Daily Prompt: S/he Said

“Do you really want to know what I’m thinking about?” the stranger sitting at the next table at Starbucks answered.

From the look on her face and emotion in her voice, I wished I hadn’t asked. But I said, “Yes.”

“My life is a pile of rubbish and I am leaving my husband. He has been sleeping with my best friend for about a year and I just found out today. Is murder still against the law…Actually, is murder of a two-timing crud of a husband against the law?”
I sensed the question was rhetorical. I hoped it was. What should I say…if anything?

“Since we don’t know each other, I don’t think you actually want any advice as much as you need to vent. But I can tell you of a similar experience if you are interested. If not, just keep on talking.”

She took a long drink of her latte and then, “Actually I’d like to hear your story. Go ahead.”

Now I wondered why I’d offered to be so vulnerable. I almost never talked about what happened with her. Perhaps this would prove therapeutic for both of us (only God would have that answer).

My wife, or rather ex-wife, and I were spiraling downward in our marriage. She had a daughter from her previous marriage who proved to be more than our marriage could handle. She and I had become enemies. She was 18 at the time.

We were Christians and attended a church regularly. I was involved in the drama ministry and my wife was the office secretary.

“You were Christians?” the woman asked, surprised.

“Yes. Still am. At least I am, I’m not sure about her. Surprising to hear that Christians can have such problems isn’t it?”

“I guess so. But that’s ok. I was shocked, that’s all. Go ahead, tell me more.”

“Although our lives were falling apart, neither of us was sure about the outcome. Actually, she probably was. I just didn’t know…yet!”

“Not to give Christians another bad rap, but my best friend and his wife had just split up. He moved out and she was devastated. She married him when she was 16 and had never known another man. It seemed as though he had turned cold toward her and wanted another life.

To help, I met with him every Saturday morning for breakfast, to listen and encourage as much as I could. During this time he confessed that he had a girlfriend at the coast where he was living. In spite of this, he would come back home occasionally and have sex with his wife, telling her he was not sure whether or not they should get a divorce.

Later I found out that he was also asking for money from her even though he was a qualified building contractor. She worked three jobs so they wouldn’t lose the house.

And then, about six weeks after we began meeting, the sky fell on my head. I found out that he and my wife were having an affair (nice word for screwing each other).

If that wasn’t horrible enough, meeting with me each Saturday while bonking my wife, my wife was meeting with his wife, then telling him whatever she said that might help him take advantage of her.

I moved out within a week and filed for divorce within a month. What a wreck! Imagine meeting with a person, trying to help them patch their marriage up when all the while he is having sex with your wife. I didn’t have to imagine it.

I stopped talking. The woman at Starbucks seemed different. Subdued. Her coffee was gone now but she held the cup with both hands, looking at me over the rim.

“Wow. Did you make that up in the hopes of making me feel better?”

Now I was stunned. “No. I just told a complete stranger one of the most traumatic true stories of my life. I would not make up such an event.”

“Good. You have made me feel better. I’m not sure why though. But I feel more level, hopeful. Maybe hopeful is not the right word, maybe…understanding is better. When you sat down I thought that my life was the worst possible and now I see that it isn’t. There are lots of sad things happening to normal people. Did you get a divorce?”

“Yes. And now I am married to a wonderful woman. We’ve been married nearly twenty years.”

I realized it was time for me to meet my wife in another part of town. I stood and said, “For me, my faith in God proved to be the deciding factor, the reason I was able to move on and actually, about five years later, forgave them. Not that I spoke to them, but forgave in my heart so I no longer carried the hatred. I hope you can have the same faith, if you don’t already.”

“Thank you for sharing. I think I’ll look for that faith. I can clearly see it worked for you. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye. I’m glad I came to Starbucks today.”


The Fall of Pride

  In weakness we can find strength, God’s perfect strength. But in our strength, our pride, when fully developed, we can find desolation and pain. Such was the case in my life many years ago in a place far away.
  I was a faithful Christian, involved in church leadership, teaching Bible classes, volunteering at the children’s private Christian school. I was the epitome of walking after the Lord…on the outside.
  Inside I had allowed doubt and lust to establish a foothold in my heart and mind. Subtly I allowed stray looks, personal remarks and thoughts to slide in and build comfortable seating arrangements in my inner man, in my heart.
  As my flesh grew stronger, my Spirit weakened. And then one day, the dike broke, the floodwaters gushed forth, overwhelming the land of my mind. I acted on my desires rather than asking God to provide a way of escape as we are told to do in 1 Corinthians 10:13.
  The pounding force of the pent up desires carved a new path for me, no longer walking on the narrow and straight way, I found friends and satisfaction on the wider way; the one that leads to perdition. Step by step, I walked away from His voice, His pleading, His warnings.
  One night, after dropping off my date at the door of a restaurant, I found a parking place nearby. Just as I set the brake, I heard an audible voice say, “Don’t do it!” I was shocked and stunned. I looked to my right, expecting to see the Lord. Nothing. Again the voice said, clearly, “Don’t do it!”
  Now if my life had been a movie, I would have broken down, called out to God for forgiveness and run back to Him. It was not and I did not. My pride was running the show. I was not yet ready to repent!
  I walked further away from my Savior (who never gave up on me), burrowing deeper into the abyss of broken promises and fractured ideals. Peace? What peace, I am too busy feeding my flesh, looking for that all-elusive satisfaction.
  Within a few months, my newly erected wide-path world collapsed, taking me down with it. There I was, standing in the middle of the road, shaking my head, wondering what happened.
  This time He didn’t need to speak audibly. Apparently I had not buried the Holy Spirit’s guidance completely because I “knew” that He was calling me back. You’ve gone far enough, he let me know. My grace is sufficient to restore you. Repent and walk away from this sin. This time I did break down and pour out my soul, asking for forgiveness, knowing He would grant my request…already had.
  That was more than thirty years past. Since then, God has healed my heart, given me a new life, a wonderful wife and new Bible classes to teach. My flesh remains alert, ready to strengthen my pride but this time I refuse to relent, I will continue to call upon the Lord to deliver me and forgive me each time I am tempted and drawn away.
  And He always does…with a smile and a reminder that His blood shed on the cross gave me absolute forgiveness and a new life.

