Friday, February 24, 2012


Empty by Ray LaMontagne on Grooveshark

Jess’ heart was never so full.  The sand at first was soft and powdery around her feet.  Her steps were full of faith, taking her ever closer to the ocean.  The soft warm sand changed, turning hard and cold underneath her.  Eyes still closed, she knew what about to come.  Whoosh.  Foamy water swept around her ankles.  She listened to the surf fizzle and pop. 
Determined and faithful, her eyes opened.  The sun was rising before her.  Bright red.  Warmth growing with each second. 
Today her dream comes true.  “God is all you need.”  Again and again she said it to herself.  “God is all I need.  Just have faith.”  So much of life before had disappointed her.  Now, nothing could hurt her.  Nothing could touch her.  She was decreasing more and more each day.  She would soon be gone. 
The phone felt heavy in her hand, almost as if the people of her life were actually in it.  Her clingy, condescending mother, her distant father, her ex boyfriends, her backstabbing friends, her spiteful siblings, all were in it. 
Before she lost her nerve, she tossed her phone out into the surf.  Immediately, the weight in her hand, and in her heart, was gone.
Gone.  Now it was just her and God.  No one else.  She was invincible.
Only she wasn’t.  Within a month she was pushed to the edge of her faith.  Not only did she not feel full, she had never felt so empty.  She had cut everyone off.  She had focused her heart on nothing but God.  In the morning, she would rise, picture God’s face, and just meditate.  A nearby street window reflected poorly, but well enough for her to see her face, now gaunt, dirty, and unkempt.  Somewhere in her own eyes, she realized that something was wrong. 

This story is intentionally extreme.  Most of us are not going to do this.  We don’t leave everyone behind.  We don’t go all out.  However, the sentiment robs us of so much.  We have heard it a million times that God is all we need.  So, we do our best to cut out, or at least minimize others, minimize our desires.  In the midst of our devotion, our heart gets lost.  It gets lost because, deep down, we all know this wrong.  God is not all we need, bit because He is insufficient, but because He made us to need others, other things.  All of those other needs should push us toward God.  Your affection for others shouldn’t be waning but growing!  Read the word!  It is there a thousand times plus.  God wants us to love Him above all else.  He alone saves us from hell.  Yet, how do we love him?  What are his commands?  Are they not love?  Are they not about your affections for your fellow man? 
Well, yes, Nick, but love is a decision, not an emotion.
That is a lie.  That sentiment is counter to what the Bible says.  That is a lie that Christians have made up because we can’t understand how God could actually expect us to love our neighbor when they allow their dog to poop on our lawn, to love our enemy as they smear our honor, our name among men.  We can’t believe it, so we have tried to redefine love as something more controllable, more manageable.  Let’s just take out the affection part, and make it about action.  Then, I don’t have to have affection for my neighbor.  I can just do nice things for them, share the gospel if I feel up to it.  I know I can’t hate them, but this way I don’t have to have affection either.  This makes loving God easier too.  I don’t have to have affection for Him, to burn for Him.  All I have to do is follow the rules. 
Problem, the author of Hebrews tells is in chapter ten that God did not desire burnt offerings.  It is the heart He is after.  Read the whole word, and this becomes so apparent.  We try to make it a system instead of a relationship.  He wants your obedience, but only as an extension of your affection for Him.  Without that, you’ve got jack. 
What you see in Jess’ action is not in line with the Bible.  God, at every turn, sets desire before us.  He tells us He will change our hearts so that our desires might not be the same, but He never says, “Love only me, nobody else, nothing else.  Go hide away in the mountains and just be with me.”  Nope.  He tells us to GO!  GO GO GO!  We are to put our hearts out there.  It is gonna hurt, and that is right and good too.  Hurt can only exist where there is love.  If you don’t love something, then you don’t care if it is gone, or is suffering, or whatever.  You don’t care. 
Jess’ actions are in line, however, with Zen Buddhism.  What she is reaching for isn’t heaven, as is described in the Bible as paradise (think about that!)  Where our hearts are made full.  She is reaching for Nirvana.  Now, we often use the word Nirvana similarly with the word heaven, but they are not synonyms.  They are antonyms, complete opposite.  Nirvana is the highest beatitude of Zen Buddhism.  It is a state of being where you cease to exist.  You no longer have hurt, because you no longer have love.  You no longer have desire.  It is the extinguishing of one’s self.  Nirvana literally means to “extinguish”.  
Like I said, none of us do this full out, but I hear it every day from my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I bet you have too, that this idea lingers in us.  We as Christians are choked with guilt about feeling like we need something other than God, even though He is the one that made us that way.  We really only feel it when it comes to desires.  We think perhaps they are not a need.  And if survival alone is the game, then you are right.  Only, God is about just your survival, is He?  Is He not about you delighting in Him, and by extension His creation?  God wants be first.  Once He is first, your affection need not be withheld.  Your desires need to be quashed.  Submitted with thanksgiving?  Yes.  Held with an open hand?  Yes.  Quashed?  No. 
Today can be the start of something new.  We need not feel guilty another moment for having desires.  God made you to desire.  It is His pleasure that He be your greatest.  It is His pleasure that you should delight in the work of His hands, especially your fellow man, as long as they don’t take His place as first and foremost. 
The power of the gospel is that we can desire all we want, and in light of the great forgiveness, the unsurpassed grace of God, we can be thankful in the face of not having them all realized, for whatever is given is so vastly superior and wonderful than what we really deserve, it is well.  We don’t have to not want that spouse, that new job, or whatever it is, because the gospel changes our perspective from one of entitlement to one of absolute thanksgiving.  All becomes a blessing.  Even the hard times are a blessing.  How liberating is that?  Is that not light?  When we see that we are owed nothing, yet given so much, how can we be anything but grateful?  Anything but joyful?  We deserved hell, and instead are getting heaven.  Hallelujah!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lyric Puzzle 2/22/2012

Alright, you know the drill.  See if you can figure out the name of the song and the artist who performed it.  

...I'll see you again, I don't know when
And I know you'll be the same
And I know I'll be the same, unchanged

You'll free me again
But I'll never be free of memories
And I know your life will change
And I know my life will change, unchained

Unchained, unchained
I'll drift away
Like roses on the sea

Stars up in the sky
Where they're always alone, they're on their own
And I know that they'll always shine
And I know that they'll always shine on time

Friday, February 17, 2012

Is There Someone You Can't Forgive?

Woods by Bon Iver/Bon Iver on Grooveshark

Roger stares at his phone.  Each time it buzzes, it scoots eerily across the granite counter-top in  front of him.  His eyes glaze over.  His teeth grit with anger.  He doesn't need to see the screen to know what it says.  A couple more times it buzzes, then stops.  In the corner of his blurred vision, he can see the screen on his phone dim.  A couple more seconds pass before he can muster the will to walk over and look at it.  He was right.  Just before the screen goes black, he sees, "Daniel Jones (16) missed calls."

He balls up his fist, and slams it down on the counter.  He cringes so hard he waits for the sound of his teeth cracking.  He doesn't care.  So deep is his anger.  "How could someone who says they loved me, someone close to me, have hurt me so badly?"  The question has poisoned his mind.  

