Murder One

In six paragraphs you may be disturbed. Throughout the story you’ll wonder if the guy will get the girl. Somewhere in between you will have fallen into my trap. 

Bill Harmond was an unassuming guy, the sort of guy who kept to himself by keeping his nose out of your business. In fact, if there was one thing about Bill that wasn’t unassuming it’s that he assumed you really didn’t want him in your business. Fact is, everyone wanted Bill Harmond to get into their business—everyone.

Especially Donna Nichols.

“Good morning Mr. Harmond,” she said as the quiet man entered the room full of cubicles.

“Good morning,” he answered back with his usual friendly smile. He hoisted his duffel bag onto the adjoining counter as he did every morning when turning in the previous night’s work. Donna felt the bulging bag. “My goodness. You went over quota again. The chief will be very happy. How many did you get this time?”

“Six. I was feeling a little ambitious.” He poured two cups of black coffee, putting one in front of her. Its soothing aroma gave her a smile. She turned and gave the smile to Bill. She hoped he would ask her out, but he just smiled—like always. He sometimes seemed on the edge of asking her—wasn’t he interested? But he never did. She asked him about it once. Bill always assumed she wouldn’t be interested in someone like him. Bill, as friendly and unassuming as he was, after all, told her he was sure he was just an average guy.

Even if he was the best serial killer the company ever had.  Continue reading

Canvas & Flesh

Sami stretched his legs on the hard wood bench. Stretching didn’t relieve the tension in his lower back and legs, but he felt he had to do something, anything to feel good again. He hadn’t felt good in days, nor had Samir. Sami watched Samir sleep. One hour. It couldn’t have been more than an hour. The guards usually didn’t let him sleep that long before they would come, drag him to the room at the end of the hall, and beat him to a pulp.

It happened that way every morning. Right after Samir finished his work. Sami wondered if it would ever happen to him. He hoped to God it would not.

Sami swirled around and gently placed his feet on the cold concrete floor. He took a deep breath—but quietly, so as not to wake Samir. The dank air filled his lungs. He was almost used to it now. It was better than not breathing at all.

He prepared his mind. As soon as he would turn around he would see Samir’s work. It was why they beat him every morning. He wouldn’t stop, so they beat him more. Sami feared for Samir so much that he refused to look at it. But Samir kept doing it anyway. How could he let him suffer for nothing? He had to look at it. Truth was, he wanted to look at it. So desperately he wanted to see what Samir had done; it was the only thing that kept him going in this barely lit hole of filth they called a prison. He took a breath, closed his eyes then, turned around. He wanted it to burst into his vision. He wanted to be overcome.  Continue reading

You Need Four Things To Be Happy

happyAre you happy or unhappy with your life? If you sat down and made a list of reasons why you are happy or unhappy, chances are, you will be able to find a variation of four things that you need for happiness. I’m not usually one to try and boil down life to some formulaic approach to fulfillment. However, I think in this case, in general terms, we can self-assess our lives to discover what contributes to or takes away from our happiness. I’m not going to give you a pop culture answer like, “All you need is love.” Nor will I give you a pat religious answer like, “All you need is Jesus.” Love may be supreme and Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s love—and you need both for eternal happiness. But what I’d like to do is present four things that are necessary for human happiness in this life, right now. I believe that God has wired us in this way, whether you are a Christian or not.

Happiness is important. Happiness is not the be all and end all of existence. In fact, happiness should not be the primary pursuit of our lives because happiness is best seen as a byproduct and not a pursuit. But that doesn’t mean that happiness isn’t important. If we are happy in our work then getting up in the morning to go to work isn’t a chore for us. If we are happy in our home life then we look forward to being home and spending time with the ones we love. The catch is knowing where our happiness comes from. If we can know what we need to be happy then we can self-assess to find out if we have what we need, or if we are missing happiness by missing one or more of the four elements necessary to happiness. So, allow me to wax philosophical for a moment as I define the basic elements of happiness, why they are important, and then present you with biblical examples for these four elements. Let’s get started.

