(So I wrote this poem for a workshop in my Creative Writing class but most of the students had no idea what the point of this poem is. I've tried but I just can't change it, it feels so complete to me, and the critiques at school were not very helpful. Any suggestions to make it more understandable?)
This isn’t December weather.My dog (the best dog in the world) is shedding like crazy because it’s so hot.I haven’t seen an overcast sky yet, since I arrived in Mexico City two weeks ago.Although there is plenty of smog surrounding the building silhouettes on the horizon, this is my kind of winter.In addition to the 75 degree weather, there are over 50 people in my house today, Mexicans and Americans, upper and lower class, raising the temperature about 10 more degrees.The smell of arrachera beef is floating its way into every corner of the house.Believe me, the smell could make the fullest stomach hungry again.
What’s funny is that there really isn’t anybody sitting around the tables set up in my living room to drool over the juicy marinate smell.Everyone else is in the kitchen.Well actually, the kitchen is too small for us all to fit and not enough counter space for us all to help.So some moved into the dining room.We’re all moving to get the cheese shredded for the quesadillas and the chorizo wrapped to be grilled and the beans and salsa zapped and the tortillas warmed up on the stove.The children are helping by staying out of the way and playing outside.My home is a factory with all the consumers working together to produce something to consume.It’s a cool atmosphere—the sunny sky, the smell of arrachera, the sound of the beef grilling, the smiles on the faces, the laughs after a joke, the kids swinging on the swings and playing soccer outside—an atmosphere I call Heaven.It didn’t matter that I didn’t get much sleep last night.
Last night there was a party about three houses down the street and just like most Mexican new year’s parties, it was loud.The constant latino reggeton beat pounded against the cement walls of my house all through the night as we tried to drown it out with a fan and pillows on our heads.But right around 2 in the morning you kind of give up and try to imagine the latino music to be a lullaby.Doom.PadoomPa Doom.PadoomPaPadoomPa Doom.PadoomPa…
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, the techno beat coming from the Purdue Christian fraternity house can be heard a couple blocks away at the next party house.After getting my glass of cold but flat root beer, I begin to swim through the sea of college students trying to find someone I know.There’s a girl I know from my Creative Writing class last semester.But she just waves and moves on.There’s another girl I met in Purdue Bible Fellowship, but she’s playing cool-aid pong.I would like to get to know her a little more but she’s seems pretty busy.
Don't ask me what the point is to cool-aid pong.Once you take out the alcohol variable it doesn't make any sense.When you don’t get more and more drunk all you get is a fuller and fuller bladder.Is that the point of the game? To see who pees their pants first?That is both sick and stupid. Its a disappointing game for those who have a strong bladder as they often drown to death in cool-aid. Such a waste of a good ping pong table.
I break out into the humid porch and find a couple friends sitting on a picnic table.After a short exchange of small talk, my friends decide it’s high time for me to head to the main attraction with them (otherwise known as the "dance floor). Yes, this is a Christian event with a dance floor and people moving to a pulsing beat (otherwise known as "dancing").The dance floor is crazy hot and humid, at least 20 degrees warmer, because of all the sweaty people doing their thing.It’s pretty dark and I can barely see my friend’s faces.The speakers are making my bones rattle.I’m not even dancing yet and my shirt is already sticking to my back.I don’t dance much so I just bob my head and every now and then throw out my arms or my legs.We all start laughing as my friend pulls a lame 80’s move.I mimic him a little more exaggeratedly and my friends laugh at me.Then some girl bumps into me.She’s a serious dancer with her arms held up high in the air, her heavily shadowed eyes closed, her damp hair flinging from shoulder to shoulder, her hips making use of the space around her and then some, her beads of sweat glistening in the dark.Another serious dancer, this one a male, realizes he’s found his counter part for this dance and gets up close to her and shows her what he can do.I try to say something about the couple to my friends but they misunderstand what I say and it doesn’t make any sense to them.Too much noise.
So this is a college party.Too loud to be understood.Too dark to know who your touching.Just let the beat move you with raised hands and a body up for grabs.It’s hard to sleep on nights like that because your upset ears yell at you all night long—even after the party’s done and the dance floor is empty and silent.
Fifty people is a lot to feed with just one microwave, one fridge, one stove, and one grill.But when everyone helps, eighty hands make a feast short work.We were hungry too.We ate it all up as quick as it took us to prepare it.With our bellies more than satisfied and our mouths swimming in a variety of Mexican aftertastes, it is now testimony time.Almost everyone stands up to give a testimony of gratefulness.
Some talk about how this church family thing has been completely new to them and has been the most amazing journey and they look forward to getting even more involved in the ministry.Others talk about how they went through some tough struggles this past year and how the Bible studies helped them through.Others talk about what a privilege it has been to serve musically in ways they were never allowed to in other churches.Still others talk about how they grew up in violence and abuse and how this church is the most wonderful family they could have dreamed for. By this time, everyone is crying. Crying is often the best way to cope with a flood of absolute truth and epiphanies.
On top of that, a lady named Susana and her twenty-three-year-old son Axcel move over to the piano to perform a special song of gratefulness to God.Axcel plays the introduction.I can already tell it is a mellow song (not the favorite of most college students).Susana starts to sing.She messes up on her entrance by coming in too soon but she recovers quickly and gets back into the right rhythm.The melody and piano accompaniment flow smoothly.The chord progression is unique with a minor chord in the middle of the theme and an interesting seven chord at the end of the chorus.I think about the testimony of Susana, a lady kicked off the worship team at their previous church because she was too spiritual and closed her eyes and raised her hands and probably sweat and stuff during the music.In other words: God was too real to her. At that moment in time, the only thing more beautiful than the flow of the music and lyrics, was the flow of lyrics and the hearts of those in the room. The reality of a good God.
I’m not sure how many students from Purdue would call what we had at my house a party.There weren’t a bunch of stupid games to play.There wasn’t a keg of cold but flat root beer.There weren’t any college girls in wedgie-tight jeans to flirt with.There wasn’t a dance floor and there wasn’t an omnipotent beat enveloping conversations.The word “God” was mentioned.And the only music and beat I could hear and feel was the music Mexican and American hearts make when pumping out truth together. The reality of a good God.
As the last people were saying goodbye and heading out the door, my sister Natalie asks me, “So Nathaniel, was that fun?”
I’m not even sure how many people would classify that as fun.College students wouldn’t prefer it.But lack of fun doesn’t mean that it wasn’t one of the best days of my life.
And I still don't get what's so great about cool-aid pong.
~in the comments please post your own brain-digging ?'s~
Is it possible to do anything without some selfish motive? If there was no promise of rewards, would I care? Does my commitment depend on future rewards? Was I made to live for rewards?
Can I make any decisions that aren´t affected by my past? Do my past decisions and disciplines determine my present and future? How much free will do I really have? Does it lessen or increase over time?
Did God give man the ability to create something that He hasn´t created? Wouldn´t that still count as God creating it?
Why did God use war to conquer the Promise Land just like all the other nations would? What are God´s ethics on violence? When should the present day Christian use physical violence, if ever?
What happens inside electrons? What happens inside what´s inside electrons? Does it go on forever?
If I don´t have a soul, then what do you call that energy that keeps me concious and alive?
If we took a telescope to the farthest star we can see from earth, would we find more stars beyond that? Is the universe one of many others all revolving inside a mega universe? Is the mega universe revolving inside the ultra universe? Does it go on forever?
If the universe started colapsing at a much faster speed than it was expanding, would we see twice as many stars in the sky? What if half of the stars we see today are already colapsing?
Doesn´t the progress of gene isolation cause disease and illness and deformites as opposed to benefitial macro evolution?
Must a street kid living in Mexico City know that Jesus died on the cross for his sins in order for him or her to be saved? Does ignorance equal innocence? Will the ignorant go to heaven? Is absolute ignorance of God possible?
Did Jesus have to die on the cross because God decided that it would be the only way to pay for our sins?
How different does God want my art to be from the world? Does He want me to borrow from successful secular styles and methods?
Does patience ever have to last forever for those who love God?
If the Bible isn´t true, how did the ancient Jews widely accept the Bible as true history? Wouldn´t the evidence of the land and people give it away?
Will we use technology in heaven? Will we continue to improve on it so that we can travel to the stars in the ultra universe and see inside what's inside an electron?
