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 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 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 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 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.”

 

Chapter Three

Sam awoke before the alarm went off, he carefully reached to turn it off so as not to wake Robin. He rolled out of bed quietly but she woke anyway cracking one sleepy eye open. Her face was buried in the pillow but when her eyes met his a smile formed at the edge of her mouth. He looked at her lying in bed in her purple t-shirt, her blonde hair rustled up. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He told her often that she looked prettier without makeup and she told him just as often that he was delusional. He fought the urge to climb back into bed and leaned over her and kissed the edge of her mouth. He felt her smile widen under his kiss.

Robin rolled over and watched him get dressed. The routine was one she’d watched numerous times but it never grew old. First he pulled on his long underwear and then his wool pants. With a faint sigh he sat on the edge of the bed to put on his socks. Robin couldn’t resist the urge to touch him, she ran her hand across his back. He was an average man, six foot tall and in good shape for his age. He sported a small pudge on his stomach that came from being fifty years old and spending more time than he’d hoped for behind a desk. Sam’s hair was turning a salt and pepper gray, what Robin said was a sign of wisdom, but he thought differently. Standing in front of the closet door he rummaged for his favorite hunting shirt.

“All the way over, next to your jacket” Robin said still watching him. She was right, it was exactly where she said, Sam reached for his favorite tan long sleeved hunting shirt. It was his “lucky hunting shirt.” Robin had said the only reason it was “Lucky” was because it was the only thing he ever wore! Unhooking it from the hanger he slipped it on over the gray long underwear top. Buttoning it up Sam noticed that two of the buttons didn’t match.

“Hey, thanks for sewing those new buttons on! I won’t be wanting air-conditioning in my shirt today!”

Ben was up and making noise in his room which made Sam smile. He enjoyed hunting with his son. It was a something that they shared together.

Hutch 110927_0194“Your lunch is in the refrigerator and the cooler is sitting next to the hutch. Do you want me to make you breakfast or coffee?” Robin said pulling the pillow up close to her. Sam smiled at her and said “No, honey. I got it, go back to sleep.”

Marty jumped up on the bed leaning hard against Robin, he panted heavily with both anticipation and anxiety while Sam dressed. He knew Sam was going somewhere and was letting him know that he wanted to go too. Sam saw him looking intently with his ears up and his head slightly cocked.

“What? Do you want to go too?” Marty’s ears dropped and what tail he had wiggled all the way through his butt. He jumped down to the floor looking up at Sam with his teeth smiling.

“Of course he does!” said Robin.

They picked Marty up from a co-worker, Aaron, who worked at the engineering office with Sam. Aaron’s wife worked for a veterinarian’s office in town, a friend had dropped off a  litter of pups they had been found in their horse trailer, abandoned, whimpering in the cold, and in desperate need of homes. Sam had called Robin and together they decided to get the dog for the kids. Marty had bonded with Robin immediately and was ferociously protective of her as well as the kids, but whenever Sam was  out doing chores Marty was right next to him.

Sam looked in on Ben as he went down the hall towards the kitchen. “How many eggs do you want?” He asked.

Ben looking sleepy eyed with a smile “Four” Sam smiled turning towards the kitchen as he mumbled “That kid has a hollow leg!” Ben was tall and slender like him. He was as tall as Sam and was filling out quickly. Ben played football during the fall season and was the tight end for the team. They had done all right but an injury to his knee had resulted in Bens sitting on the bench the last three games. Sam wondered how chukar hunting was going to be for him.

The combination of coffee, bacon and eggs permeated the house and the men rummaging around in the kitchen roused Robin out of bed. Sam was dumping four scrambled, partially sunny sided eggs, and bacon onto Ben’s plate when he noticed Robin leaning against the door frame. Her hair was up and she had on her thick black rimmed glasses wearing a purple t-shirt and black pajama bottoms. A loose strand of blonde hair dangled down the side of her smooth cheek framing her face and neck. Her long neck complimented her crossed arms which were toned and slender. Her presence, along with dimples at the sides of her smile stopped him in his tracks. At 45, her big brown eyes and blonde hair still made his knees weak.

He put the frying pan down in the sink and poured her a large cup of steaming black coffee. She went to the refrigerator for the cream to soften the intensity of the strong coffee, thanking him with a kiss.

Sitting down next to Sam at the table she took a piece of bacon off of his plate, nibbled at it and put it back. Leaning back she asked Ben if he had enough clothes. “Yes, Mom” then turning to Sam she asked about the temperature outside.

After chasing a bite of egg and toast down with a hot shot of coffee Sam replied “Twenty degrees and the wind is blowing making the wind-chill right at zero” Robin asked where they would be hunting and he replied, “Down by that piece of property we looked at last year. I think it’s still for sale too.” Robin rolled her eyes dramatically. “With all of this snow out there you won’t be able find the “For Sale” sign!”