There are four elements to human happiness. These elements must be present in the areas of life we experience in order to bring us a state of happiness. They are:  Continue reading

The Flying Spaghetti Monster Is Real, And I Can Prove It

fsmMy daughter was around six years old. She sat in front of the TV watching one of her favorite cartoons. It was Pokémon, or SpongeBob, or something like that. We got to talking and I told her, “You know, what you are watching isn’t real. It’s just a cartoon.”

“What do you mean, daddy?” she asked.

“It’s not real,” I told her. “People had to draw these things to tell their stories. But it’s not real.”

She got screwy-faced for a moment and protested, “It is too real, daddy.” At that stage in her life she wasn’t always able to discern the difference between fantasy and reality. Thankfully, I don’t suffer from that. But the Flying Spaghetti Monster is real. I can prove it. Come to think of it, SpongeBob is real too.  Continue reading

By Faith

Charles Fargo was a quiet, reserved man, smack in the middle of a mid-life crisis. Instead of fishing for young women with an eye for older, financially secure men, or spending time in dangerous pursuits like sky-diving, Charles decided to celebrate his mid-life crisis in a most unusual way.

He decided to exercise his faith.

Exercising one’s faith can often be a deeply personal, private matter. Some people display their faith for everyone to see, as if being seen is the objective of the exercising. One might expect Charles, as a quiet and reserved man, to exercise his faith in a quiet and reserved manner.

One might expect.

Charles was usually quiet and reserved because most of his daily energies were spent contemplating programming code, and the latest innovations in computer hardware. Charles was a computer programmer and for lack of a better description, professional geek.

Shortly before his forty-ninth birthday he reflected upon his faith, and the shortening days ahead. He wondered whether his life might amount to more than the subtleties of computer code, which he could not even share intelligently with his wife, Patricia, a lovely preschool teacher for twenty-two years.

Charles had the desire that most men have—he wanted to be remembered as more than a good husband with a pocket protector, he wanted to do something significant. To be sure, the idea of free climbing a mountain, or taking up skydiving had occurred to him. Such sports occur to most men at one time or another. Certainly the young lab assistant four doors down the hall had crossed his view on more than one occasion; but fortunately, Charles was not that kind of man. He loved his wonderful preschool-teaching wife of twenty-two years. He just wanted significance—the kind that comes from doing something big, something no one has ever done before.

Quiet and reserved men tend not to share their faith often. Charles was in that category, preoccupied with latest digital developments than the finer points of biblical discussion. Because of this, he reasoned, a single event, one bold stroke of faith demonstrating action was what his life needed. That’s when the quiet and reserved, almost 49-year-old Charles Fargo decided he would move a mountain.

By faith.

Not a mountain of a problem, not a mountain of vain concepts; not even a mountain of paperwork. A real mountain.

By faith.  Continue reading

Do You Want A Drink With That?

Here’s a story I wrote for my kids when they were very young.

One very hot day a hippopotamus and a rhinoceros were walking together to find water. The hippo wanted to bathe in the water, and the rhino wanted to drink the water, so they put aside their normal dislike of one another and decided to walk together to search. A vulture was nearby, who had also not had water for some time, and he also accompanied them.

“I see,” said the hippo to the rhino very cautiously, “that you have a large horn on your nose. It must be very formidable as a weapon.”

“Indeed it is,” said the rhino to the hippo. “I use it scare off my enemies that would otherwise attack. My friend Hippo, you do not have a horn, how do you fend off your enemies?”

“Ah,” the hippo opened his large mouth revealing his sloshing tongue and stubby teeth. “I have a powerful mouth that opens wide. Any of my enemies who come near will soon be caught by the great force of my mouth slamming down upon them.”

“I have no enemies!” the vulture said from the air.

“Yes,” replied the hippo and the rhino, “but neither do you have any friends!”