Will our heavenly bodies be organic to the point that we can break skin and bleed? If so, then will dismembered body parts grow back?
Will we get to experience God´s creation of additional worlds and dimensions in the future?
How many times a day does God laugh at my plans?
Is it better to die in the middle of the best of times or live through the worst of times?
Are unanswered questions the sign of a skeptic or an open mind?
From the moment we burst into consciousness and took a giant and painful gulp of air, our brains were spurred onto the long and colorful mission to learn as much as we can. Somehow our learning software, programmed into our minds, was automatically activated. Even though we didn’t yet understand it, we suddenly became aware of the passing of time, and the continual change around us opened the flood gates allowing intelligent information to rush into our hard drive.
That journey continues today, as we experience life and attempt to uncover all the layers of mystery that wrap tightly around every physical object and every mental concept. For many hours a day, we sit in class and let the “experts” rip off some layers for us. In church we sit and let our pastors and elders rip layers off of spiritual issues. And even in our free time and entertainment, it becomes all the more enjoyable when we are improving our knowledge of something that intensely interests us. I guarantee that since you came into existence, you will never be able to escape turning the unknown in the known. In order to quit learning you first have to die and then once you reach your eternal destination, you have to fall into a dreamless coma (note that it has to be dreamless).
You can use this bit of truth for a lot of things, but lately I’ve been thinking about the sheer power of questions. God (yeah, the omniscient one) used questions a lot. Why does He ask these questions? Why not just be declarative?
“Adam, Eve, where are you?” “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” “What have you done?” (Genesis 3:9-13)
“Cain, where is your brother?” “What have you done?” (Genesis 5:9-11)
“Abrum, why did Sarah laugh?" "Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:13-14)
“Who made man’s mouth? Who declares whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11)
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?... Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the horizon? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb and as I clothed it with clouds and wrapped it in thick darkness?... Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?” “You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” (Job 38-40)
“What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts?” “Why are you afraid?” “Where is your faith?” “Why do you doubt me?” “Why are you sleeping?” “Don’t you understand yet?” “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” “What do you think about the Messiah?” “Who do people say I am?” “Who do you say I am?” “Why are you trying to trap me?” “Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” “Do you believe I can make you see?” “Does no one condemn you?” “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (The Gospels)
Apparently, questions are enough to stimulate those inborn mystery-solving juices that are in abundance in your brain. God wants you to think. Why don’t we ask ourselves more questions? Why don’t we ask others more questions? Are we afraid to admit that we are in search for truth? Questions beg for truth. Questions can only be quenched with truth. Truth can only be found when the mind has truly opened up question.
Too often do we settle for the declarative, informative sentences even when they cause us to ask more questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Go to school, go to church, go to parties with questions. There are a lot of stuck up, proud people who need to change, but won’t until you ask them questions. There are a lot of broken, suffering people who can’t find the answers because you haven’t yet asked them the questions. There are some areas in your own life where you continually struggle because you haven’t been willing to ask the questions.
We have only begun to scratch the surface and tap into the power of questions.
“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist.” (Acts 17:27-28)
If the purpose of our existence is to search for God, why does it often seem so hard to find him? Why do I desire to know the truth, but am too self centered to spend my time searching for truth? What is it that is keeping me from finding God? God’s truth is laid out before us in the many pages of the Bible. Simply reading, meditating, and praying with God’s Word will bring us to God’s Truth. Why then, is it so hard to make devotions such a high priority that we read the Bible, meditate on it, and pray to God every day?
If you were to look for the answers of these questions from any Christian pastor in the world, the pastor would most likely say that you need to learn to desire God even more. You need to intensify your desire so that you label God’s truth as a much higher priority in life. He would then probably explain to you the importance of God’s truth and how God’s truth will benefit you so much more than the lies of the world or simple arrogance. But will that increase your desire? Is this new wisdom concerning the benefits of God’s truth enough to get you diving into the search for truth?
No, it isn’t. We return to the busy streets of life and realize that we don’t feel any different. We realize that we still want to experience fun and ease instead of the infallible truth. Something is still missing.
A couple weeks ago, Jeremy, a fellow Christian friend of mine was having a hard time understanding the practicality of missionary efforts to expand God’s kingdom. Since my parents are missionaries to Mexico City, I immediately became very defensive. But then I understood that his question was very unbiased and genuine and it threw me for a loop. The question was something like: Can a missionary accomplish anything in the country that they minister in, that couldn’t have been accomplished without them? You can’t force someone to desire God.
Sure, Jesus commanded the disciples the spread the truth, but that was because people outside of Israel didn’t know the Gospel yet. Sure, you can always lead those who are already searching, but missionaries don’t leave America just to minister to those who recognize the need. They also want to point out to others that they have a need and that Jesus and fulfill it for them. But you can’t force someone to recognize that they need Jesus.
This conversation caused me to think all day about God’s way of using missionaries. Unlike certain religions that have sent out missionaries that force people to conversion by the sword, Christian missionaries live among the people of the foreign nation. Relationships are the key tools that most missionaries use in order to reach out to people. How is it, that the simplicity of a relationship with a Christian can cause some to change their desires? I’ve seen it with my own eyes! Non-believing families have come to my house and hung out with my family and ended up, somehow, being touched. Somehow, they start to desire whatever it is that makes my family different.
This is where it all comes together. Ice-cream is delicious. I love ice-cream. But how do I know that ice-cream is delicious? Because I tasted it!!
To increase your own, personal desire to read the Bible every cotton-pickin day, you’ve just got to buckle down and do it. Like my buddy Zach Eikenberry said, “You just have to take your Bible on a first date. Set aside a time and a place and just do it. Take the initiative to do your part in your relationship with God. Take your Bible on a first date.”
Forget about all the mushy, watered-down theology that says that if you do right, God will do everything and give you all the desire you need! It's not true! God wants you to buckle down and do it!! Just do it!! Read the Bible! Discuss with your friend! Ask questions! The more you learn the more you will want to learn!
It was just a simple phrase that satisfied Jeremy’s questions: In order for you to want truth, you have to be exposed to it. In order for you to want God, you have to taste Him. The same goes for sharing the truth with others.
As I said in my last post, the great thing about truth is that it is everywhere. But lies are everywhere too. God’s truth is especially in those who have accepted Him into their heart. And little by little, as we grow in God’s truth, it will become more and more obvious that we are living and moving and existing in Truth. We are the sample. We are the means for those around us to taste truth—to taste God. The more they taste, the more they will want to taste. Just give them a taste, for God's sake!
What is it that causes my close friend from high school to recklessly lose his virginity? What drove my uncle to have an affair or my aunt to divorce? Why do my friends become alcoholics or drug addicts? Why did my cousin run away from home and why did my other cousin commit adultery? Why did an elderly missionary friend of the family kill himself?
What makes them so different from my friend from high school who lives under the same roof as his girlfriend and yet remains abstinent? What causes my rich uncle and aunt to take several missions trips to Ecuador? Why do my parents and siblings return to Mexico City when their friends and family are here? What causes a bunch of college kids to attend a Bible study by their own will?
Something is missing. There is a worldwide need for something incredibly important for life and it is not food.
If only there were scientific laws on life and humans so that we could all learn the balance of life and religion. I took a Psychology class a while back and I thought it was interesting how Psychology tries to come up with scientific laws on how to maintain a healthy, happy mind. I also took a couple Sociology class less than a year ago. Sociology is the quest to come up with scientific laws on how to have healthy, happy masses of people. But there is something incredibly important, missing in the quest for a healthy, happy life because all attempts seem to fail.
A coworker recently asked me why I was cautious about watching movies with nudity and sex in them. What should I say? Should I say, “The Bible tells me so” and leave it at that? Or is there a reason why the Bible tells me to abstain from lusting? Is the Bible just a super long list of rules that God jotted down for no reason? Or is the Bible stating scientific laws in life that bring about certain consequences for certain actions? Is there a bigger picture of which all the puzzle pieces logically connect?
I told my coworker that someday I hope to get married and make a lifelong commitment to my wife. When that day finally comes, there are certain thoughts, desires, and discoveries that come with purity and virginity that I want to save and give as a present to my wife. My coworker replied, “Well… I guess I can understand that.” Our conversation continued until with got to philosophies behind how a person can change lifestyles. It’s incredible how powerful truth can be when you point it out to someone who believes a lie.
