Not One of the Crowd

Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not – Jeremiah 20:9

Do you sometimes feel like the prophet Jeremiah? He was called to be a prophet. Life for him was not at all easy. He couldn’t marry and have a family. His community hated him and they didn’t want to hear what he had to say because his messages were of doom and gloom. They were probably thinking, “who does he think he? These were people he grew up with. They were his neighbors. It got so bad that Jeremiah didn’t want to speak any more. He tried to keep silent but he couldn’t. He couldn’t keep silent when he had a message to share with the people that could result in their salvation.

Do you pass up opportunities to witness to others because you don’t want to be criticized, ridiculed, ignored or shunned? Are you tired of your friends making fun of you because you talk to them about God? Do you feel like you are an outsider because the people you once hung out with want nothing more to do with you? You cramp their style. You are a drag because you don’t want to go to nightclubs or the bars or hang out at the mall anymore. Your boyfriend dumped you because he’s not into that Bible stuff.

What do you do? You do what Jeremiah did. Realize and accept your new life as a Christian and that you have work to do. Accept that life at times will be difficult because you serve God. Jesus had to deal with family, neighbors and friends who rejected and questioned His ministry. He faced persecution and opposition from the religious leaders. In spite of all of these things, He finished the work God had sent Him to do. Follow His example. Continue to share your faith. Those who want to hear it will listen. Sooner or later, the seed will fall on good soil.

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Big Mouth

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Photo by Jodi McKinney

“What’s the meaning of this?” Audrey demanded after she’d marched over to the television and switched it off.  “Kids, off to bed NOW!”

They scurried past the fish tank, not daring to protest as they usually did.  They could see that Mom was mad.  After casting sympathetic glances at their baby-sitter, Avril, they raced up the stairs and to the safety of their rooms.

Avril stared at Audrey.  “What do you mean?” she asked.

“Are you kidding me?” Audrey was beside herself with rage.  “I walked in here and caught you watching that disgusting show on Netflix.”

“You mean ‘Big Mouth’”

“Yes!  I don’t want my girls watching ungodly shows like that.  This is a Christian home, Avril.  If you can’t abide by the rules, then I will find someone else who can.”

Avril’s face suffused with color.  “Sorry, Mrs. Miller.  It won’t happen again, I promise.”

Audrey’s rage subsided.  “Make sure it doesn’t.  Good night.”

“Good night, Mrs. Miller.”

As she walked down the sidewalk, Avril texted her boyfriend, I got busted this time.

175 Words

I read recently that the controversial Netflix series, Big Mouth, is promoting abortion to teens.  The series, rated TV-MA, follows a group of tweens and teens going through puberty and is filled with coarse language and sex jokes.  Understandably, parents are upset.  I thought I would write a story based on this.

This was written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by Priceless Joy. For more information visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

 

Source:  Christian Headlines

The Ruin of Sarah Ann Johnston

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Photo by John Brand

Every time Grandma and I walked past the abandoned house with the gigantic grass shaped cross, she would tell the sad story of Sarah Ann Johnston.  I indulged her.  She was getting up there and forgot that she had told me the story many times before.  I just listened as she talked about the downfall of the reputed most Christian woman who ever lived in Green Bay County.

“We warned her not marry him,” Grandma said, shaking her head.  “but she wouldn’t listen.  We told her that she shouldn’t be unequally yoked with a man who didn’t have a religious bone in him but she foolishly believed that she could reform him.

“Everyone in the county except me went to the wedding.  I’m no hypocrite.  I wasn’t going stand up there and pretend like I approved.  Sarah Ann was mad at me, of course, but I had to be true to myself.”

“It wasn’t long before things got bad between them.  She caught him red-handed with another woman and shot them dead.  Now she’s in jail.  Foolish woman, she should have listened.”

Poor Sarah Anne Johnston.  Her blind and foolish love led to her ruin.

195 Words

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Her New God

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Photo by Sue Vincent

She looked at the tree with the scarves, ties and other colorful things draped on the branches and grimaced.  Waste of time.  She saw the items she had put on the tree months ago, believing that the gods would hear her prayers and answer but it was as if they had turned their backs on her.  Her son was still sick.  Nothing worked.  The hospital was too far away and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.  And he was growing worse.