"You need to forgive Daniel."  That's what his mother said just an hour ago over the phone.  Not only did her words not heal, but now his anger had spread from Daniel, to her, and now to the Bible.  Again and again his mother had taken him through the word.  She showed him every verse she could think of.

Matthew 6:14-15  
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,  
15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

1 John 4:18-21
18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  
19 We love because he first loved us. 
20 If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  
21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.  

These she read to him, but it didn't matter. Daniel had never felt so far from God.  How could he feel close to God when God apparently had no idea what was going on.  The Bible always had answer, it seemed, for everything.  This was different.  How could God not see this wrong?  How could God allow it to happen?  On top of that, how could God possibly expect, no, COMMAND, that Daniel be forgiven?  It was cruel.  "I have dedicated my life to God, and this is what I get?  Wronged beyond belief, and I am supposed to swallow it?"  Roger thinks.  "How can that be?"

2008, Murlough Beach, Northern Ireland
I am sitting down next to my wife Kathleen, looking out over the ocean.  My surroundings could hardly be more beautiful.  My wife could hardly be more beautiful.  My life could hardly be better on the outside.  Yet, there I sat, burning with anger to the point of weeping.  Depression had ravaged my soul for a decade, and its lingering effects had finally driven me to the point of admitting a long lasting truth.  I was furious at God.  I was absolutely furious with Him.  For the first time, I fully admitted to myself, and I cried out.  In my chest, I shook my fist up at the sky.  I cried out the clinched teeth, "How could you?!  All I ever wanted was to serve you, and this is how you treat me?"  

As has happened so many times throughout history, God answered.  It was not an audible word, simply, a truth was made known that came from nowhere in my heart.  I knew what a second earlier was not there.  His tone was gentle but firm.  This is the truth I heard.  He said, "Nicholas, you have taken credit for MY goodness your whole life.  You are not going to to do so for one more second."  In that moment, my eyes were shown that I really did think I was good.  I had said the opposite a thousand times.  I had preached my brokenness, but I did not believe it.  I clung to my goodness.  I had compared myself to my fellow man, and felt that, in comparison, I was pretty dang awesome.  

Arrogant, stupid fool!!!!  Idiot!!!  Is it not God's standard we are judged by?  And what is His standard?  Is it not perfection?  Have I not fallen short of that?  I have.  Oh, I have.  Where I once saw no fault, now, when I preach of man's fallen , terrible nature, I have all the evidence staring at me in the mirror.  I would be lying if I told you that I understood it fully then, or understand it fully now.  Yet, I can say that my life has changed as the truth of my deserving hell has saturated me.  

Contrary to belief, it has been the most liberating thing ever.  No longer am I held captive by guilt.  I was saved, and I had nothing to do with it.  I can know God loves me, now, not later, because He did what He did without me doing anything to incline Him to do so.  He just did it.  Bitterness, hatred, unforgiving spirit, they have all been vanquished.  How can I judge a brother or sister when I have been forgiven everything.  How can I complain, even about pain, in light of the pain I have been brought out of?  I cannot.  

Roger holds to his anger because he feels entitled to it.  He feels he has some RIGHT to be angry.  Truth is, he doesn't.  It doesn't matter what Daniel did to him.  Nothing Daniel did surpasses the grace already given to Roger.  Lasting anger, bitterness, can only survive through judgement, through thinking you are better than the person you are angry at.  Hopefully, Roger will come to understand that he is fact... not good... period.  Any goodness he has in him, he cannot claim, for that too is a gift.  Hopefully he will pick up that phone and forgive Daniel.  There friendship may never be the same.  Friends are a choice, are a delight, and the trust has been broken.   Yet, if it ends, hopefully it will not be because Roger feels like he is better than Daniel.  That anger he once felt will melt and be gone. 

May we keep Jesus in our sight always.  When we feel we are entitled to something, when we begin to think we are good enough, let us see those hands, those feet.  May we see them and remember. 


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

God and the Spouse-Shaped Hole

 A young woman lingers after church.  Slowly but surely, the rows empty, bringing more and more attention to her stillness.  An older woman in the church walks up to her and asks what’s wrong. 
I’m just so lonely,” the girl says.  “I am so tired of being alone.  Everyone else is going out to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  I will be at home… alone… again.”
The older woman replies, “Honey, God made you with a spouse-shaped hole in your heart.  You need to let God fill that for you.
The girl smiles at the thought.  This wise woman has just given her the secret to not hurting anymore, to not feeling lonely.  Let God fill that hole.  She thanks the woman, gets up, and starts to walk triumphantly out of the sanctuary.  Only, she doesn’t even make it to the door before that loneliness sets back in, before the hurt comes back.  Before she just felt lonely.  Now, she feels lonely, and guilty.  If only her faith were stronger.  If only her relationship with the Lord was more intimate, then she would be able to do as the woman said, and let God fill that spouse shaped hole.  Yet, her heart still burns for a man to have and to hold.  She drives home lonely and guilt-ridden.

Let’s contrast that story with this one…
Genesis 2:18-25
18 Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."
19 Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Adam was created first.  Now, Adam got to walk in the Garden WITH GOD.  That isn’t a spiritual truth.  He literally walked with God in the garden.  Now, catch this… God is the one who says, “It is not good for man to be alone, I will make him a helper fit for him.” 
Did God mess up?  Did He intend to make man to just need Him, and then goof up?  We know it isn’t true.  God, from the very beginning designed us to need someone of the opposite sex to be our mate, our spouse.  Think about the fact that God didn’t say to Adam, “How dare you be lonely!  You are walking with me, the one true God!”  He doesn’t tell Adam, “Hey, I know you are lonely, let me fill that gap in your heart for you.”  Does He?  He first gives Adam all the animals and has him name them, THEN He creates Eve.  I can’t say this for sure.  The Bible is not explicit here, so know that this is just me pondering when I say that it SEEMS that God has the animals come first, and makes Adam wait, in order to draw stark contrast to the greatness that would be woman when she arrived.    Like I said, that last bit is just me wondering. 
There is only one thing that can fill that spouse-shaped hole in your heart… a spouse.  So, what comfort are we to have in our loneliness if it is not that God will fill that hole?  We take the same comfort that we take when facing any pain…