Maybe there are scientific laws for life and for a healthy, happy life. And maybe Psychology and Sociology just have the equation mixed up.
We turn to the Bible and see that Acts 17: 27-28 says, “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though He is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist.”
Maybe the main problem is that in our equation, life and religion aren’t the same thing when they should be. According to Paul, God is our environment. God is the scientific law. God is the Truth. God is everything.
In saying that we don’t need God and that we can do what feels good, we fool ourselves into believing a Lie. This Lie hands us the Truth of fun, pleasure, and selfishness and removes the Truth of God’s intentions. The Lie leads us astray by offering ice cream and once our hands are occupied with holding the delicious ice cream to our mouths, the Lie snatches us, throwing us into his car and kidnaping us to his hideout. There, the Lie chains us the ground and satisfies his thirst for our blood.
It is the Truth that sets us free and places us where we were intended to be: walking with God.
Behold! The need for Truth is everywhere. I’m beginning to see it everywhere I go and with every person I talk to and in every situation they share with me. Sometimes it seems like I’m the only person who needs Truth and other times it seems like I’m the only person who recognizes Truth. I’m positive that you have felt the same way. This world spends all of its time and resources getting us to believe in Lies. Culture is programmed to eat and breathe Lies.
Do you see the need as well? Will you strive to find Truth and point it out to those around you? Will you strive to eat and breathe Truth? Will you strive to live, move, and exist in Truth?
The croaking thunder finalized it. Kico knew that nobody would pay to get their windshields washed for the rest of the evening. The short eleven-year-old drug his feet to a wooden telephone pole where he sat and counted the change in his pocket. Fifteen pesos and twenty centavos. Not nearly enough to get another bottle of Activo. Kico was now regretting that he hadn’t planned ahead to make sure that he had a bottle of paint thinner to replace the one that he had sniffed all up that morning.
Kico could already tell he was going to have a boring evening. The low growls coming from the clouds meant it was going to rain hard that night and there wouldn’t be any fútbol in the park. And no Activo meant that he would have to try to fall asleep tonight sober. Was that even possible?
Drops of water started to change the shade of the cracked sidewalks of Mexico City as Kico gathered his windshield washing equipment. It didn’t take him long. All he had was a bottle of watered-down dish soap, a frayed rag, and a miniature squeegee.
Kico’s stomach woke up while he walked by a taco stand. The frying meat and the greasy smell must have done it. His gut growled at him and the never ending argument between Kico’s brain and his stomach began again. His gut told him to check out the men with collard shirts and kaki pants who were gathered around the stand, munching on the overstuffed tacos al pastor oozing with salsa and limon. But Kico was stubborn and told his stomach to shut up. He was not going to make the same mistake he made yesterday. He was saving for Activo today and tomorrow he would have enough to get another bottle.
By the time Kico arrived at the cement wall that surrounded his home, the rain was pouring. Before he climbed over the wall, Kico let the rain soak him. He needed it. He took off his faded shirt and let the cool water splat on, slide down, curl around, and drip off of his bony limbs. The scabs and scars that spotted the boy’s brown skin welcomed the gentle droplets with shivers. His clothes needed the wash as well. The dust and pollution off the streets had shaded his light blue jeans and red shirt into a gray.
Kico went to the side wall where the highway traffic couldn’t see him. A rusty barrel was located at the base of the wall and Kico used it to climb over, into the property on the other side. He landed in itchy grass that went up to his knees. The over grown lot had been abandoned for an indefinite amount of time, and Kico, as well as several other street kids, had been using it as shelter when it rained. In the center of the small property was an old two story, concrete building. It must have formerly been some sort of factory because it still had a couple big machines in it and the main floor was saturated in some black, oily substance that still reeked even after several months of being abandoned. The structure was a rectangular building about the size of an indoor fútbol court and was the perfect place to sleep in when it rained. Before Kico and his friends had discovered the place, they slept in the sewers underneath the city. Although the abandoned factory had a strong stench, it wasn’t as bad as the toxic fumes of the sewers.
Inside, there was still some grey light left coming through the tall windows that stretched from waste level and almost to the ceiling. But there was no electricity in the building, making it dark and lonely. Kico figured that he was the only one there since it was still early in the evening, and most of the kids would still be making their way to the shelter. After Kico wrung out his T-shirt, he went upstairs where most of the urchins spent the night. The building was completely silent except for the pitter-patter of the rain outside.
In one of the office rooms upstairs, Kico found Frijol, the tough teenager, lying on top of the only piece of furniture in the room: a filthy desk with splintering edges. Kico had met Frijol within his first week on the streets. Just after Kico's papa abandoned the family to sneak into America, Kico ran away from home for multiple reasons. First of all, his mama struggled to get any food on the table for him and his three other siblings. But most importantly, Kico would get beat by his mama whenever she got mad at anything or anybody. He was her tantrum outlet. However, Kico's first few weeks on the streets were worse than living at home--until Frijol found him. Frijol took Kico under his wing and taught him how to get windshield washing supplies and how to pickpocket at the subway station.
Frijol also taught Kico the secrets of bliss on the streets. Real drugs were often difficult to find and expensive to purchase for the young waifs, but paint thinner was a cheap and legal alternative. Activo was the best kind for its price and when Kico breathed the fumes of Activo, he would often watch the images and colors of his surroundings multiply and smash against each other. He would fall back and it was forever before the back of his head hit the ground. Moving his limbs felt like swimming through thick mud. He would close his eyes and see his family living together in a Wal-Mart, free to eat any of the groceries stacked on the shelves. Kico’s mamá would be trying on tight jeans and his papá would be back from the United States, playing fútbol with a brand new, fully inflated soccer ball. His papá would also be laughing his head off and Kico would chase him up and down the aisles.
But right now, Kico was sober and he could see that Frijol’s eyes were closed and that he was holding a plastic bottle in his left hand. The cap was off and he was about to tip the bottle enough to spill the wonderful liquid on the floor. After Kico put away the items he was carrying in a closet, he decided to help Frijol save his paint thinner. Frijol didn’t even twitch when Kico removed the bottle from his hand. The bottle of Activo was such a comforting sight—the way the clear liquid reflected the dim window. Kico could see the drops of rain falling, through the crystal liquid. A whiff of it would be so refreshing. Kico lifted the paint thinner to his nose.
“HAAAaah!” Frijol suddenly sat up. “Dame mi Activo, guey!” He slid to his feet and drunkenly tugged at Kico’s damp shirt.
“Vamos, Frijol! I just wanted one sniff!” Kico explained.
Frijol tried to grab the bottle but Kico held it farther away. Then Frijol sprang his long arms out and ended up knocking the paint thinner out of the boy’s hands. The bottle bounced on the floor and spun all around, Activo splashing all over the floor. Before either one of the boys could catch the spinning bottle, it had drained out completely. A desperate moan slipped out of Frijol’s throat.
Frijol clasped Kico’s neck with one hand and threw a punch with the other. His fist landed in Kico’s lower lip. The inside of his lip sunk into his teeth.
“Estúpido!” Frijol yelled in Kico’s face. “If you don’t get me more Activo by tomorrow morning, I will kill you!” Kico crawled away, spitting the blood that was leaking into his cheeks. “And then I’ll find your mamá and kill her too!” Frijol added, as he bent down to catch the fumes coming from the puddle.
Kico tried to ignore the pain surging from the gash in his mouth as he stood up and stared at his friend, stretched out on the floor with his face in the puddle of Activo. Frijol’s thin T-shirt and torn jeans were a couple sizes too big. The wrinkles in his baggy clothes tried to fool the world into thinking that he had fat or even muscle on his bones. Kico filled out his own clothes much better than Frijol. It was because Frijol had quit eating over the past couple weeks, and he spent all the money he earned from his job shinning shoes to get Activo. Over the past few weeks, Frijol had begun to eat less as he committed himself to getting high. You get some, you lose some. Brave Frijol. This was why he was known as the “Street Prince”. The world around them was constantly trying to get them to return to the environment of strict rules. But the street kids wouldn’t give in. They already knew that the ideals of discipline and cleanliness didn’t work. It only made everybody hate everybody. And after living on the streets for four years, Frijol was setting an example for all the callejeros. He was showing the world how to sniff their way to Heaven and stay there until he deceased.