“You haven’t tried Me”.  She looked around, wondering who had said that.  She was alone.  She continued walking, chalking it up to imagination when she heard it again.  “You haven’t tried Me”.

Frightened, she asked, “Who are You?”

“I am the God who created the heavens and the earth.”

The Christian God, she thought.  She had heard about Him.  “I have heard stories about You how You parted the Red Sea and sent bread from Heaven.”

“Yes, and I can also heal the sick.”

She paused and looked up.  “Can You heal my son?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“How?”

“All you have to do is to pray and believe that I can do it and I will.”

She thought about it for a moment.  What did she have to lose?  Her son was sick and her gods weren’t answering her desperate cries for help.  At least this God was talking to her and He wanted to heal her son.  She got down on her knees and prostrated herself on the ground, hands clasped above her head, eyes squeezed shut.  She began to pray and as she did, the words just poured from her lips, accompanied by gut wrenching tears as she pleaded for her son’s life.

When she was finished, a peace she had never experienced before in her life came over her.  She got up and wiping her face, she trudged the rest of the way to the village.  When she arrived, her sister ran out to greet her, her face bright with joy.  “Saanvi!  It’s Jayesh,” she cried, unable to speak because she was so excited.

Saanvi frowned,  “What about Jayesh?” she asked.

“He’s recovered,” her sister said, grabbing her hand and pulling her towards thehut.   “The fever left him and he’s awake.  He’s asking for you.”

Overjoyed, Saanvi burst into the hut and when she saw Saanvi sitting up in the bed, she fell to the ground and began to thank the Christian God.  “You are now my God,” she said.  “When the other gods ignored my cries for help, You heard and You spoke to me.  You healed my son.  You’re my God now.”

By the end of the week, all traces of the other gods were gone.  In their place was a Bible which she had gotten from a missionary visiting her village.  And as for the Wishing Tree, she had no more use for it.  She removed the items she had placed on the branches and burned them.

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Wishes for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the image.

Freedom

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She stood on top of the mountain, her eyes riveted to the American flag as it flapped gently in the breeze.  It was more spectacular than the surrounding landscape.  It was a symbol of freedom from a life of religious persecution in a country where being a Christian led to her husband’s arrest and imprisonment.  After learning of his death resulting from vicious beatings and torture, she fled their home.  She was two months pregnant.

For days she traveled on foot with nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat except sunflower seeds but still, she continued to cling to her faith.  She found a safe house in Bangkok but shortly after, Thai police showed up, seized her possessions and sent her to detention.  The judge ordered her deportation.  Back in the jail cell, she prayed, “God, please help me.”

And He did, through the U.S. Embassy officials who helped her to escape from the Chinese and to America.  Now she and their daughter were free. One day she would tell her about her brave father.

175 words.

It was inspired by a true event and was written for the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge.  For more information, please visit Here.

To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  Christian Post; The Voice of the Martyrs CanadaCBN News

Walking Away

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? – 2 Corinthians 6:14

There signs were there but either she was blind to them or she didn’t want to see them.  They spoke at odd hours.  She never met his family or any of his friends and he didn’t seem keen on meeting hers.  She had no idea where he lived. He never invited her to his place and always ended up at hers. They never spent the holidays together or attended special events.  Once when she got tickets to a play she had always wanted to see, he told her that something had come up and he couldn’t go. She had to ask a friend to go with her.

He never used his credit card.  He paid everything in cash.  He took her to lonely and secluded places.  And whenever they were in public, he was different, not showing any display of affection.  To the casual observer, they were just friends, nothing more but behind closed doors, it was a different story.  He couldn’t seem to get enough of her. And then there was the wedding band line although he hadn’t mentioned anything about being married.  And on more than one occasion she had invited him to go to church with her but he always had an excuse why he couldn’t go.

Her gut told her that something was not right.  It kept nagging her driving her to pray about it.  God led her to two passages:  The first was: 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 which said, For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.”