Romans 8:18-30
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

If we love God, and are called according to His purpose, then we know that whatever happens will work for our good.  We have to remember that God’s definition of good doesn’t mean easy, or pleasant in this life.  Paul, in the beginning tells us he considers his present suffering nothing in comparison, and his suffering was enormous! 
God made us with many holes in our heart.  There’s one for friends, siblings, mothers, fathers, spouses, and more.  God doesn’t promise to fill those holes, to take away your need your desire for those relationships.  He promises purpose to your suffering.  He promises eternal purpose!  Remember that, when we say that “God is all we need” that we are speaking of an eternal truth.  It is an ultimate statement.  Ultimately, all we need is God, as all else fades away.  However, underneath that ultimate truth, God made us to need things… not for salvation, but for survival, for delight, for joy.  God made us to need food to survive.  Does one come to know the Father through Jesus, then cease to need food entirely?  Surely not.  All these other holes are designed to point us toward God, including the one shaped for our spouse.
So, when the wind blows cold across that gaping hole in our hearts, we need not to try to fill it with God, when God designed it to be filled with something else.  We need not feel guilty that we are lonely, for our loneliness is in accordance with God’s design for us.  Perhaps God’s plan is for that hole to remain empty, either for a while, or perhaps for the rest of our life on this Earth, for any number of reasons.  Perhaps He wants to teach you to persevere?  To be patient?  Perhaps to draw contrast to the greatness that will one day be the experience of being with your spouse?
What we can do is be content (remember, contentment is not a lack of desire, but a state of thankfulness that comes from recognizing what we truly deserve… hell, as compared to what we have been given) and we can do as Paul did in prison… thank God.  We can praise Him in the face of our great hurt, our pain.  How much sweeter and truer are those praises when they are given in such times, when it is not easy.  If you are lonely, then thank God for what He has given you, that those things so outweigh your current grief, that, though it doesn’t stop your grief, it gives it purpose. 
Rewind.  The girl shares her pain.  This time, though, the woman shares the story of Adam and Eve, and all that entails.  The older woman shares God’s purpose in the face of pain.  This time, the girl gets up, and walks out the door, the pain of loneliness still palpable in her heart.  That pain doesn’t go away.  No.  Instead, there is another feeling that comes along side it.   With the knowledge she now has that her pain has purpose, that it isn’t an accident, that it isn’t there because she is a failure as Christian… she feels peace.  As she drives home, she dreams of that man she hopes to one day have and hold.  Where there was anger and confusion before, there is now thankfulness and clarity.  God has already given her so much!  It is okay for her to ache for that someone, to hope for their arrival.  Inside her heart she prays, thanking God, then relinquishing her desires to Him, including her desire for a husband.  She will serve Him and love Him no matter what.  Her life is His.  Amen.  She turns on some music and, through her loneliness, sings praise to God.

I Dream of You by Tommy Dorsey on Grooveshark 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why I Let People Know About My Sin

Steve sat there patiently.  His question rang in my heart.  I wasn’t quite sure what would come out in response.  Finally, after some silence, I spewed, “I feel like if people know that I sin, it will cause people to stumble!” 

His response was perfect.  I can’t remember verbatim, but the essence was something like this, “Nick, buddy, you know, I think that’s wrong thinking.  I find that people need to know that you sin.  It frees both of you.  Besides, people don’t need you to be perfect, that’s what Jesus is for, right?”

BOOM.  Life has never been the same.  That was nearly ten years ago that happened.  In this last ten years I have come to see just how true those words were.

Romans 14:13
13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 

Verse thirteen is the kicker, “decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”  We read that, and we all seem to take that to mean, “don’t let anyone else see you sin, lest they think it is okay, or think you aren’t as wonderful as you are putting on, and they don’t come to church, then they never know the saving grace of Jesus.” 

Has it ever occurred to us that by never sharing our sin we are lying?  You sin, yes?  I surely do!  So, is God really asking me to be phony?  Is He telling me that I should lie?  See, now I recall that lying is a sin.  Actually, to be more specific, being deceitful is a sin!  Being deceitful encompasses even lies of omission.

One of the worst things the church as a whole has accepted is this idea that admission of sin causes others to stumble.  The truth is that this has had a devastating effect on us.  How many people don’t go to church because they feel it to be hypocritical?  We all know tons!  Why is this?  If we were honest, and didn’t put up that façade of legalism and perfection, no one would ever be able to use that as an excuse.  Everyone would know that Christianity is about a bunch of messed up people all needing redemption; that it is about following Christ, and not Christians. 

What people need to see in us is brokenness, our longing for GOD’s redemption, GOD’s perfection.  We should be pointing towards the perfect life CHRIST led, and stop trying to act like it is ours.  If we were to do that, both us and the people we are trying to minister to would be free.  We would be offering them the true means of salvation, Christ’s death and resurrection, instead of offering them a lie, a life of self-righteousness, condescension, and hyposcrisy.

It also frees us from the lie that it is all about us.  It isn’t.  It really isn’t.  The success of the gospel in people’s lives is not incumbent upon your righteous acts!   If you sin, guess what?  The gospel isn’t going to crumble and disappear.  Christ’s name will still be praised.  People will still go to church, sing songs, and read God’s word.  It frees us to bring down the façade that God never wanted up in the first place, and let’s us run to Him openly.  People don’t want YOUR perfection, they want CHRIST’s.  Your job isn’t to show them how to be perfect, but how to run hard after the perfect one.  You can be that person who shows them the freedom of NOT needing to rely on your own goodness!  How awesome and liberating is that?  Praise be to God!  Isn’t that light upon your soul?  It is like air on mine.  Not only does it not weigh me down, it gives me wings.  Amen.

I Found a Reason by Cat Power on Grooveshark 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Sun Set Twice

Something special happened to end my trip.  I got to see the sun set twice.  I watched it set through the massive, single-paned windows of San Antonio's airport.  It was a Hill Country sunset for sure.  Just as the sun disappeared below the horizon, they had us board.  Fifteen minutes later I was thrust back into my seat.  As always, I was hunched over, trying to stare out the window.  Ascending rapidly, my ears filled with air, the houses outside got smaller, and, to my surprise... the sun began to rise on the horizon!  We poked through the clouds, and it looked like Antarctica was below, dunes of white snow as far as the eye could see.  The sun rose almost all the way back above the horizon.  Finally, as we all know, it set "again" slowly beneath the sea of white below. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Understanding Contentment

Contentment is not the absence of want.  If you go to your dictionary, it will define contentment as the absence of desire.  This is also how most people would think of contentment.  

Psalm 20:4 ESV

May he grant you your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans! 

Psalm 21:2 ESV

You have given him his heart's desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah 

Psalm 145:16 ESV

You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. 

Psalm 145:19 ESV

He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. 

Proverbs 11:23 ESV

The desire of the righteous ends only in good; the expectation of the wicked in wrath.

Proverbs 13:12 ESV

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. 

Proverbs 13:19 ESV

A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.

Okay, so I typed the word "desire" into a word search for the Bible, for the ESV, and all these verses are a few from just Psalms and Proverbs.  There were pages and pages left.  It is obvious in just these few verses that God is not about abolishing desire, never mind the pages worth I didn't post.  Desire is a huge part of God's plan.  Does God not offer you heaven?  Is that not an enticement toward desire?  Does he not offer desire in knowing Him?  Isn't that what God wants most from you?  To desire Him more?  We know it is!!!  So, not desiring anything more than what you have in no way fits with a Biblical worldview.  Not wanting anything is a Buddhist idea, and we call it Nirvana.  This of course is a self-referential absudity (i.e. something that by merely saying it, proves it wrong, like "there are no absolutes" is an absolute).  In order to achieve Nirvana, you have to desire it.  Nirvana is a desire in and of itself.  To not desire is to not exist.