Kico admired Frijol and his determination to be the best street kid ever. His difficult goal could only happen if he stayed high on Activo. Now with his Activo spread across the floor of the abandoned office room, he needed help. Before long, the fumes would wear out and the high from paint thinner doesn’t last very long. Natural insanity would come from extreme hunger and it would be unbearable this time. And Kico would be the prince’s rescuer.
On his way down the stairs, Kico nearly ran into his friends Gordo and Sintia. Gordo, who no longer deserved his name, asked, “A donde vas?”
Kico explained to them the situation and then stated in a hushed voice, “I think he’s going all the way this time. He could have gone all the way if he hadn’t spilt his Activo.”
Gordo was shocked but nodded his greasy head in understanding. Sintia asked in her high voice, “Qué? Why would he want to die? He makes more pesos than all of us with his shoe polishing caca!”
Sintia was new to the streets and she always had tons of questions. Gordo and Kico ignored most of them but this time Kico answered, “Frijol has been on the streets for four years. It must be hard being a teenager with no future. Do you chavos want to come along?”
Surely they would help, Kico thought to himself. They too, deeply admired Frijol because of his help. Frijol had showed fifteen-year-old Gordo how to blow fire for on lookers at street intersections by spitting gasoline into a torch. He had also been teaching twelve-year-old Sintia what it takes to be a prostitute so that when she was old enough, she could be a professional prostitute. Sintia definitely had a future in prostitution because of her attractive face. Even at her young age, her smiling eyes and genuine grin would often make Kico wonder if she was attracted to him.
They also treasured the day back when Frijol had a lowly job in the Cinemex movie theater and he took them all to see a movie for free. It was in English with Spanish subtitles. It was too bad they didn’t know much English and struggled with reading Spanish. But they all understood the part when the muscular guy said, “Hasta la vista… baby.”
But both Gordo and Sintia shook their heads. “Kico, it’s hailing outside,” Gordo said. “Wait until it’s over. Besides, Carlos is coming tomorrow with a box full of cheep Activo.” Kico continued past them and down the stairs. “Frijol’s gotten so thin that I think he will go insane when the Activo in his head runs out. Quién sabe? He might even hurt himself! Maybe you two could give him your Activo?”
“Estas enserio? Are you serious? I paid close to a hundred pesos for this bottle! De ningún manera, guey!”
But Kico had a point. It was about time that they return the favor. Like little soldiers charging into an enemy army, the three kids crouched down and braved the tiny pellets of ice. The hail balls bit at their skin as they jumped the wall and ran across the flooded Mexico City streets. Surely Frijol would be proud of them for charging through a shower of hard ice for his sake; so that he could dream himself to extinction. And as far as Kico knew, Frijol deserved some help from his followers.
~~ On their way to the Pemex gas station, the kids stopped at a subway station. Even though it was still storming, there were a few people trying to reach destinations by subway. The three sopping wet street kids stood by the tracks while the orange subway train rolled into the station. They pulled another “Frijol” move as they moved in behind a man wearing a nice suit coat and a perfect mustache. As he was walking aboard the subway, Gordo stepped on the man’s heel and shoved his palms hard into his back. While the man was falling, Kico reached in and grabbed his wallet. The man obviously didn’t ride the subway often, because his wallet was still in his back pocket, begging to be slipped out. The man tumbled onto the floor of the subway as the doors closed leaving Gordo and Kico outside. Sintia (who watched from a distance) laughed as the upper class gentleman yelled and banged on the windows of the moving subway train.
It was always best to steal money from individuals in the subway than stealing directly from the street shops, because then the owners of the tiendita wouldn’t ever let the kids come back. Kico used to feel bad about stealing and he would always go to the nearest cathedral afterwards to ask for forgiveness. But if God didn’t want Kico to be stealing from others, why wouldn’t he provide an alternative? A little after Kico’s first year on the streets, he quit going to mass and quit asking for forgiveness. It’s not like Kico didn’t consider himself a Catholic anymore, it’s just that he wanted his Activo to never run out and that took all of his time and energy.
The callejero threesome returned to the abandoned building a couple hours after sundown. The storm had passed and the clouds were only spitting a bit here and there. All three of them started to notice little welts appearing all over their brown skin. Gordo was in the most pain because he had burnt his mouth a couple weeks ago while fire-breathing and the hail had aggravating his sensitive lips. But it was worth it. They now had the bottle of Activo that Frijol needed. As they crossed the street to get to the cement wall, Kico wondered about how weird it would feel when Frijol was no longer around. It was probable that by morning the Prince would be in eternal rest because he didn’t give into his hunger, but filled his head with paint thinner fumes. Kico, Gordo, and Sintia would be left to take in the next generation of street kids under the roof of the abandoned factory and teach them how to fight against the forces of order and rules—just like Frijol had taught them.
Kico climbed up the wall and sat on the top. There was a flickering light coming from the tall windows of the building.
“What’s that?” Sintia asked, as she climbed up next to him. Kico shook his head. “I don’t know, but I don’t like it. We need to hurry. Frijol might be coming around.”
They dropped to the ground and ran toward the building. The damp grass slapped against their legs like whips. When they reached the doorway they all halted. Frijol was standing in the middle of the big, downstairs room. His back was facing them and his right arm was stretched straight up. At the top of the vertical arm, Frijol clasped a lighter. The light was piercing and it stung the bloodshot eyes of the kids at the doorway. It was a majestic sight and Kico squinted in wonder. His prince was a human lighthouse, lighting up the world for them so that they could dimly see the cement rectangle that they called their home. Under Frijol, the black oily liquid that was layered on the ground reflected the wavy beams of light all over the room. Kico’s insides suddenly constricted in horror. What was Frijol doing?
Kico spoke up and his voice almost sounded like a high pitched scream that echoed off the walls. “We’ve got your Activo!”
Frijol slowly shifted his feet, turning all the way around to face his little followers. Frijol’s face was shocking and made Sintia gasp. His face was shinning bright with slick sweat and beads of water trickled out of his eyes and off his chin. His mouth was half way open with the corners of his thick lips sagging low. Snot coated the space between his mouth and his navel. His black eyes seemed to be melting out of their sockets.
“I need… I need… I want…” tough Frijol stuttered.
“You want your Activo,” Kico stated as he began to very slowly step into the oil, moving toward Frijol.
Frijol blinked a couple times. “Yes. Yes. That’s it. I want Activo. I need Activo.” He must have been coming around and his body was making a last effort to convince Frijol that he needed food.
Kico was an arm’s length away from Frijol, the human toothpick, and he handed the bottle of paint thinner to the desperate boy. Frijol smiled at the bottle and rubbed his damp cheek on the plastic.
Gordo and Sintia still stood at the doorway watching. Sintia called out, “Kico, get the lighter.” Frijol still stood with his erect arm holding the lighter and his other hand rubbing the Activo in his face, as if he was a stray dog being pet by a loving street kid. But Kico couldn’t do anything. Frijol was too tall.
Then it was time for Frijol to open his Activo. They all saw it coming in slow motion. In order for Frijol to unscrew the lid, he ditched the lighter. The bright cylinder clattered to the floor sending little ripples across the saturated ground. For a second, the light went out. But the heat of the light kicked up a flame and it exploded across the ground under Frijol and Kico. Kico spun around and raced out of the building. He dove through the doorway and started to panic when he noticed that his shoes were being licked by scorching flames. Sintia and Gordo braved the heat and helped Kico get his shoes off. Frijol never made a peep. He stood in the middle of the room breathing the Activo as the fire surrounded him and crawled up his skinny form.
Kico, Gordo, and Sintia stared at the fire for a long time. Their hearts were about ready to tear through their chests and shirts.
~~ After it had stopped raining, business kicked back up at the taco stand. After all, it was only 10:15pm. The owner fired up the stove again and started filling up tortillas with pork, beef, chicken, and al pastor for his late night customers. A short street kid stepped up to the stand. The urchin had small purple welts on his arms, his lip was swollen, and his feet were bare. Fifteen pesos and twenty centavos clattered from the kid’s hand to the counter.
“Is this enough to get me and my friends a couple tacos?” Kico asked. He motioned across the street where two other kids sat on the curb. The boy had a dry, pink scar that stretched across his mouth. The girl was very cute and she had a faded Mickey Mouse shirt which had a couple of mysteriously familiar, yellow stains on it. They looked shook up and scared. The first thing that came to him was: “What have these kids been through and who is beating them up?”