Sam looked at the clock and said to Ben “We need to get going! I already loaded your shotgun and shells, grab your coat and daypack and meet me in the truck.”

Marty hearing the word ‘Truck’ was dancing in circles in the kitchen. Robin laughed and said “Don’t worry Marty you’re going!” she handed Sam the cooler with their lunches and followed them to the garage door kissing Ben on the cheek as he passed. Sam wrapped his arm around her tightly and whispered “Dang woman. You drive me nuts!” and then softly gave her a kiss. She pushed him away smiling “Be careful!” she said to the both of them. Ben waved from inside the truck with Marty sitting in the middle next to him.

Chapter Two

A column of smoke rolled out of the stone chimney cascading to the ground before disintegrating in the strong east wind across the pasture. When Sam turned the corner onto the long lane the three cows in the pasture lifted their heads to greet him. Even though he was an hour early the site of the gray three quarter ton Ford coming down the lane rang the dinner bell for them and they ran alongside the fence throwing their heads up bucking and bawling. Suddenly, aware of the cow’s commotion Marty the family’s Australian Shepherd tore out of the barn barking and intercepting the cows sending them running towards the barn.

Marty wriggled a greeting from every part of his body as Sam stepped out of the truck. “Hey you old hound!” Sam greeted him. Sam could hear an axe come down hard on a round of lodge pole pine in the barn. Grabbing his dented and rusty lunch box he slipped on his jacket and headed in towards the sound of splitting wood, with Marty leading the way.wood pile_1

“Hey Dad!” Ben and Erica said simultaneously.

“Hey guys, how was your day?” Sam replied.

Ben put down the splitting maul with a heavy sigh and Erica greeted Sam with a warm hug.

“Okay”, Ben replied wiping sweat from his brow “We’re stocking up the wood box.”

Keeping the wood box filled was one of Ben’s chores. It made Sam happy to see his older sister helping him. Her little brother missed her since she had moved away to begin college. The separation had been good for them, Christmas break had rekindled their relationship.

“How are you doing, young lady?” Sam said with his arm still around his daughter. He was proud of her for what she had accomplished in college. She was taking a full load of classes in line for a degree in veterinary medicine. She was much like her mother, Robin. When she set her mind to do something it was better to get out of the way. School was an obstacle that needed to be accomplished in order to acquire her goal. She had graduated at the top of her class, being awarded the Valedictorian for Centerville High Class of 2013.

“It was a good day! I helped mom take down the Christmas tree, just finished feeding the chickens and decided to work out a bit helping Ben with his chores.” she said while dramatically lifting her arm to show off her lack of muscles. She was wearing her mom’s coat to do the chores; he smiled noticing how much she had grown, still, Robin’s coat fit her loosely.

Maggie at the feeder

Maggie at the feeder

“Did you get any eggs?” Sam asked. “Nope. They’re still not laying.” She said picking up a split chunk of wood and tossing it into the wheelbarrow”

“Hmmm, must be the short days or maybe they sense this storm coming. The way that wind is blowing out of the east it’s going to be a pretty good storm. You might want to make sure we have extra wood stockpiled on the deck just in case we get dumped on tonight.”

One of the cows bellered from over by the feeding stanchion. “I’ll be there in a minute! “ Sam retorted.

“Where’s your mom?” Sam asked Erica.

“She’s in the house. She made something special for you!” Erica said teasingly.

“Oh”? Sam said turning towards the house. “For me?”

Even though the tree had been taken down it still smelled like Christmas in the large log house. Robin had spent hours in the kitchen baking for Christmas and enjoying her time with Erica. Baking and being in the kitchen was something they both shared together. Erica and Robin had talked nearly non-stop since she’d returned from school, Erica informing her mom about all the details that she hadn’t shared throughout the semester. Robin informed Sam of all the pertinent extras later in the evening before they went to sleep. Erica had needed to leave for school in order for the mother daughter relationship to develop to the next level, which he could now see was that of cherished friend. The season of absence had been rough for Robin and she was very grateful to have Erica home.

Robin looked up from the sink when the door opened and Sam came in. There was something about a barefoot woman in an apron in the kitchen Sam thought to himself. He wasn’t sure if it had anything to do with food or not but he was sure it had something to do with Robin wearing that apron. Robin loved the heated tile floors where she could go barefoot even in the winter and she always had her toenails exquisitely painted.

Sam casually looked around the room for what Robin might have made for him but the granite island where the sink was and the surrounding countertops were bare, tidy and cleaned. Everything was in its place. Nothing was baking in oven, stove-top, or the microwave, nor was there anything setting out in the open to cool. The table was set for dinner with red and white checkered cloth napkins and brilliant white china plates with an embossed floral design around the outside. The center piece of Ponderosa pine needles remained the same with two red candles and a taller white one in the center. As always, her decor perfectly placed. Each season appropriately defined, the centerpiece complimented the Christmas table cloth that draped over the long wooden farm table. All Sam could smell was cinnamon, pine and Christmas; nothing that might give the surprise away.