And the second was Hebrews 13:4:  Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

God was telling her plainly that her boyfriend was a married man and that she needed to end their relationship.  After she closed the Bible, she collapsed on the carpet and began to cry.  The pain was unbearable.  She loved him and he had been lying to her all this time.

Hours later when she was composed, she called him on his cell.  It rang a long time and just as she was about to end the call, he answered.  “Sorry,” he apologized.  “I was in the middle of something.”

“I need to see you,” she said simply.  “Can you meet me this afternoon?”

“I can’t this afternoon.  How about tomorrow afternoon around 4?”

“Fine.  I’ll meet you tomorrow afternoon at the entrance of Craigleigh Gardens Park.”  They had been to the park before because there was an air of secrecy about it and not many people were around.  Whenever they were there, they felt as if they had the place all to themselves.

“Why I see you at your place?”

“I prefer to meet you in the park.”

“All right.  I’ll see you then.  I love you.”

She didn’t say “I love you” as usual but, instead mumbled, “Bye” and ended the call.  She went out onto the terrace where she sat for a long time, dreading the inevitable.

As she stood at the entrance to the park waiting for him, she prayed and asked God to give her the strength to do what she must do.  And she had this assurance, fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Knowing that God was with her gave her comfort but it was going to be hard and very painful to say goodbye to the man she loved.  How she wished he weren’t married or lied to her about it.  What else did he lie about?

Five minutes to four, he showed up.  Her heart leapt in her throat and she had to fight the impulse to throw her arms around him.  He wouldn’t have minded there wasn’t anyone around.  He looked handsome in the expensive looking striped navy blue suit, snow white shirt and no tie.  His thick, silky bronze colored hair was neatly combed as usual.  He exuded sophistication and virility.  As he approached her, she felt her resolve weakening and she frantically said a silent prayer.

She saw his eyes travel over her in the yellow top and black skirt and the desire in his eyes.  She tried to ignore her body’s reaction.  Not seeming to notice that something was amiss, he said, “Hello, Erika” and was about to take her in his arms when she stepped back.   Frowning, he asked, “Is something wrong?”

“Let’s go inside and find a bench,” she suggested and turned away.  She went through the entrance and he followed her.  Nothing was said until they found a bench.  He waited until she was seated and then he sat down.  After taking a deep breath, she said, “It’s over between you and me.”

He looked startled and for a few minutes, he was at a loss for words and then he finally asked, “Why?”

“You’re married, Cyrus.”

“How did you find out?”

“The signs were there but I didn’t want to see them.  When I see you it’s usually at your convenience.  I have never met your family or your friends or been to your place and we only go to certain places.  Things haven’t been adding up and my gut kept telling me that something was wrong.  And your finger,” she said looking down at his left hand.  “has the mark of a ring.  When you’re with me you don’t wear it.  How long have you been married?”

He sighed.  “Ten years.”

“Do you have any children?”  She fought to keep the tears back.

“Yes.  Two.  A six year old boy and a four year old girl.”

She buried her face in her hands and groaned.  He was married with children.  All those times when they couldn’t spend Christmas or New Year’s together, it was because of his family.

He reached out to pull her towards him as he muttered, “Erika, I’m sorry.”

She pushed his hand away, the tears rolling down her face.  “You’re sorry,” she cried angrily.  “Sorry that you lied to me or sorry that I found out?  All this time you and I were seeing each other, you were really cheating on your wife.  If I had known that you were married I never would have gotten involved with you.”

“That’s why I didn’t tell you.  I didn’t want to lose you.”

“Am I your first affair or have you had others before me?”

“No.  I’ve never cheated on my wife before.  The thought never occurred to me but that changed when I met you.  I knew it was wrong to get involved with you but I couldn’t help myself.  I wanted you so much…”

“I fell in love with you, Cyrus, not knowing that you had a family.  When you were with me, did you think about them and how this would hurt them?”

He ran his fingers through his hair, his face pale.  “No, I wasn’t thinking,” he admitted tightly.  “All I could think about was you and how much I loved you–”

“Please, don’t tell me that you love me.”