The normal price for just one taco was seven pesos. But these kids were bones wrapped up in mangled brown skin. They needed food. So he nodded and pilled up six tortillas with extra greasy al pastor meat.
She is sprawled out on the plate. Her roasted skin wrapped tight around her curves. Dressed in spice, her aroma echoing in your stomach. Your teeth aching to sink into her tender blend of fat and protein.
You cleave your fingers around her middle. You tear her muscles clean and strands of fat snap in your teeth. Her chunks squeeze down your throat. Zing armies dance in your cheeks.
The back of your hand smears juices from your face and then reaches for seconds, as a flick of your wrist tumbles her bones into the dark.
Two minutes before the ball dropped I realized I had yet to determine a new year resolution. Two hours later I turned to Trevor and said, “I’ve got it! I am resolved to be more flirtatious this year!”
Gasp! Yes. I am going to work on being flirtatious. What this actually means, I’m not exactly sure yet and I hope to organize my thoughts and develop what my resolution actually means in this post.
Pretty much all last semester I spent a great amount of time studying and thinking about what opposite sex relationships. This semester I’ve been given the opportunity to go to a much bigger and more professional college instead of the community college I was attending. As I looked forward to making the transition I began to wonder if I was now ready for a relationship. All my life I’ve assumed that I would get married. Did I understand the root purpose? Did I understand the sacrificial requirements? Did I understand the depth of commitment? And did I understand the blessings? The answer was no.
Last semester God cleared my view of girl-guy relationships in many areas. My opinions and philosophies were flipped upside down, spun 180 degrees, and popped inside out. It was a slap in the face and quite a wake up call to realize just how selfish and corrupt I am.
I can summarize what I learned in three basic principles (and you must at least read Principle #3). These principles are being spat on, stepped on, and ripped to shreds all the time, all around us. It’s easy to see how the world’s philosophies become engraved in us and will require a lot of painful removing and replacing in order to get our heart back on the right track.
Principle #1: Pleasure is God’s invention. When I heard this statement for the first time I though, “Baloney!” But as I started to think about it, I realized that this is a beautifully true principle. Pleasure is good, folks! God invented it for us. That is why growing closer to Him always will end up resulting in immense pleasure! That is why we have nothing to loose! That is why we don’t have to worry about being bored in heaven! That is why God gave us marriage! To grow closer to Him. Just like when C. S. Lewis states in his book the Screwtape Letters that when the devil makes us sin through pleasures, he is dangerously working in God’s territory. Pleasure is not evil. The desire for pleasure is not evil. It becomes evil when we are willing to reject God in order to fulfill those desires. So the first principle made me feel quite warm and fuzzy and excited. The next two aren’t quite so warm and fuzzy. But their still exiting!
Principle #2: Relationships are about giving. This is probably the most obvious principle that is murdered in the secular world. Once you realize that the only relationships that work are the selfless ones, you start to notice how blatantly selfish we are. The next time you watch a chick-flick, walk through campus, or hang with your friends, keep an ear out for a person’s philosophy concerning this area in life. People think that relationships are all about receiving everything you’re looking for. And indeed there is a great deal of receiving that happens in relationships but keep this in mind: There is only the reception of blessings in a relationship because all the giving has to go somewhere. If you think about it, it makes so much sense! When partners are focused on giving instead of receiving, that relationship is going to be… “DYNAMITE!” (Pastor Aucoin)
Principle #3: Everything is possible through Christ. You must be wondering what this has to do with romantic relationships. Actually, it branches from principle #2 but I believe is so big and so over looked that it definitely needs its own paragraph. If you logically follow the logic that relationships are all about giving you realize that you shouldn’t have to go through too many suspects before you find your spouse. Seriously, why do we have to go out and date so many people? I think it is ridiculous how many times a young person has to go through braking up in their life time! It shouldn’t be that way. First of all, one shouldn’t date someone unless you think that person is going to put effort into a relationship. Second of all, once you are in a relationship, a true self-emptying Christian would make it happen! Does it make any sense that a Christian would be looking for the relationship that isn’t going to require any work? EVERY RELATIONSHIP REQUIRES WORK!!! You two aren’t going to connect perfectly like two simple peaces of puzzle. You are going to have to grab your special someone and hold on for dear life as the hurricane of secularism tries to tear you two apart. God’s amazing power to change people is the key to a successful couple that will go all the way to the alter and beyond with God’s blessings (pleasure) written all over them.
Well, I guess that didn’t have much to do with flirtatiousness after all. Oh well. At least it caught your attention. (wahahahaha!)
By the way, if you are interested, “Sex and the Supremacy of Christ” is an excellent book for anybody and everybody.
Everyone seemed cheerful as presents were being unwrapped Christmas day. My parents had stayed up late the night before yet they were all smiles. My sister Nicole was running around seeing what everybody got and making up for all the excitement that we were lacking. My other sister Natalie was making sure everyone knew how thankful she was. Jerry Certain and I were taking turns shooting balls of crinkled wrapping paper into the big trash bin in the corner of the room. Uncle JD was picking on everybody like always. Lacy was already trying on her new clothes and Grandfather was making everybody laugh… but he always does that. My GF rocks!
Christmas is all about stuff. Especially this Christmas. The week before Christmas, we had a family from Mexico City hang out with us for a week. It was their Christmas vacation and little did we know that their idea of vacation in the USA is shopping, shopping, and more shopping. This family is pretty wealthy. Wealthy to Americans and extremely wealthy to Mexicans. And when they saw the Christmas sales at the mall they went berserk and got tons of stuff. Then they bought another huge suitcase so they could buy more stuff.
I love that family and I love spending time with their two little boys. The boys are surprisingly not too spoiled… yet. But mentally I was hoping that they would forget some stuff and leave it behind like their Nintendo Wii that they got to accompany the X-Box 360 they have at home.
So we were all in the “gimme stuff” attitude once Christmas day came up and I admittedly have already spent all my Christmas money. Worldly stuff. Temporary stuff. Stuff that erodes and fades away with time. Why is this stuff disease so easily contagious?
I got a computer game for Christmas (Star Wars: Battlefront 2, oh yeah!). The other day I spent all day and all night playing it. Finally, at 2 in the morning I stepped back and said, “Shoot! A whole day of my life… gone… wasted.” And to what does it amount? Faster reflexes and bigger imagination?
As I sit here, I think about the poor children all over the world of whose parents abuse them and who have no understanding of what life is all about. It must be so much easier to store up treasures in heaven when you have no treasures on earth as a distraction. Stuff on earth was not given to me by God so that I could walk away with it and solely please myself. Stuff is given to us so that we can produce and give back. We were made to work with the gifts that were given to us from God so that we can return glory.
And what do heavenly treasures amount to? What use will it be to have heavenly stuff in comparison to earthly stuff?
When we finally get to the Judgment seat of Christ, we will see the throne of God. It’ll probably be so bright we won’t be able to look that direction for long. But we can look just long enough to see that Jesus is standing on the right side of the throne. Jesus. God’s ultimate gift to us. There He stands with the marks still visible in His hands and His feet. Eternal reminders that He is the ultimate gift. Then Jesus will come forth and hand us our heavenly stuff. Our crowns. Each crown will probably be unique with different stones reflecting the brilliant glory of God sitting on His throne to the degree of how well we used His gifts on earth.
Being redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and resurrected in our glorified bodies, we naturally know what to do with the crowns that have been placed on our heads. With incredible joy we humbly remove them from our heads and lay them down at the Father’s feet. He gave, we return. The cycle of stuff.
Then as we are kneeling there before the throne and gazing at all the colorful crowns beautifully reflecting the glory of God, it will hit us. Tears will stream down our cheeks. We wonder what God thinks of our crowns—our life on earth. We wonder how much more brilliant our crowns could have been. We say to ourselves, “My life on earth… gone… wasted. Dang… I wish I had so much more to give.”
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. ~Joshua 24:15
Both of their minds had begun to go a mile a minute. Time slowed down. It seemed like it took forever for the Philistines to notice Jonathan and his armor bearer. Then one of them on the north cliff at last called out, “Hey look! The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in!” Three other men joined him at the edge of the cliff. “My Baal! You’re serious! They are Hebrews! Did the bears chase you out?” The Philistines laughed. More joined them. There were about half a dozen of them now aware of the presence of the two Hebrews.