“Hi” Sam said putting his lunch pail on the end of the counter.

Drying her hands with a towel she walked towards him with a smile on her face. “What are you looking for Sam?” she said with a big smile.

“I think I found her!” he replied, embracing her fully. He held her tight rocking back and forth, taking in the gentle scent of her soft fragrance. She closed her eyes lost in the embrace while he looked over her shoulder for anything that would reveal what Erica was talking about. The combination of her body close to him and the lingering perfume that she wore overtook him evaporating the surprise.

 

Marty, took the small piece of elk gristle politely from Sam’s hand.

“Dad, you’re not supposed to feed the dog at the dinner table” Erica scolded while passing out the chocolate pie Robin had made for dessert.

He glanced up at Robin and she gave him a stern look from directly across the table. A hint of a dimple line appeared in the corner of her mouth revealing that the depth of her visual reprimand was more for the kid’s sake.

Chocolate pie was Sam’s favorite dessert and he savored the first bite dramatically moaning with delight.

“I ran into Cory at work today” Sam said. “He wants to go chukar hunting this weekend.”

“In this weather? Go ahead, you’re going to freeze!” Robin replied.

Ben interrupted enthusiastically “Can I go?”

“Sure, if you want to” said Sam “Cory has a new bird dog. He wants to see how good his nose is. We’ll probably be leaving early so don’t stay out all night Saturday”

“Susan is still over in Oregon at her grandmother’s house so I am free!” Ben was anxious to get out of the house since Susan left. It had been a long Christmas for him having his girlfriend away.

The couple had been going out for over a year. She and her mother, Heidi, had gone to Bend, Oregon to spend Christmas with Heidi’s mom. Heidi’s dad had passed away earlier that fall and this would be their first Christmas without her dad. Heidi hadn’t wanted her mom to be alone for the holidays so had opted to make the drive over the snow covered roads.

Robin, now visibly annoyed asked, “You’re going Sunday? Why don’t you go on Saturday? I cannot believe that you’re going to miss church again this week, you’ve missed the last two Sundays!”

“I know, honey, but Cory has to work on Saturday and it’s the last weekend of hunting season.” Sam said patting Marty on the head.

“No, it’s about priorities, Sam!” Robin got up and started clearing the table, lips pursed.

Sam scooted out his chair, picked up his plate and silverware taking them to the sink. Robin’s back was facing Sam and he ran his hand down the outside of her arm. Robin tensed at the touch.

“Hey “, Sam whispered, his voice cracked unintentionally. She turned towards him enough for her to see his face.

“What kind of message are you sending the kids?” She whispered. He could see the bottom of her eye was filling with a tear. He wiped it away with his calloused thumb.

“One more weekend and you have me all winter. I promise” She tentatively turned to him and smiled, but the concerned look in her eye sent the message directly. “Okay.” she breathed in clearing her runny nose.

Sam leaned over and to give her a kiss on the cheek. She pulled back saying “I’ll have your lunch packed for you. Do you want lunch-meat or tuna fish sandwiches?”

“Lunch-meat would be awesome, honey.” Wrapping one arm around her waist and pulling her close he said, “Thanks for the chocolate pie!”

Leaning back she wiped soap bubbles on his face and then kissed him.

Erica and Ben brought their dishes over and put them in the sink. Ben tugged on Erica’s hair and Erica’s slugged Ben. “Ow! Geez, Erica that hurt!”

Sam laughed at Ben “You better not mess with your sister Ben. She can handle her own!” Erica was a sophomore at the community college in Nampa. Last semester, before Christmas break, she had taken a course in self-defense at her parent’s suggestion. Sam noticed that the classes made a positive impact on her self-esteem. She was not the timid, slender girl she was in high school. He was glad to see that; she had her mom’s looks although his darker hair. Sam had seen the way boys, and even men looked at her. It riled him inside and he fought the urge to say something. He was proud of her, but also protective. Her new found confidence assured him.

In her first year of college Erica had started a college-age bible study at the local church she was attending. She was faithful to lead the study every Tuesday night, even though it was one more thing on her plate. The bible study started with just a handful of friends getting together but word had spread of the group and numbers increased to over twenty five, a majority being freshmen. Erica had mentioned to Robin how rapidly the group had grown. Robin wanted to see Erica in action so decided to visit the group one evening during fall semester, she relayed to Sam how Erica had deeply impressed her. She was a powerful speaker and connected well with her peers. They respected her. When she spoke she was not the girl that they had raised. She was dynamic and filled with the Spirit.