So, if contentment isn't the abolition of desire, then what is contenment?  Contentment is a state of thankfulness .  Thankfulness, on a grand level, is achieved only once we understand what we actually deserve... hell.  When we finally understand that we deserve hell, than we become free to be thankful for everything, literally everything.  If we have such a perspective, everything becomes wonderful.  We become thankful for every good thing we get.  We can no longer take that desire and feel that we deserve more.  We cannot let it turn us to anger.  Why?  because whatever we have is already so much greater than what we should get, that it is great, even if it less than all we want.  
For example, I am here in New Braunfels.  I have been here since Friday, and will be here until Tuesday.  It is my home, and I love it.  There is something about this place.  Part of me wishes I could live here.  Does that desire make me discontented because I desire something?  No.  Why?  Because joy is what is in my heart.  I feel joy because I am so very thankful for Dallas.  It may not be the number one place on Earth, but it is a wonderful place.  I have made many friends there, and have grown to see it's good.  Compared to hell, which is what I deserve, it is bliss.  Besides, our hearts desires are paradoxical.  We almost always want conflicting things at the same time.  Right now I wish I were here, in Ireland, Rome, Lake City Colorado, Paris, Scotland, and a dozen other places.  Yet, I can only be in one.  I wish I were with every person I loved, all at once, but also individually. See what I mean?

So, let us be thankful!  Let us always remember what we really deserve, that we might always be thankful that Jesus took it all on Himself, though He did NOT deserve it, and made a way for us to have what we are to desire most, intimacy with God Himself!  Surely He is good!  Let us never feel entitled to anything but hell, that everything we would receive otherwise would push us toward praise toward the God that granted us such a freedom, that grants the desires of our hearts!  Praise be such a wonderful God!  Amen!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

It feels good to be so close to Home.  The drive down was great.  It was the first time I had driven down 35 in at least nine months.  The sun shone bright through the clouds in broad, bright bands.  We drove through New Braunfels and into San Antonio where I am staying with my buddy Andrew.  We ate a pizza place, Fralo's, on the North side of San Antonio.  It was great.  The pizza was wonderful, and more importantly, it felt Texan.  Dallas is many things, but it is not particularly Texan.  It's a big city.  The people are mostly big city.  Fancy clothes and fancy ideas are everywhere.  All of this is fine, I guess.  In the end, it isn't bad, it just doesn't feel Texan to me.  Sitting outside of Fralo's, it was just a different world, my world.  The people were all just... there.  No one was flashy.  Everyone was comfortable and easy going.  The mood was open and friendly.  Music was being played loudly.  It was just easygoing fun.  The smell was different too.  It's the cedar, I think.  The air is thicker and warmer.
Tomorrow I will actually be in New Braunfels all day.  Going to spend the most of the day just being.  You know?  I don't have a bunch of plans.  I am going to be trying to begin writing chapter four, I think at the Gazebo tomorrow morning.  We'll see.  It just feels good to be so close to Home.  Anyhow, it is late.  I am just thankful for my time here.  God is so gracious have given me such a place to call home.
I'll right more tomorrow.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

