concept curriculum and material that he used at Bridal Ridge to make them just as successful. It was almost like a well-designed business plan that was proven to be prosperous.

At the end of the Broken Lives program Robin finally agreed to go have coffee with Sam. The rest was history. Sam was so thankful for Broken Lives Recovery Fellowship.

Ben was almost up the hill. Sam shouted down to him “Did you find the bird?” Marty hearing Sam’s voice, headed up to him at a run. Ben held up two birds proudly. “Yes and then some!” he replied with a huge grin across his face. Sam stood up and moved over on the rock he was sitting on to make room for Ben to sit.

Suddenly a large orange dog intercepted Marty rolling him over in the snow. Sam turned around to see Cory working his way along the base of the bluff.

“How did you do?” Sam yelled.

“I got a couple.” Cory responded “Man, I sure got into a lot of birds but my shotgun must be off!” he said smiling.

“Ya these little rockets are hard to hit! Are you ready to eat lunch?”

“Yes, I am” Cory said setting his shotgun against a rock and removing his pack. “Wow, this is a nice little spot! The wind isn’t blowing in here at all!”

“I know, isn’t it?” Sam said.

Ben was already eating his sandwich and chips with Marty at his feet looking up at him intently. “Mom, wrote me a note.” He said smiling.

Sam and Cory looked over at Ben holding up a small bag of Fritos. On the wrapper in black permanent marker it read.

 

Hope your having a good day!

I love you Ben!

Mom

 

Cory smiling said “That momma loves her son!”

Sam pulled out his sandwich and looked at his bag of chips. There was no note on it. “Yes she does!” he agreed.

Cory unwrapped several pieces of chicken from aluminum foil that he had bought from the store and was eating baked beans out of a plastic container with a white plastic fork.

“How’s it going with Monica?” Sam asked.

“Pretty good. We have been going out over for over a year now and she wants to get married.” Cory said and tossing the skin of the chicken to his dog who caught it nosily.

“As you should! Make an honest woman of her.” Sam replied.

“Ya, I don’t know… her kids and are almost grown but she doesn’t bring much to the table and has nothing to speak of really. My business is doing well right now and I am putting a lot of money in the bank. I have my retirement all set up, you know? What if we get married and it doesn’t work out? Then she takes half of my income. I don’t want to take a hit like that at my age.”

Listening, Sam took a bite of his sandwich. As he bit down the texture didn’t feel right and he took the sandwich out of his mouth looking at it. There was something in between the two pieces of lunchmeat. He reached in and pulled a small piece of paper out between them. Written in smeared blue pen was a note that he read to himself:

 

Thanks for being a great husband!

I love you honey!

 with a smiley face.

 

 

Ben started rocking back and forth laughing, slapping his knee. Corey and Sam joined in. “Your mom is something else!” Sam said to Ben.

After lunch they agreed to hunt a small circle back to the truck. Ben’s knee was starting to hurt a little and Sam didn’t want him overdoing it. When they reached the truck Cory had picked up a couple more birds and Sam had got one more.

Sam decided to gut the birds while Cory was loading up his dog. Ben helped him remove the feathers and put the cleaned birds in a couple of gallon Ziploc bags that Sam always kept in the truck.

“Can you wash them and clean them real good for your mom when we get home?” Sam asked Ben._MG_7803

Ben nodded his head “Yes sir, I will!”

Sam ruffle his hair and said “Thanks, son.”

It didn’t take long before Ben was asleep in the back seat of the truck. Sam looked at him through the rear view window and smiled. Marty was asleep right next to him.

“I don’t know what to tell you Cory. I know for me, my family is my greatest asset and I would take them over all of the money in the world. It is a pretty lonely life with just you and your money”

“ I know all too well Sam.”