For a slight second, Gareb had the urge to brake off and run. But then he remembered Jonathan. No, there was no turning back now. They would wait for the sign from God. Then he started to swing his sling with his first stone.
The Philistines continued yelling, “Come on up here and we’ll teach you a lesson!”
Jonathan excitedly turned to Gareb. “That’s it! Climb up behind me! The Lord has rescued Israel!”
They took off at full speed toward the incline. The Philistines gathered at the top of the hill and started jeering down at them. There were now well over a dozen of them. Gareb let his first stone loose. It landed hard in a Philistine’s collar bone area and he went down wailing. As they reached the slope, Gareb shot his second and it dug into a Philistine’s eye and he collapsed to his knees.
The Philistines were mad now. One got impatient and started down the slope toward Jonathan. Another started screaming, “Archer! We need an archer!”
Jonathan and Gareb were at a major disadvantage as they tried to climb the steep slope on their hands and knees. Yet, Jonathan easily ducked under the attack of the charging Philistine and sliced into his side. The archer was at the edge of the cliff now. Gareb had been looking for him and was ready with his third stone already swinging around his head. Before the archer could shoot his first arrow, Gareb got him in the throat--his best hit ever. The archer’s whole body responded with a jerk and fell forward off the cliff hitting the ground head first. Three more Philistines charged down the slope toward the Hebrews. Gareb dropped his last stone and drew his curved plowshare to help Jonathan. As Jonathan dodged one swing, he cut the legs of another and his victim went tumbling down the hill. A Philistine passed Jonathan and ran straight into Gareb’s plowshare being unable to slow down. Jonathan blocked the attack of the other soldier and quickly slashed him across the chest.
They reached the top of the hill and Jonathan immediately blocked a slash with his sword and then used his free hand to pull the Philistine down and he tumbled down to Gareb where he finished him off. Then Gareb joined Jonathan at the top of the hill where they were immediately surrounded. Now they had the attention of over twenty men and there were still more running from tents to where the commotion was.
Jonathan started to hack deeper and deeper into the crowd of Philistines and Gareb stayed close behind watching for anything deadly that Jonathan missed. For the most part, Jonathan was stabbing, ducking, chopping at every suggestion from his instincts while Gareb finished the wounded and stopped attacks coming from behind. One soldier was obviously a captain not only because of his skill but because he had thick armor on. He and Jonathan exchanged several swings and blocks but Jonathan was much quicker. When Jonathan drove his sword into the captains chest, his blade sunk in to the handle and Jonathan was unable to pull the sword back out. Quickly, he side stepped, avoiding a spear that had been thrust at him. He grabbed the spear with one arm, pulled it towards himself and with the other arm he elbowed the Philistine bearing the weapon. From there Jonathan spun around and made a wide swipe with the spear bringing it across three Philistine faces.
At that moment, Gareb lost his balance and fell to his knees while trying to block an attack. His small plowshare broke when he tried to block an axe and now it was down to the size of a knife. Gareb ducked down and rolled, grabbing another sword of a dead Philistine. Now with two weapons, Gareb fought like he had never dreamed he thought possible. Three or four times he felt enemy iron touch his body. But no pain distracted him. All that was on his mind was his desire to survive and bring the enemy to their knees.
The Philistines were coming in from all sides and Jonathan and Gareb were soon separated. One Philistine after another, and sometimes a few at a time came at them. It was so much more intense and violent and difficult than they had expected. Yet somehow, their eyes were catching every deathly movement of the enemy as if time had slowed down. They were able to make right predictions and split second decisions to either dodge an attack or block it. Most of the Philistines were unprepared and had absolutely no armor on while a few took more strength to dispatch because of their protection.
But now it became even more difficult as they were separated. Jonathan slid his hands to the middle of his spear and used both ends against the never ending resistance. Now Jonathan was blocking attacks left and right and cutting flesh at every opportunity. Gareb was using the Philistine sword to block attacks and the broken plowshare to stab. For a while it seemed like nothing could stop them.
Then despair suddenly started to settle in both of the Hebrews. More and more Philistines were joining the fight. Many lay dead and more wounded but there were now about fifty Philistines surrounding the Hebrews. They had survived longer than anyone could have suspected, but their strength was quickly leaving them. Their supernatural courage and skill seemed to be evaporating and the end was near.
Then it happened. The Hebrews couldn’t notice it when it started but they did notice that the Philistines suddenly started to leave the scene and run for their lives.
One screamed, “Run! The Israelites are coming!” They started yelling frantically and shoving each other. “Get out of my way!”
Then both Jonathan and Gareb noticed it. The ground was vibrating violently and making a very loud rumbling sound. At first it sounded like an army of hundreds of thousands of charioteers was right around the corner. Suddenly the two Hebrews found themselves unchallenged, watching the rest of the Philistine army run to the woods. “They’re everywhere!” one cried as he started slashing at his own companions with his sword.
Gareb fell to the ground feeling more exhausted than he had ever been in his entire life. The ground and scattered dead bodies started to spin and turn into a blur.
Several miles away, Saul was sitting in a cool cave near Gibeah, waiting. What he was waiting for, he didn’t know. Should he go to the nearby town of Gibeah and find Samuel? Would Samuel tell him what to do next or was this the day that he was to die? Would his kingdom end after being appointed by God only a year earlier? Saul’s mind was mixed with confusion and boiling anger. Samuel is so selfish! God is so strict and unfair! It’s really their fault if the Philistines cause destruction. Then Abner burst into the cave. “Across the valley! The Philistines are melting away and retreating back toward Philistia!”
Saul’s mind raced. What did this mean? “Gather our forces and prepare to pursue. And while you are at it, see if you can find out if anyone is missing.” But should he go after the Philistines still without the favor of the Lord? Then he turned to the priest. “Go get me the ark.”
The priest sped off toward the area where the ark was being kept. Then Saul changed his mind and called out, “Never mind! Forget God’s favor! We need to pursue now! Cursed be any man who takes time to eat before I have avenged myself on my enemies!”
Minutes later, Saul was outside among his small army he had left. Abner came to Saul’s side. “My king, no one can find Jonathan or his armor bearer.”
Gareb regained consciousness several minutes later when cold water hit his sweaty face. The earth had stopped shaking and just above him was Jonathan with a pitcher full of water that he got from the Philistine camp.
“It’s good to see you’re still with us,” Jonathan said cheerfully as he poured more water Gareb’s arms and neck.
“What happened?” Gareb mumbled, while trying to regain his bearings.
“It appears that the Philistines mistook an earthquake for an enemy army on the attack.” Jonathan chuckled. “They are still frantically retreating toward the woods in Ephraim. Is that not the craziest thing ever?”
Gareb asked, “What are you doing?”
“You’ve got blood all over you. I need to make sure you aren’t seriously wounded. Do you feel any pain?”
Gareb’s muscles ached but there was no severe pain at all.
Jonathan continued, “It appears you only have a few small cuts. All this blood is not your own.”
Gareb shivered as he looked around at all the limp Philistines lying around them. Then he noticed that Jonathan too was covered in blood, also not his own.
They sat there and watched the sun set over the abandoned Philistine camp. They slowly took deep drinks of water from the bucket and tried to let reality sink in.
“Did that really happen, Jonathan?” asked Gareb.
Jonathan rubbed his dirty head in disbelief, “All I know is that God has rescued Israel today. Nothing stand’s against Yahweh’s victory.” Then Jonathan continued, “We cut down about 20 Philistines and I have no idea how many we wounded.
Gareb shook his head. “I still can’t believe it. This story is surely going to be passed down for generations to come! Israel has been delivered from the hands of the Philistines! Jonathan, we are a nation again!”
Jonathan chuckled. “It’s funny to think that we gave up on God and crowned a man—my father—to be king and drive out the Philistines. Who knew that God would do it Himself anyway?”
Several minutes later, the rest of the Hebrew army arrived. Zeblin ran to Jonathan and said, “Thank the Lord! Are you hurt?”
After he realized that Jonathan and Gareb were just fine, Zeblin remarked, “You guys are completely crazy! And yet you chased away an entire army of countless professional fighters! It’s a miracle!”
“You’re right, it is a miracle. We did very little,” replied Jonathan. “Yahweh did everything. Our bravery and strength and ability was all supernatural.”
But Zeblin continued, “You are great heroes tonight, young men. If only all of us had your courage.”