LIGHT BLUE: Chapter Three

I Can Almost See You
Wind whipped around me, flapping the tails of my tuxedo about madly.  Occasionally one would slap my leg enough to sting.  I thrust my hands even farther down into my pockets both for the extra warmth, and to discourage the movement of my jacket.  Why do they always make tuxedo shirts out of such thin material, I wondered.  My brain to answer itself with memories of dancing at some friend or cousin’s wedding reception, peeling off my jacket, undoing the cuffs and rolling back my sleeves, opening up my collar, all in an attempt to not sweat through my shirt.  Tux shirts were made for keeping one cool on a dance floor in the heat of summer, not warm on a high-rise balcony in the dead of winter.
Despite the pain of the cold wind, the view and solitude were worth it.  Some thirty stories up on the balcony of an uptown high-rise apartment, a sea of rooftops gave way to towering buildings that shined and twinkled in the night sky before me.  For a moment, I became entranced in the lights from one building reflecting off the glass of another.  The scene was beautiful.  It was massive.  It was cold.
I imagined what someone from somewhere far away would think of if they thought of Dallas.  It surely wouldn’t be this.  I can remember my dad telling me the story of a time when he still used to be an accounts manager selling computer services to big companies.  A vice-president of the company was flying into Dallas from New York for a big meeting, and my Dad was his liaison.  As my dad tells it, the man called, panicked about the trip. 
“What is there to do?” the man said. 
“What do you mean?” replied my father.
“In Dallas, what is there to do?  I don’t like horses, and I don’t like rodeos.  Will there be a pool at the hotel?  Do y’all have pools?”
Then my dad, usually averse to sarcasm weighed in, “We’re putting you up in the Adolphus hotel, it’s very nice.  It’s even got indoor plumbing.”  I chuckled aloud.
A female voice came over my shoulder.  “What’cha laughing at?”
I spun about.  Carissa’s younger sister, Melissa, stood tall and long in a dark blue gown, crystal flute quivering in one hand, cigarette burning in the other.  She turned her back to the ferocious wind, and held the cigarette close to her chest to protect it.  The thin, wispy material of the dress was being blown about viciously.  It stuck out straight like a flag on one side, but clung quite revealingly to the form of her legs and butt on the other. 
“I was just remembering this story my dad…”
She cut me off, “So cold up here, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it…”
She cut me off again.  “Got to wonder how much something like this costs.  You know?”
I didn’t bother opening my mouth this time, nodded instead. 
“Wow it is cold up here!”  She hugged herself even tighter, and began to sway.  The light from the party behind her shone through the sequins on her gown outlining her silhouette.  “If it weren’t so cold, you could have the whole stinking party out here.  It’s huge!”  She took a shot puff on her cigarette then continued.  “I would ask what you are doing out here, but I don’t know anyone else here either, so… yeah, you are going to freak when you see Carissa, by the way.”
I looked at her.
She shook her head in dramatic fashion.  “Ugh.  Amazing.”
“What is?”
“You two.”  She pointed at me with the end of her cigarette.  “You and Carissa.  You should have seen your face light up when I said her name.  You can’t fake it.  No man has ever given me that face.  Not ever.  All I do is mention her name, and you do it.  It’s ridiculous.  Gosh.  Y’all are idiots.  You know that, right?”
My face didn’t move.  It wasn’t the first time she, or someone else in her family had said that, or something like it.  I conceded a nod simply to move past it.
“As long as you know it.”  She hunched over to take a drag.  The tip of her cigarette flared bright.  Her cheeks sunk inward.  Smoke puffed out with each word she spoke.  “So what’s the plan?”
“With Carissa.  What’s the plan?  She’s back.  She still loves you as much, if not more than ever.  What’s the plan?”
“There isn’t one.”  There wasn’t.
She looked at me coldly.  “Get one.  I love you, Joel.  I do.  So do my parents, believe it or not.  They would never admit it, but why wouldn’t they love you?  Their daughter was dying inside.  Then you come along, and she lights up.  She comes back.  It isn’t as easy as they try to make it out to be.  You know?  They love you for bringing her back from her past, but they hate you for the fact that you are robbing her of a future, because, let’s be honest, you two have gone as far as you can go as is.  Y’all have been like this for years.  I mean, you’ve got to know by now that Carissa isn’t going to stop loving God for you, change her beliefs for you.”
I wish I could have said, I don’t her to change her beliefs.  I want her to realize she doesn’t need belief at all, but I didn’t.
“It’s ironic,” she kept on, “but you actually strengthen her belief in God even more, which I didn’t even know was possible. 
Frustration stung my gut.  She spoke the truth.  It was awful, like some kind of cosmic joke.  My presence, my love, sparked Carissa’s love for God, which in turn, kept her from loving me wholly.  It didn’t matter though.  There wasn’t anything I could do but love her with everything I had, and just hope.
“She’s already made me look like the bad daughter before, but now…”  She took another drag then blew a long trail of smoke the wind wisped away.  “Now, I look downright evil.”
“Sure.”  It was all I could say.  None of it startled me, which in its own way, was startling.  The truth behind her words was already concrete in me. 
“I’m sorry, again.  I really don’t mean to sound rude, Joel.  Like I said, I love you.  I do.  It’s just that I love Carissa more.  You made her alive once, but now, now I am afraid she starting dwindle again.  The human soul can only stay stagnant for so long.  Besides, It’s not just her.  I see it in you, too.”
Was it stagnant?  My love for Carissa had reached a cap, as far as what I could do with it.  It had nowhere else to go.  I felt as though I would soon burst from the growing pressure of my ever-growing affection for her pressing against the boundaries of reality.
I looked past Melissa in thought.  The wall of glass warmed with bright yellow light.  The heat from all of the bodies had frosted the inside of the windows with condensation.  Across the glass were a couple streaks and spots where someone had accidentally brushed a hip or hand against the glass.  Blurry figures of green, black, red, and white moved about busily on the other side.  Nothing of the party could be heard through the thick glass.  All I could hear was Melissa, and the wind whistling passed the cups of my ears. 
One of the glass panes was a door.  Carissa’s mom, Diana, stepped half way out, shivering.  The hum of the room followed her out.  She shouted to both of us with the kind of irritation a mother has at her child, even though that child is nearly thirty.  “Joel, Melissa, come on you two.  She’s about to come down… and put that cigarette out!” 
Melissa rolled her eyes and blew out the remaining smoke from her lungs.  Her lips pursed dramatically.  She looked over at me with a knowing grin.  “Mothers.”  She tossed her cigarette on the balcony and ground it out with the toe of her high-heeled shoes.  Her heels clopped in ubiquitous fashion against the concrete of the balcony.  Right before we got to the door, she reiterated, “Seriously, just wait ‘til you see her.  You’re going to freak.”  She smiled coyly.