“But, I do.  I love you more than I love my children.”

“What about your wife?  Do you love her?”

“No.  I stopped loving her after our daughter was born.”

“Why are you still married?”

“Two reasons are preventing me from getting a divorce–my religion and my children.  So, I’m stuck in a marriage to a woman I don’t love while I’m in love with a woman who doesn’t want me anymore.”

For a brief, maddening moment, she wanted to put her arms around him and tell him that she still wanted him, desperately.  But, as a Christian, she couldn’t stay in a relationship that wasn’t right for her.  She loved him so much that it hurt but she had to obey God’s Word.  Sometimes, you had to walk away from love.  She stood up, her heart breaking and the tears streaming down her face.  “Cyrus, I’m sorry that you are stuck in an unhappy marriage.  I hope and pray that things work out for you and that you find happiness but it won’t be with me.  I have to find my own happiness.”

He stood up, anguish marring his features.  “What are you saying, Erika?”

“I’m saying goodbye.  I’m saying that it’s over between us.”

“But, I love you.”

“And I love you but you’re a married man.”

“So, it’s really over?”

“Yes.” The word was choked sob.

“Could I at least kiss you goodbye?” he asked thickly.  “Please?”

Against her better judgment, she allowed him to take her in his arms and kiss her.  When she felt his lips on hers, she put her arms around his neck and eagerly kissed him back.  They exchanged passionate kisses for several minutes and then she pulled away from him.  She turned away, gulping for air.

“Erika…”

“Please go,” she begged, still with her back turned to him.

There was a brief pause and then he was walking away–out of her life for good.

To truly love is to have the courage to walk away and let the other person who wishes to be free go no matter how much it hurts – Taylor Swift

Photo by: blogTO

Source:  Belief Net; BlogTO; Bible Gateway; Culture Hook;

Good Luck or God

I have heard of Talisman before but couldn’t remember what it was until I searched its meaning on the Internet.  It is an object which people believe holds magical properties that bring good luck to the possessor, or that protect the possessor from evil or harm.  It can be wore around the neck or wrist.

Jewish amulets were made up of texts, using either letters or graphic symbols which were inscribed various types of materials such as plant matter or precious stones. The amulet was used to ease childbirth, facilitate recovery from illness and improve one’s livelihood.  It was also used to protect a mother and her newborn child from the dangers of Lilith, a female demon who was believed to pursue and kill mother and infant.   An example of the text found on a amulet used for this purpose is:

I command you, holy and pure angels Sanoi, Sansanoi, Semanglaf, Semanglon, to keep all spirits and demons and all evil misfortunes and all Liline and all Liltine away from this newly delivered mother and from this newborn babe; and from the day on which this amulet, on which are inscribed your names, will be placed in this house in which is to be found the newborn, from this day forward remove Lilith and all her followers and all her servants from this newborn and from this house to the farthest reaches. Let her and all the demons with her flee, that she and her followers may never be able to harm this child for ever and ever. 

And the amulet for childbirth would sometimes simply say, “Adam, Eve; Lilith out.”

Amulet to protect a woman and her newborn son, with invocations of Adam and Eve, Lilith, and several angels; Podolia or Ukraine, late nineteenth or early twentieth century. (The Russian Museum of Ethnography, St. Petersburg, Russia)

The belief that amulets have hidden powers was widespread among both Jews and non-Jews in Eastern Europe and across all levels of society.  However, there were some Jews who opposed the use of amulets and prominent among them was Maimonides who wrote vehemently against them. The maskilim in Eastern Europe openly mocked the use of amulets and considered them to be profane and harmful.  The fact of the Jews believing in amulets may be a result of the apostasy of the Israelites when they adopted many of the beliefs and practices of the pagan nations around them such as worshipping foreign gods and child sacrifice.

Talismans were not only worn by the common people but by kings as well.  Charlemagne, the former king of the Franks wore one.