“Jonathan!” Saul was approaching them. “Jonathan, you foolish boy. You never do as I tell you! You’re lucky you didn’t get killed! Did you see the direction they went?” asked Saul.
Jonathan hesitated. Out of all the things that his father could have said to him… “They went into the woods of Ephraim.”
“Then let us move on! We can plunder the Philistine camp on our way back. But now we must not let them get away! I will get my vengeance, yet!” With that, Saul and his men continued running west.
When they were alone again, Jonathan asked Gareb, “Why is trusting Yahweh always considered the foolish thing to do?”
Gareb answered, “Because their god is small.”
Then, as tiered and as famished as they were, they joined the Israelites in the chase.
The sun finally rose as the refugees of Beth Horon reluctantly took a closer look at their homes. Gareb and Jonathan walked side by side as they observed the charred buildings. Gareb felt very awkward. This was where he had grown up. Here he had taken his first steps, spoke his first words, memorized the first books of the Torah, harvested his first bundle of wheat, fired his first sling. Now, only charred clay was all that remained of most of the buildings. The market square was unrecognizable as smoke still rose from the ashes of the food that had been stored for the night.
Then the two young soldiers came to Gareb’s home. Half of the small clay house still stood while the other half had collapsed some time during the night. The part that still stood appeared to be fragile and ready to give up at any time and bring the whole house down. It was definitely dangerous and uninhabitable in the state it was in. Jonathan felt sick. Yes, his friends and family had survived but a few moments difference and they could have been lost.
Jonathan spoke up, “I knew it. The Philistines will not show mercy this time. We’ve pushed it too far and they don’t want us to become independent. They aren’t done with us yet.”
Gareb solemnly asked, “Is this what is to become of all Israel? “
The question was left unanswered and Gareb understood that the future of Israel was very uncertain at this point. When would the Philistine revenge be satisfied? Would they stop at nothing until they get Jonathan’s father? Would Israel have to pay with the lives of the innocent? Who knew? Anything seemed possible for the moment.
The two young men sat down with their backs leaning against the house across the street from Gareb’s house. Gareb asked another solemn question that he was almost too afraid to ask, “Do you think God would really allow the Philistines to do this to His people?”
The question lingered in the air. There was a pause as Jonathan thought about it. But this question would not go unanswered. In reply, Jonathan said, “Israel is not the holy nation that God intended it to be. We often struggle to worship Him as the only true God. We commit adultery with the women of other nations. We complain about all of God’s law. And finally we have rejected God as king and crowned a human—my father. It wouldn’t surprise me if this is a giant call to wake up and see God’s glory.”
Gareb shook his head. “But Jonathan, why do innocent children have to pay for the sins of their fathers? How can God allow His children to suffer? If God is good and powerful, why doesn’t He put His good power to use?”
“Gareb, these are hard questions that even the priests of the temple don’t know the answer. But I can tell you one truth for sure. I am not an expert on the Scriptures like the priests are, but I do know that God is all-good and He is all-powerful. His perfect goodness and power overcomes this suffering that we humans have created and uses it for His cause.”
Gareb slightly nodded letting Jonathan know that they were on the same page.
Jonathan continued, “I understand that God allows evil acts such as this because it reveals your true self. God wants to see us react to this trial. And He wants us to react in righteousness.”
There was a long period of silence as both Hebrews processed Jonathan’s statement.
“With that knowledge,” Jonathan said, “we need to ask ourselves what we think God wants us to do next. What do you think, Gareb? What should we do now?”
Gareb looked at Jonathan with a confused look. “What do you mean? Do you really think there is anything that we can do?”
Jonathan shrugged his shoulders. “We could see if God wants to work through us and save Israel.”
“And how do you think we can do that.”
“I honestly have no idea, but we could go to the Philistine camp at Micmash and see what happens. Want to come with me?”
Gareb was stunned. Jonathan wanted to go to the enemy! Was he going crazy? Gareb asked, “Why do you want to do that, Jonathan?”
Jonathan casually shrugged his shoulders again and said, “What else are we going to do? It would be better than just sitting around here, waiting for the Philistines to return.”
~~~ The terrain was rough and steep cliffs slowed Jonathan and his armor bearer down. Gareb had twisted his ankle already but not bad enough to keep them from pressing onwards. Jonathan had grown up in this part of Israel and he knew it well. He knew that they needed to take this path because they wanted to make sure that if they did have to fight the Philistines, they would fight an outpost and not the whole entire army. And so they continued on the rough path without grumbling and with hearts and adrenalin strangely anxious for action. What was going to happen?
A week ago, Jonathan led an attack on the Philistine outpost at Geba with one thousand men including Gareb by his side. But he spent most of the time giving orders on how to take the fortress. The attack had been so swift and well planned that the Philistines didn’t have time to take cover in the fortress and the gates were never closed. A couple dozen Philistines were already in the fortress when they attacked and they set up a small ambush inside the fortress. It took a while to safely dispatch all of the defenders but it paid off. Twenty ordinary Philistines can’t stand a chance against one thousand talented Israelites. Only two Israelites were seriously injured and they killed close to thirty Philistines in that attack. Now Jonathan was preparing his mind to attempt to do the impossible. If twenty didn’t stand a chance against one thousand than much less two against an innumerable amount!
Gareb still couldn’t make sense of what was happening. Was Jonathan really going to put himself between thousands and thousands of soldiers and Israel? Gareb still hadn’t made up his own mind what he would do if Jonathan was indeed going to dive head first into the mess of Philistine swords.
After hiking all day, they finally came to a clearing where they found themselves in a small canyon with a tall cliff on each side of the valley. The path between the cliffs quickly rose up to the level of the cliffs. At the top of the hill there were tents and fires and soldiers sitting, standing, eating, fencing.
“We made it,” said Jonathan. “A Philistine outpost. It’s not exactly where I was hoping it would be. But that’s an outpost.”
Jonathan studied the position of the soldiers for a moment. The only way to reach the camp was to go between the two cliffs and up the steep hill. The sun was beginning to set but it was still shining a lot of light and revealing everything in the small canyon. Jonathan explained, “They’ll be able to see us as soon as we step out from under these trees. We could wait until night but we’ll never know if they’ll have more people in the outpost at night or if they decide to move.” He looked at Gareb. “We need to attack now.”
“Wait a second. Have you really decided to attack the Philistines?” asked Gareb. “Those are trained fighters with weapons. All I have is this.” Gareb pulled out his plowshare and sling.
Jonathan could sense the fear in Gareb’s voice. “Listen, this is not about what we are up against. This is about who’s side we are on. Tell me Gareb, who do the Philistines serve?”
“Right. And who do we serve?”
“Who created the ground on which we stand? Baal or Yahweh?”
“Who gave you life? Who gives you your strength? Gareb, how big is your God? Who can stand in His way?”
Gareb slightly hesitated. Then with a miraculously renewed courage he said, “Nothing is bigger than my God.” It was almost as if he had just received a new revelation, even though he had been taught this truth since before he could remember. But for some reason, now that they needed a God, He suddenly felt more real and more powerful than ever. Nothing is bigger than the God of Israel!
There was a short pause before Jonathan replied, “Then let’s act as if we both believe that.” Jonathan clapped Gareb’s shoulder. “I will go alone if I must, but it would be a great comfort if you came with me. Perhaps Yahweh will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”
Gareb nodded. His mind was now made up. He couldn’t leave Jonathan. He would never forgive himself if Jonathan was killed fighting by himself. Who knows? Maybe even the Almighty would have compassion on them and allow them to live. “Do all that you have in mind.” Then Gareb placed his slightly trembling hand on Jonathans shoulder so that both of them had each other‘s shoulder. “Let’s go. I am with you in heart and soul.”
They made some quick preparations. The charge up the steep hill was going to take a lot of energy and strength and they were already feeling a little worn out from the long hike and the rest stressful week. Jonathan removed his water bottle and his bow and arrow. They decided that Jonathan would only carry his sword; it was heavy enough. He took off some pieces of armor that he thought weren’t as necessary and Gareb did the same. The plan was that Gareb would use his sling a couple times to give them time to run up the slope and then Gareb would pull out his plowshare and they would both put everything that they had been taught at Saul’s palace in Gilgal into practice. This would be the first true test of whether they learned their hand to hand combat skills.