Stepping in through the door was a shock to the senses.  The clean, icy wind and solitude of the balcony was traded for the heat and humidity of too many bodies all huddled in one space.   The smell of colognes, perfumes, lobster, wine, beer, and whiskey all inundated my sense of smell.  There had to be at least a hundred people here, maybe two.  The living room of the flat was as big as most people’s houses, and there was still no extra room to spare.   
Every inch of this place dripped with wealth and taste.  The furnishings were sparse, but each piece smiled with museum-level craftsmanship, rarity, and price.  It looked as if a curator, not an interior designer had put it all together.
“Excuse me.”  I said it at least two dozen times just to make it from the balcony door, to halfway cross the room toward the foyer, where the stairs landed.  I felt awkward every time I slid past some man’s butt, and then awkward for feeling something less than awkward when sliding past a woman’s, but it was wall-wall people.  There was nothing to be done about it. 
Melissa was following close in my wake, allowing me to plow the way ahead for her.  We hadn’t made it but half way through the crowd when, above the roar of voices, the unmistakable ping of metal tapping against crystal silenced the room.  We stopped.  We both wanted to be up front, felt our places were to be upfront, but our movement would have been unwelcome in the now motionless room.  Melissa moved slowly along side me slid her arm through mine.  I looked over at her.  She smiled.  She was damn near the spitting image of Carissa, only a foot taller, and with a different countenance coming from behind her eyes.
Though I barely knew the man, I would have known his voice anywhere.  Dr. Alexander’s whisper thin voice cut through the air.  “Why are we here?”   His cadence and delivery was markedly changed from our discussion on the plane.  It was now cultivated for the crowd.  His voice might be thin, but he knew how to use it to command a crowd.  If anything, it’s softness only made you need to listen more to hear him, raising the intrigue.  He raised an open palm to the crowd.  “Now, I don’t mean, why are we here at this party?  Everyone here is well aware of the point of this little shindig.  No, I mean, why are we here, on this Earth?” The silence sat uncomfortably upon the room, as we all wondered if he actually expected someone to answer him.  “Your answer could not be more perfect.  No one knows.”  Shoulders fell.  “No one knows,” he repeated.  “Yet, here we are.  All of us are looking for purpose, and are looking most ravishing and dapper doing so might I add.”  The crowd chuckled.  “We are looking for more than this life has to offer.  We all are looking for meaning.  Most of us, even when we see it, rarely have the cogency, the courage, the intestinal fortitude to but begin the journey toward fulfilling that purpose.  We are content to rest on our laurels, to sit in the pleasures of the moment, and wish we could do better.  Well, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce to you a woman who has done better.  She has sacrificed more than anyone of us here to fulfill her purpose.  She is beautiful, courageous, and downright ethereal.  As you know, you were all invited here to get the chance to meet and hire this young lady for your, as she has continuously refused to come work for me.” 
Everyone chuckled.  A mature female voice from the audience chided playfully, “Can you blame her?”  Everyone chuckled again. 
Dr. Alexander smiled a professional smile and raised a finger.  “Did I mention she was very wise?”
Another burst of laughter, louder and more open this time.
“Without further ado, it is my humble and great pleasure to introduce to you, Carissa Anne Lerche.”  He pointed an open palm up the stairs.
Applause filled the room.  Everyone stared at the point where the steps met the ceiling.  After a second, a dainty, little foot stepped down into view.  Her high-heeled shoes sparkled with each movement.  With her next step, her calf slipped through the slit in her dress.  Her calf muscle flexed sharp from the angle of her foot in the high heels.  My heart began to pound, and I could feel heat billowing out of my ears.   
The bottom of her dress swished around her ankles.  I could finally see that her dress was completely white.  Her hands and forearms filled out long, white, silken gloves.  She delicately held a sparkling clutch against her tiny waste.  My body, my mind, charged more and more with electricity, building to the point of being unbearable.  When her head finally became visible, I had what felt to be a rush of blood to the head. 
A man to my right exclaimed, “wow”, and then a woman, “she looks fantastic.” 
I had never seen her like this before.  Though she is thirty, Carissa easily looks ten years younger.  When we first start dating, my friends and family gave me hell for robbing the cradle, despite her being only a year younger than me.  The way she dresses and does her makeup hasn’t ever helped her change that perception either.  Cute has always been the operating word, which is ironic, as she hates being thought of as cute. 
There was nothing cute about her now.  The white, satin gown hugged her exactly around the chest and waste, releasing its grip at the bottom of the curve of her backside, where the material draped loosely about her legs.  The material just barely touched the floor.   Strapless, the dress showed off the tone of her arms and shoulders, and accentuated her slender neck that was holding up several rings of blinding white gemstones that led the eye down to a hint of cleavage.  Crystals rimmed the top and bottom fringes of the dress.
Above all else, what stilled my heart were her hair and her makeup.  It was now obvious why she had absconded herself away all day.  The blonde in her hair had been taken out, returned to it’s original red for the first time in years.  Her long, straight hair was no more.  It was now chin-length, and teased out in big, gravity-defying waves.  Tapered, low-hanging bangs hung down over her eyelids, then swung around and hugged the sides of her face, bringing all the attention to her eyes.  Usually fresh and naturally beautiful, they were now rimmed thick with black, setting them apart from everything else.  Like watching the sun’s brilliant rays streak through and dance in the depths of the ocean, so did they sparkle light blue.
A certain notion flared up inside me.  I tried to push it back.  It was so stupid, but my subconscious wouldn’t have it.  It seemed hell bent on tormenting me, as always.  I couldn’t help but notice that, in some way, this party held the trappings of a wedding.  I had on a tux.  Carissa was wearing white.  Her family was here.  A toast had already been given.  Carissa was making a grand entrance, with all eyes on her. 
Her eyes darted about the room until they found mine.  At first she smiled brightly, as if to say, “Surprise!”  Yet, that faded.  Perhaps it was something on my face?  She still smiled, but underneath it held longing, torment.  My subconscious was right again.  As we stared at each other across the room, we both knew that this was probably as close to a wedding as we would ever get.  Again and again I said within myself, I know.  I know, as if she could hear me inside herself.  I probably imagined it.  It was ridiculous, but I swear I could hear her voice call out in sadness, Joel. 