 

This is the Talisman of Charlemagne which is said to have been found on his body when his tomb was opened

Charlemagne’s wife had sorcerers from the Court of Haroun el Raschid, Emperor of the East, make his talisman for him.   It had two large cabochon sapphires, one was oval and the other was square.  They were set into a remnant of the wood from the Holy Cross (the Cross of Jesus) and a small piece of the Virgin’s hair. It was to make their love constant.  One would assume that it worked since he never stopped loving her. This was the talisman which was buried with him at Aix-la-Chapelle, in 814 and re-discovered when the tomb was opened by Otto III in 1000.  The talisman was  preserved in the treasury of the Cathedral until it was given, by the canons, to Empress Josephine in 1804, to wear at her coronation.

Wearing a talisman created by sorcerers seems at odds with the Charlemagne who “submitted to no one but God”.

I was surprised to learn that there are Christian Talismans.  Ancient Coptic Talismans like this one came from the Oromo people of Ethiopia and were traditionally worn to protect the wearer from evil spirits and bring good luck.  They contain scrolls usually made of vellum and were inscribed with prayers and stories from Coptic Christian bibles or manuscripts by priests, religious scribes or unordained clerics known as ‘dabtaras’ and then sewn inside their leather pouch.  The writing on the scroll was done with special black and red ink and written in Ge’ez, a currently unspoken language used for religious purposes.  These Coptic talismans, like the Coptic crosses, were made a long time ago and it is  hard to determine their age.  Some were made as early as the late 19th century but these talismans have been made, worn and worshipped for over 1600 years.

Coptic Christian amulet/talisman from the Oromo people of Ethiopia

Should Christians be wearing talismans?  There are two types which are used as symbols of the Christian faith–the Cross and the fish.  The first symbolizes Jesus and what He did for mankind and the second symbolizes those His followers who are to be “fishers of men”.

The cross
The cross of Christianity was a symbol of the faith. It was previously considered a pagan symbol, with several early church fathers objecting to its use. The cross represents Christ’s victory over death and sin, since it is believed that through His death he conquered death itself.

Fish
The fish’s first known use as a Christian religious symbol was sometime within the first three centuries AD.  Christians began using the Greek word for “fish” as an acronym for “Jesus Christ God’s Son, Savior”. Followers of Christianity were called Pisciculi; the root of this Latin word is “fish”. 

When I did a search on the Fish symbol, I discovered that there are three–the one of the fish only, the one with Jesus’ name in the middle and the one of the cross in the middle.

Christians wear crucifixes or have them hanging in their homes or  dangling from the rear view mirror of their automobiles.   I have seen stickers of the fish symbol on the back of some cars.  Should Christians be part of what has become popular today?  Well, many don’t think they should.  And they use the following Bible verses to defend their stance:

“They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and clasp hands with pagans” (Isaiah 2:6, NIV). 

“In that day, the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes [and] amulets” (Isaiah 3:18-20, NAS).

“Moreover, Josiah removed the mediums and the spirits and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might confirm the words of the law which were written in the book” (2 Kings 23:24, NAS).  The teraphim was the name used for idols or images reverenced by the ancient Hebrews and kindred peoples, apparently as household gods.

There is the argument that instead of putting on talismans for protection for evil and demonic powers, put on the whole armor of God “that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

“There are concerns that people allow objects such as crosses, crucifixes, figurines, rosaries, bumper stickers, etc., to take the place of the true change that should take place in our hearts. The things we wear, carry, or put on our cars are not what make us Christians. God is not concerned with what we wear as long as we do not dress in a way that would cause anyone to stumble in his or her walk with God (Romans 14:20) and we are not absorbed with our looks or our possessions.

On the other hand, “Many Christians wear crosses as a proud expression of their love, respect, and service to Christ, along with a remembrance of what He did for us.”

Choosing to wear Christian Talismans or not, is up to the individual.  I personally don’t wear religious jewelry or jewelry of any kind but that was me following my own conscience and what I believed was what God wanted for me.  If people feel safer on their person, in their vehicles or in their homes, then, they have to do what their consciences dictate, as long as these things never take the place of God Himself who is our one, true Source of protection against the evil one.

Sources:  Wikipedia; Yivo Encyclopedia; Above Top SecretEtsy; Bible Info; Got Questions; Unusual Historicals;