“We will reveal ourselves to the men,” Jonathan explained as Gareb chose the smoothest stones out of his stone pouch. “If they say to us, ‘Wait there and we will come to you,’ then we won’t attack. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ that will be our sign from God and we will climb up knowing that He has given them into our hands.”
Jonathan noticed that Gareb’s hands had stopped shaking. They were as ready as humanly possible. Jonathan prayed that God would send them the sign. Gareb tied his sling around his small figure on his right hand and slid the plowshare under his belt. He then took the four stones that he had chosen in his left hand and dropped his pouch of stones. Jonathan drew his sword. The air was deathly still. They took a few deep breaths and then walked out into the open.
The sun started to set and the Philistine raiding group was approaching Beth Horon. About three hundred swordsmen and a few dozen chariots had been constantly on the move for most of the day. In just a couple hours they would reach Beth Horon. Their orders were simple: Cause chaos. They wanted to frighten the Israelites. This could mean killing a large amount of innocent men, women, and children and burning a few houses. Then they were to return to camp. By the time the sun came up tomorrow, they should be back at camp telling each other stories of how they inflicted havoc on the unexpecting town.
~~~ The sun had faded from view and Jonathan and his armor bearer were still running. The two young men had been running all evening. They didn’t even take the time to stop and eat but ate as they ran. Now they ran in the dim light of a half dark and half orange sky.
Finally they reached a small hill from which they could see the silhouettes of the Beth Horon houses. The Philistines hadn’t arrived… yet. Relief filled the spirits of the two men.
They paused for a second to catch their breath.
Jonathan said, “There is a mound to the south a little ways from here. I should be able to see how close the Philistine army is. You go and get everyone out of the town.”
The young soldiers split up. Jonathan ran as fast as he could. The darkness camouflaged a rock from his site and he tripped on it and found himself sprawled on the ground. As he stood back up he noticed a noise in the distance. The Philistines. And they sounded close!
He hurried to the mound and in a few seconds was on top of it. Jonathan lied on his stomach so as not to be seen and peered into the distance toward the south.
~~~ Gareb entered Beth Horon yelling. It was the best way to get everyone’s attention. “The Philistines are coming! The Philistines are coming! We must move!”
People started wandering out of their houses trying to make sense of what was happening. They all knew Gareb since he was a baby but he had never acted this way before.
Soon, Gareb had a crowd gathered at the town square. He stood on a table and spoke to the two dozen men that were gathered there. “The Philistines are coming! They are coming here to Beth Horon! You must get all your wives and children and escape to the woods up north. We must escape immediately! Do not take time to gather belongings.” The men started to scatter. “Make sure all of your neighbors are aware that we need to act immediately!”
Gareb jumped down and started to answer questions but then said, “We don’t have time for this! Go get your families!”
~~~ Jonathan was running faster than he ever had in his life. How would he convince the people of Beth Horon how desperate the situation was? Jonathan and Gareb had practically arrived at the town the same time as the Philistines had--only minutes ahead of them. In a few minutes Beth Horon would be swarming with mad Philistines. Hopefully Gareb had already made some progress.
Jonathan arrived at Beth Horon and watched as the families got ready to go. They were moving too slow. Jonathan started running from door to door telling them they needed to leave now. As he began to think ahead, he realized that the Philistines were likely to see them as they ran for the cover of the woods. So he started to yell, “The Philistines are upon us! Bring your slings with you!” He also began to grab some of the younger men just in case he would have to distract the Philistines while the people fled. Soon he ran into Gareb. Gareb was helping his family get together so they could leave.
“Gareb! The Philistines are so close I almost ran into them at the mound!”
After sending his family north, Gareb joined Jonathan and the group of young men. Most of the city was empty now. The families that had either young or elderly members were trying to move but progress was slow. In the distance, the Philistines were now running over the mound and closing the distance between them and the town. Jonathan started frantically ordering his men to carry the children out of the city.
The Philistines reached the town and the last residents made it out almost simultaneously. Several dozen yards outside Beth Horon, Jonathan gathered his group once more in a field as he realized that the fleeing people would in fact need a diversion. All the men had were slings; Jonathan and Gareb were the only two with melee weapons. So the men started to retrieve rocks from the ground and then watched as the Philistines got closer and closer.
Jonathan began to inform the group, “What ever we do, we cannot lead the Philistines back to the people. We are going to try to lead them north-west to a different part of the woods. We are going to have to work together so at my command we will fire stones at the Philistines and at my command we will run to the north-west.”
The Philistines by now had realized that the city was empty and started running toward Jonathan and his men. The group lined up with Jonathan and Gareb in the middle. Gareb quickly tied his sling to his finger and gabbed a couple rocks. Then Jonathan commanded them to start swinging. The Philistines were pouring out of Beth Horon and a few chariots emerged into view. The cries of the men were filled with rage and echoed across the fields. Then Jonathan’s voice sent the first volley of rocks.
The young Israelites had fairly good aim and several Philistines dropped to the ground and were trampled under by the oncoming army. The second volley was even better and even took out a charioteer. But four other chariots were fast approaching and Jonathan knew that they needed to quickly get to grounds that were impassible by chariots. It may have been too late already. He ordered the men to start running. The great thing about slings is that the skilled slingers are able to load, swing, and fire while still running and these men knew how to work their slings.
It seemed like the chase went on forever even though it only lasted a few minutes. The chariots were quickly gaining on the running men. To Jonathan’s horror, one Israelite man, who was lagging just a little behind, was speared as a chariot passed him. Gareb was then able to get a good shot at that same charioteer and hit him in the eye. The Philistine caught himself from falling out of the back of the chariot but couldn’t keep himself going over the front twisting and pulling the reins, causing the horse slow down and stumble. The cart tipped over and slid sideways blocking the path of the next chariot. The two chariots collided and splintered into pieces. The other charioteer was thrown into the air and violently bounced on the ground.
Another chariot caught up with the men and was along side them and started swinging his spear at the fleeing men. Another Hebrew became a victim to the spear and dropped to the ground. Two nearby Israelites grabbed their bleeding friend and continued on. Jonathan hacked his sword into the chariot’s wheel. The chariot lost balance and busted up on the ground. The charioteer lost his footing and he tumbled to the ground. He held on to the reins with dear life and was dragged along with the splintering chariot colliding with him. The horse suddenly stumbled and fell to the ground while Jonathan was still running close by. Jonathan had to make an amazing jump over the falling horse as the chariot came crashing down. When he landed, Jonathan stumbled but Gareb was at his side to help him back to his feet.
Just in time, the group reached the woods and to their joy there was also an incline at the tree line. They would especially have an advantage now. The Israelites started taking cover behind trees and started firing rocks at the approaching army. Jonathan looked back and noticed that the two men trying to carry the injured Israelite where struggling to stay ahead of the Philistines. They were being slowed down by the weight of the limp Hebrew and there was no way they were going to make it to the forest before the Philistine foot soldiers reached them. Jonathan stopped in his tracks and ran to their aid. The massive amount of Philistines yelled and screamed at Jonathan as he slashed his blade into the soldiers that were gaining on them. The army was continually pelted with rocks from Israelite slings. Once everyone had taking cover in the forest, the Philistines had quit advancing.
The Hebrews were now very well positioned to endure a large amount of attackers. The Philistines still had plenty of men but they had already lost many more than they had planned to loose. So the large army turned around and returned to Beth Horon and did the second part of their mission: burning buildings.
Jonathan knelt down beside the injured Hebrew. He had a blood all over one side of his face and down his neck. It was hard to tell where the cut was. The young soldier was still conscious but quickly fading away. He was constantly trying to say something but he kept choking on what was likely his own blood. An older man tried to wipe the blood off with his cloak to find the cut. Everyone gasped when they saw that the cut ran from his ear and down his neck to his collar bone. The older man tried to stop the bleeding by pressing cloth on his cut while Jonathan tried to get the young man to cough up the blood by pumping his chest with both hands. But nothing worked. The cut was very deep. His whole body began to shake and his face was turning blue. Then young man suddenly gave up the struggle and he quit gagging. His chest lost all of its air and he began to quickly turn pale.
No one spoke for a long time. The tiered men sat there, in the dark. They accomplished their goal. They completely distracted the army and saved all of the women and children but not without loosing a few Hebrew men. However, they still felt fortunate that any of them had survived such an assault by the fierce Philistines. The air was mixed with feelings of relief and chilled sorrow as they watched their enemies engulf their homes with bright yellow flames.