Carissa shook Dr. Alexander’s hand, and gave him the kind of hug a woman her age gives a man his.  He bent down and whispered something into her ear.  She shook her head, nodded, and then they both opened back up to the crowd. 
The piano started back up again.  Everyone took the cue.  Within moments, the roar of the room was enough to force you to nearly shout to be heard by someone a few feet away.  She began to walk down the steps in my direction, but was immediately swallowed up in a massive crowd of people.  There would be no getting to her for now.  The crowd was some twenty feet thick.  I couldn’t hear what was being said at all.  An occasional burst of laughter confirmed my position on the outside, as I had no idea as to what had caused it. 
Melissa tugged on my arm.  I turned to her. 
She said something, but I couldn’t hear it.  I gave her a quizzical face.  She repeated it, a bit louder this time, but it was still unintelligible.  “What?”  I nearly yelled. 
She leaned into me, putting her mouth right next to my ear, then shouted, hurting my ears.  “I said, Y’all are both idiots!  Now come on.”  She jolted my arm a bit.  “Lets go find a drink.”
I nodded.  “Sure.”

Þú Ert Jörðin
The cold steel of the refrigerator vibrated pleasantly against my back.  If not for the three beers and lobster sandwich in my stomach, and the tumbler of scotch in my hand, I would have gone mad. 
“Has anyone ever told you, that like, you kind of look exactly like that guy from Avatar?” the blonde one asked.
The brunette jumped in.  “Well, you do.  You so do.  You look just like him, only taller.”  A smile spread across her face as she said “taller”. 
“Is that a good thing?”
“Ooooh yeah,” the brunette kept on, “it’s a very good thing.”
I looked out over their shoulders, into the living room.
“Soo, like, later, after this, we are so going to the Ghost Bar.  You should totally come,” said the brown-haired one.
 “Yeah!  Yeah!  You so should,” the blonde jumped in.  “Have you ever been?”
I started to answer, but she kept going, “Because if you haven’t you are missing out.  Like, it has this balcony where the floor is like made out of glass, so you can see right through to the fucking ground.  Shit’s scary, but it’s pretty badass.”
That did it.  I finally felt okay to stop listening.  I should’ve tuned out whenever I asked them what they liked to do, what their passion was, and they both answered, “shopping.”  I had come into the kitchen to grab Melissa and another drink when these two girls began to chat me up without ceasing.    
More than listening to them talk, what really irked me was how hard it was to not stare at their chests.  Both of them were wearing tastelessly deep necklines, and neither was wearing a bra.  Being tempted with something so cheap so quickly after experiencing something so real, so transcendent as seeing Carissa descending those stairs infuriated me.  It infuriated me that they would dress like that, and it infuriated me even more that there could was a part of me that was so weak, that it screamed at me to look… and then some. 
My hand brought the tumbler of whisky to my lips.  I dove my nose deep into the glass, and breathed in the aroma, then took a sip.  I reveled in the acidic burn that stung my nose, burned my tongue, that warmed my throat.  My first breath felt like fire. 
I didn’t know how much longer I could take being pinned against this refrigerator, listening to these girls.  My civility, my desire to please, was being pushed to its limit.
“There you are.”  Standing in the door with a hand on a hip, Melissa wore an angry face. 
Both girls went silent.  Their body language shifted.  Something incredibly feminine was going on here, and I could only hear the rumblings. 
Melissa walked right up beside me then pointed across the room.  “See Carissa?”
Both girls turned, looked, and then came back forward with confused, edgy looks on their faces.  “The girls the party’s for?”  Said the blonde one with a hint of attitude.
“Yes.  The girl the party’s for.”  Melissa’s words dripped with condescension.
They both shrugged, knowing full well her words were loaded.
“Well, he’s with her.”  Melissa pointed to me.  “And, no offense, but you two don’t hold a candle.  So, if you’ll excuse us.” 
Both of them mumbled profanely as we walked out of the kitchen back into the living area.  In the time I had been trapped in the kitchen listening to those girls talk about bars and shopping, the party had changed from talking to dancing.  The lights had been dimmed, and Frank Sinatra’s, “I’ve got you under my skin,” had everyone paired up, swaying slowly to the rhythm.
Melissa linked her arm into mine, and led me back out onto the balcony, which was empty, save for a couple making out at the far end. 
Going back into the cold from the warmth of the party was excruciating.  Melissa wrapped herself in her arms.  Every inch of visible skin was covered in goose bumps, and quivered involuntarily.  I immediately slipped my jacket off and threw it around her.  She grabbed it tightly about her neck.  Sure enough, as I had recalled earlier, I had sweat through much of my shirt, which now clung bitterly to my skin.  It was miserable already, but each sweat spot felt like a hundred needles poking my skin.  It took enormous discipline to act like I wasn’t cold.  Melissa didn’t need to feel bad for wearing my jacket. 
“Sorry I was so rude to those girls, but I needed to tell you something, and those girls were just tacky.”
“Hey, so, you’re not going to like this…  I thought you should know that my mother invited Jeremy.”
“Jeremy?”  I hoped not the one that came to mind.
“Jeremy Cole, the guy before you.  Tall, nice guy… Christian.” 
Cole.  That’s the one.  I hated recalling visions of Carissa strolling hand in hand with him.  He was everything she was supposed to be with, who her parents wanted her to be with, but for whatever mysterious reason, didn’t move her heart. 
I sighed loudly.
“Mmmhmm.  Carissa was furious.  She was very upset.”
“Where is she?”
Melissa shrugged.  “Somewhere toward the stairs, I think.
“I’ll find her.”
“Sorry, Joel.”  Her face looked stern with disappointment at her parents.  “They just don’t know how or when to stop.”
“Why’d you tell me?  Thought you wanted Carissa happy.”
“I do.  Jeremy Cole won’t make her happy.  Not sure anyone else will.  That’s why, and don’t take this the wrong way, but I keep praying and hoping you’ll wake the heck up and realize that someone like Carissa couldn’t have been made by anything less than God.  Y’all are so wonderful together it hurts.  I sometimes am jealous of Carissa, not because I want you, but because I wish I had someone who looked at me like you look at her, and who knows me like you know her.”
I wasn’t offended.  We were past the point of shock after all these years.  I knew they all wished it.  Besides, no one understood our love, least of all Carissa and I.   Its greatness choked us all the more.  If it were common, we could both just move on.  I could go do whatever it is I wanted to do… probably those girls in the kitchen.  Carissa could go marry a nice Christian man, raise nice Christian babies, and live in peace. 
She winked, then frowned.  “I don’t know.  It’s all so fucking… forgive me, stinking… complicated.  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.”  She stopped.  For a second, Melissa seemed flappable.  Underneath her loud, capricious exterior, there was much going on.   All I could think to do was reach my hand out and put it on her shoulder, which was only a couple inches shorter than mine.  She reached up out of my jacket, and patted my hand. 
I threw back what was left at the bottom of the tumbler.   Thawed ice, mostly.  Then, I put my arm around her, and led her back inside.  
At first, I thought about trying to shimmy along the edge of the crowd, against the glass, but my butt and back would be completely soaked by the time I would have made it around the room.  There were too many people standing next to it, anyhow.  There was no choice but to wade through. 
I bumped and skimmed my way through the swaying crowd.  Apologies were given and taken readily.  In all, it took me five minutes to make it the forty or so feet across the living room to the foyer.  I had just made it through the crowd when Dr. Alexander approached me.   He looked even sharper and cleaner up close.  His tux was classic, shimmering lapels, cummerbund, bowtie, timepiece, the works.  He leaned in and spoke directly into my ear.  “Joel, come with me for a moment?”
My mind tried to piece together what he could possibly want to talk about.   The hallway was surprisingly sparse with people.  With a place this nice, I guess people are afraid to veer off the path given to them.  It did feel a little like I was going into a restricted area in a museum.
At the end of the hall, he stopped at a closed door. 
“So sorry to inconvenience you.  Alas, Carissa, I fear, has imbibed a bit more than she meant to.”
My eyebrows rose with concern.
“Don’t worry, she’s just in here.”  He nodded at the door.  “She’s fine.  Poor thing.  The waiter did his job, making sure everyone’s flutes, Carissa’s included, were never less than half empty.  She was so busy talking to everyone; she didn’t have a mind to assess how much she was taking in.  Rather snuck up on her.  Then, some man approached her.  Whoever he was, seeing him upset her greatly.  He left shortly after.  Then Mrs. Lerche came up and was apparently unpleased with something.  When they finished talking, Carissa polished off her flute, which was full.  It was wonderfully dramatic, but it did her in past tipsy.  So, I had a waitress bring her back here.  She’s already made quite the impression.  I think I overheard at least five job offers in the short time I was around her.  I didn’t want to spoil people’s first impressions.”
 I was glad he took action.
“I was with her constantly in Ireland.  I don’t think I ever saw her drink a drop, and our little group of friends were no strangers to the pub.”  He shrugged.  “Regardless, it’s just my luck that you were on this side of the room.  I was afraid I was going to have to use these razor blades I have for elbows to make my way to you.”  He held out his elbows and smiled.  “You should take her upstairs.  No one lives here.  It’s a friend’s playhouse, if you will, and he’s out for quite a while.  Gave me the run of the place.  I’d tell you where the master bedroom is, but just head upstairs.  You can’t miss it.  Hope you don’t mind if I head back.  Thought you could look after her.  I’d hate to leave my guests.”
“Of course.  Hey.  Thank you for everything you’ve done.”  I held out my hand.  He took it, and shook it gently.  “You had all these people treat people like she was a movie star.  It was something special, and I want you to know that I appreciate you throwing your clout around for her.”