The vulture did not make an answer, but kept flying along with the two. Continue reading

Skulking Past Limbo

Lorne Giles stepped cautiously around the corner; the squeak of his cheap shoes giving him away save that there was no one nearby. He expected more security in this wing of the building. He guided himself along the lightly padded fabric rail situated just above his waste, breaking for every door with a skinny mesh window. Peering inside he glanced passed garment disposal containers, hanging smocks, and washbasins to see another door with a skinny mesh window revealing a small crowd of blue, green, and white smocks huddled over a body on a table.

This was not his room.

A nurse or doctor came through the inner door into the room of hanging smocks, medical waste bins, and washbasins. She didn’t seem to notice him as she removed her gloves and gown. Tears in her eyes told Lorne a story about a dead woman on a table this nurse or doctor could not save.

Or maybe she was an intern a doctor had just dressed down. Perhaps the story wasn’t so clear. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hands. Any moment she would come through the door and see him standing there where he didn’t belong, wondering and then eventually asking him where he was supposed to be, all the while pretending to ignore his naked fanny sticking out the back of a hospital gown that he, like so many victims of modern medicine couldn’t seem to wear properly. He grabbed the back of his gown and instinctively pulled it around, reaching awkwardly with his other hand, searching for the matching string that always seemed to dangle out of even a contortionist’s reach. Lorne was sure that hospital’s administrators had designed the gowns to cause muscle fatigue and thereby extend stays, and the length of invoices. His right side hurt from trying to stretch around for what he was also sure was probably a nonexistent string, so instead he bunched up the edges of the gown in his left hand and made a pass beyond the door’s window when the nurse’s face was turned away.

His cheap shoes creaked like an old door. Lorne hated the hospital slippers the attendant gave him when he first arrived—a mildly fuzzy light shade fit for an old woman. Not only didn’t they fit his size 11 feet, they smacked his soles like an adolescent spanking, which didn’t make him feel him feel any less self-conscious about his exposed rear.

He grabbed at his gown again, creaking with every step. Continue reading

A Woman’s Wish

A young maiden danced in the early morning fog,
When she happened upon a magic green frog.
“Fear not,” said the frog in a perfect man’s voice,
“For I will grant you three wishes, please make your choice.”

“To find a magic frog is a dream come true,
But tell me young frog, is there a catch to this too?”
“There are conditions,” the frog said, “a first and a second,
If you agree to them now, then to your wishes I beckon.

“For each wish that you ask, I shall grant my best,
But I shall receive ten-fold your request.
And upon your first wish, my bride shall you be,
So wish wisely my dear, if you wish to agree.”  Continue reading

Preparing For Loss

Hand on ShoulderMy former pastor in Florida, Esmond Hilton, had a saying that he used with his kids all of the time. And from time to time he mentioned it in the pulpit. “You can never lose your integrity, you can only give it away.” From the first moment I heard it I thought it was profound because it was so simple, so real. You can never lose your integrity, you can only give it away.

In the Bible, the very first thing that was mentioned about Job was that he was a man of integrity. Look at how it describes him: “That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). If a book of the Bible were to be written about you, what would be the first thing God would say about you? Continue reading

The Promises Of God Come With Separation & Death: So Merry Christmas

Christmas is one of those holidays that I can take or leave. Perhaps it’s because of the way that we have trivialized what the holiday represents. We hang stockings, decorate trees, arrange manger scenes, and give gifts. Of course no one is fooled, it’s the gift giving and receiving that has become the real focus of Christmas. We love to get stuff. And we get joy, happiness, and a lot of squishy good feelings when our loved ones rip off the wrapping to expose our expressions of love. That’s a form of “getting” too. Nothing wrong with that, in and of itself; but we are fooling ourselves if we think that benign gift giving and receiving is really representative of what God gave man in Jesus Christ. God’s great gift to man, in point of fact, didn’t happen on that first Christmas. It happened on Good Friday when Jesus was violently crucified for our sins. Had the crucifixion never happened, and the resurrection, then Christmas would be meaningless. Continue reading