He waved his hand at me.  “Nonsense.  I was going to throw a party anyway.  This was just a wonderful excuse.  The whole thing is quite selfish, believe me.”
I didn’t.  It was a big deal to do something like this.  He was turning to depart when something leapt out of my throat.  “You said you were with her all the time?”
He stopped in the hallway, and turned back to me.  “Mostly, yes.”
“Were you there when Carissa was stabbed?”
“Stabbed?”  He exclaimed. 
“You weren’t there when she was attacked?”
His voice was supremely calm.  “No, Mr. Bernal.  I am afraid not.  I had no idea she was stabbed.  That is horrifying.  What happened?”
I shrugged.  “Don’t know.  Found the scar by accident.  She wouldn’t tell me anything other than she was stabbed.”  I figured I might have said too much.  “Don’t tell her I said anything.”
His palms shot up.  “I wouldn’t dare.”
I pulled my right hand out of my coat pocket and stuck up my thumb.  “Thanks.”
“Of course.  Have a good evening.”
“Sure.  You too.”
After disappearing into the crowd at the end of the hall, I turned to the door.  I was careful to turn the knob all the way before opening, though I don’t know why.  There was no being quiet, not with the music blaring as it was.  Etta James’s voice filled every crevice.  The massive door opened to another living room, much smaller than the main room, though still bigger than an average living room.  Unlike the main room, the décor was not old world, not that of a museum.  It was cutting edge and clean. 
Carissa sat in a chair that was shaped like and egg cut in half.  She seemed to be gazing out the wall of windows.  She swiveled her head loosely over toward me.  As I walked toward her, I felt my gate widen, my steps land firmer, and my shoulders throw themselves back. 
Her tender voice called for me.  “Joel?”
I didn’t answer.  While I moved, I kept my eyes either averted or out of focus.  There was this desire to keep the present of seeing her up close all dressed up for later, not slumped over sadly in a chair like this.  I slid my left arm underneath her arm and around her back, my right under the bend of her legs, and lifted her up out of that chair.  She draped her head and arms in practiced fashion across my chest and shoulders.  She was as light as a feather in my arms.  
I took my time up the stairs, so as to make sure she was comfortable.  Each step teased her silken hair across my face.  My pulse quickened.  She hugged my neck even tighter, almost smashing her face into my neck.  Out from under my chin, her voice trembled softly.  “Joel?”
“You know what they called me?”
“They called me lur-chy.”  She chuckled way too much, showing her intoxication. 
“They did huh?”
She tried to nod. 
“I tried to tell them, but they kept calling me lur-chy.”
“Aah. Well, I have a solution for your name problem.”
She didn’t catch my insinuation.  She just repeated herself, “Lur-chy.”
The top of the stairs faced a wall.  Once at the top, you were forced to turn to the left. What Dr. Alexander said now made complete since.  You couldn’t miss the bedroom, because the entire upstairs was the bedroom.  The ceiling had to be nearly twenty feet high, and the room nearly thirty feet long.   Three sides were walls, but one wall was solid window.   Six, massive, single pains of glass covered every inch of the wall from floor to ceiling.  The room was lit only from the lights of the city outside, which lit the room surprisingly well.  Downtown filled the frame the windows made.  Unlike the fogged up windows downstairs, theses were crystal clear.  Each light twinkled playfully in the distance. 
A huge, intricately adorned, canopied bed sat at the far end of the room.  The drapes of the canopy were all tied back around the bedposts.  The bed came up a foot higher than a normal bed did.  A small wooden step sat at the foot of the bed, but I didn’t need it.  With care, I laid Carissa down on the thick mattress.  The materials of the dress and duvet cover hissed as they met. 
She wriggled and rolled around into the middle of the bed, and onto her stomach.  She ended up with her head at the edge of the bed facing out toward the city. 
“I ate sooo much.  I’m sooo fat.”  She lamented.
I didn’t even flinch.  Some earlier version of myself would have gone nuts upon hearing her say that.  She weighed barely over a hundred pounds, and she was fat?  There was nothing to say though.  Such is every woman’s battle, it seems.  There was no defeating it completely.  All I could do was make her feel as pretty as possible, as often as possible. 
I popped her shoes off her feet, then walked around to the side she was facing, knelt down on my knees so that my face was on the same level as hers.  
She needed bread, water, and coffee.  “Look at me,” I said, wanting to make sure she was okay.  She slowly let her hands down until I could see her face.  My throat shut tight.  In all of life, I had never seen anything so beautiful.  Nothing even came close.  There was a pain in my chest.  It was too much to take in. 
We took in each other’s faces.  Above the thumping of the music from below, I could hear the sharp rise in her breath. 
“You’re beautiful,” she said.
Her words surprised me.  I smiled softly and took her hand.  “I think you mean handsome.”
“No.” she insisted.  “What I am feeling, when I look at you as I am now, it’s the same feeling I had the first time I saw mountains, or the ocean, or a thunderstorm, only so much more so.  Sheer beauty.”
Nothing like that had ever been said to me before.  My heart was past full, and the pain was excruciating.
She turned over on her back to where her head hung upside down off the edge.  She stared at me for a moment, before she reached out, grabbed my hand and held it against her face.  A deep exhale from her nose blew sharp across my hand.  All rational thought was gone. 
I ran my fingers up though her hair as it dangled down the side of the bed.  It was different, so much shorter than what I was used to.  The music from downstairs faded out of my perception.  All I could hear was her breathing and the sound of my skin against hers.  I leaned forward and kissed her, taking her bottom lip in between mine.  My nose touched her chin.  Upon the touching of our lips, her hands flew up around my head, held it firmly, and pulled my face violently into hers.  She kissed me with an abandon like never before. 
Without leaving each other’s lips, I made my up and onto the bed next to her.  At one point our teeth clanked painfully together, but she didn’t even seem to notice.  If anything, she kissed me harder.  I could barely keep up with her lips as they moved about mine, about my face, my ears, my neck.  
She pushed me over onto my back, threw her legs over me, and sat up, straddling me.  Through the years, I had kissed her thousands of times, spent weeks in all holding her hand.  I knew every nook, bend, freckle, and scar that graced her perfect face, but I had never felt this before, her weight on top of me in this manner.  We were pressed against each other.  I had never seen her face from this privileged angle.
Her hands rushed toward my neck.  Her fingers began working my buttons loose.  The moment the top button on my shirt opened,to my own surprise, my hands both reached up and grabbed her wrists, stopping her.  Her face jolted in shock.  She tried to move her hands through my strength, but it was useless.
Something had flipped.  This was all wrong.  This was cheap.  This was cheating.  
“Don’t you want this?”  She said, her voice confused and embarrassed.  “Don’t you want me?”
My face hardened.  “No, I don’t, not like this.  This isn’t really you.  You don’t want this.”
“Why would you care.  You don’t think this is wrong.”
“No.  I don’t, but you do.”
“I don’t right now.”
“But you will tomorrow morning.  You’de would wake up in horror, and that’s not what I want.  I know you.  A part of you wants this, but not all of you, and I want all of you.”
She covered her face with her hands.   She began to cry.  Soft and easy, I swept her off of me, stood, and picked her up off the bed.  I managed to hold her steady in my arms, but also pull the comforter back.  Sparks of static electricity snapped between the sheets and comforter.  I laid her down onto the bed then pulled the covers over her, jewelry, dress, and all. 
Devastated.  That’s what I felt inside.  Gutted.  She didn’t need to know it, though.  Strong is what I had to be right now, and through tomorrow for sure.  Pity party could come some other time.
“I don’t feel so good,” she moaned.
“I know.  It’ll be okay though.  I’m not mad that…”
“I think I am going to throw up.”
“Oh.”  Quickly, I sprinted into the bathroom, and flipped the lights on to frantically search for a trashcan.  Finally, I found it.  If it were a snake, it would have bitten me.  I had already passed over it several times.  It was so nice looking that I hadn’t recognized it as a trashcan.
By the time I came back into the bedroom, Carissa had made her way up and was stumbling around the bed.  The trashcan had been under her head for only a second before she vomited.  What a night.  It hurt to see her this way.  I knew the feeling all too well.  I took her into the bathroom, put the toilet seat down, and set her on it.  The bathroom, like everything else in this ridiculous place, was massive and ultra modern in design. 
I knelt down before her.  The dark tile was cold and hard on my knees.  “Are you going to be okay if I leave you here for a second?”
She moaned painfully.  Her words were slurred from trying to speak with her face buried in her hands.  “Why would anyone ever do this on purpose?” 
“I don’t know.”  I really didn’t.
“This sucks.”
“I know.”
“Do you like my haircut?”
I chuckled.  “I love it.”
“I was worried you wouldn’t like it.  I know long hair is your favorite, but…”
My hand rested on her knee.  “I love it.  I really do.  It’s very sexy.”
That got her attention.  She popped her head out of her hands.  “Sexy?” she said with excitement.
“Very.”  I smiled wide for her.  She was always sexy to me, but with her beliefs I didn’t often invoke sexuality. 
She repeated the word, “Sexy,” and smiled with pride.  “What about the color?”
“I love it too.  Reminds me of when we first met.  Does something to me to see your hair red again.”
She was about to say something.  Instead she just moaned in discomfort.  She plopped her face back into her palms.  She begged the room to stop moving.
“Okay.  Hey.”  I reached up and stroked her arm.  “I’m going to go get Melissa, and she’s going to help you get into that super nice shower over there, and I’m going to get you some water, and some bread, and some coffee.  That should help.  I’ll be right back.  Okay?”
“Okay.  Don’t leave me too long.”
“I’ll be right back.”
“Okay.  Thank Dr. Alexander for me.  What he did was so nice.”
“Will do.” 
As I walked out of the bathroom I heard her say, “If he wouldn’t have been there, they would have killed me.”

Copyright Nicholas L. Laning 2012