An Offer I couldn’t Refuse: Eternal Security

It happened by surprise and was to change my life forever. I met a man at work who invited me to church. I said yes but…my own life got in the way that weekend. Unfortunately I had to see him the following Monday because we worked together.

He did not let it go. He asked why I didn’t show and then told me he waited outside for fifteen minutes. I was mortified and promised to be there the following Sunday.

I was and for the next several weeks I attended regularly. Each time I found myself there, I felt a strange drawing to go forward and ask about Jesus. I fought the urge weekly even to the extent of gripping the pew in front of me with all my strength because my body was attempting to stand up and go down that aisle.

I knew if I held out til we prayed the final prayer and shook the pastor’s hand, I would be “ok.” My resistance was totally without foundation, I had no idea why I resisted…other than I needed one more cigarette after church.

Then one Wednesday night my wife and I decided to join the meeting (the first time for this). During the meeting two congregants verbally abused the pastor and got up and left. Leaving the meeting a little confused and silent.

Afterwards, I went up to shake his hand, since I felt drawn to him and his obvious love. He said, as we shook hands, “If there’s ever anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to ask.” I said, “There is, we want to be saved!” I had no idea I was going to say that. I looked at my wife as though she was a ventriloquist. But I knew it was what I wanted I just had no idea I would say it (God works in mysterious ways?)

Off to his office we went, knelt and prayed. Jesus was now a part of our lives. And remains the cornerstone of my life to this day.



Leaning against his newly constructed Tuscany marble marquee, Reverend Stillman flashed a million dollar smile at the workers atop the magnificent 150 foot electronic steeple/belfry, as they attached the copper clad peak.
Beautiful. Simply beautiful,” he reverently effused to Bob Jenkins, head elder at the Stunning Revelation of Enlightened Saints church.
Amen reverend. Amen,” brother Jenkins affirmed, flashing his own glistening smile. “You know, at the beginning of this marketing campaign…”
Whoa, brother Jenkins. Let’s rephrase that statement, please. What we are seeing here is the culmination, the fruit if you will, of our successful, four-year Tithing Big Because You Can’t Outgive God campaign. This is also a reminder of God’s hidden promise to increase our storehouses to show how much He loves us.”
Right on, rev. Right on. I slipped up on that one for sure. So, did you ever dream the final tally on our opulent palace of God’s promises would add up to $12 million? Heh, heh, heh. It sure surprised me, I’ll tell you.”
Oh ye of little faith, Bob. I’ve always wanted to say that to someone. Well that’s just one more example of why I am the Reverend in charge of this great work of the Lord and you are just the head elder who can be replaced at any time. Heh, heh, heh. 
As a matter of fact, I had no idea how much it would finally cost but I did know that the good and generous folks here at Stunning Revelation would cough up the cash…er, so to speak. Brother Bob, it takes money to represent the Lord in a building. What would we be saying to the world if we put up some two-bit, $200,000 chapel?”
Oh, well, I think…”
Rhetorical Bob. Simply rhetorical.”
I can tell you what we would be saying to the world. God is cheap and He doesn’t care about our amazingly beautiful building. Now we know that isn’t true don’t we. Uh. Save it Bob. God told Solomon to build a great temple, adorned with gold and silver and precious jewels. And He’s passed that assignment on to us. No matter what the cost.”
Well, I’m sure you are right, Rev. At least it always seems that way. By the way, I’ve been meaning to give you the ol’ thumbs up for such creative preaching and teaching on the principle of tithing. After a while, I simply gave up on trying to find all those verses. And then making the ones I did find line up with your teaching. Just one more classic example of why you’re the reverend and I’m not.”
Amen brother. Amen. God has given me the spirit of divination and wisdom and discernment, and…well, that’s enough about me. I need you to arrange a meeting with the building committee next week to reveal my plans for our missionary outreach chalet in Switzerland.
Was that thunder I heard? Sounds pretty close!”

Although the Stunning Revelation of Enlightened Saints Church is fictional, begging and cojoling congregants and parishoners for more and more money, using the Bible as leverage, is not. Quite the contrary. Church leaders have taken many liberties with the tithing principle to shore up dwindling coffers and shaky building programs. Pastors routinely prepare annual tithing/giving sermon reminders. And how often have heard that special giving must not interfere with your tithe? More than once probably.
Should we tithe? And if so, to whom? Does God command it? Let’s look at the New Testament as we ask God to reveal the truth to us.
Here is a section of Scripture where Jesus rips open all pretext and exposes our intentions, using a poor widow as an example. Luke 21: “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a certain poor widow oputting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”
I must confess that I am stunned by the implication of Jesus’ words, “…but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” All that she had to live on? Are we to take His words literally? That seems to fly in the face of our reasonable logic. What about the tithe? I tithe regularly…well, semi-regularly. Plus I help people here and there (keeping a mental tally to soothe my conscience). Although reeling from this apparent revelation, I think we should move on to either fortify what we’ve just read or, temper this dramatic expectation (sounds like my carnal self talking).
Because we have so many expenses in the American church, and because the IRS has agreed to lighten the tax burden on those who do contribute to those expenses, we see a financial light at the end of our annual income tax obligation. Not only may we deduct direct contributions, but we find that gifts-in-kind may also fall into that “lighten the tax burden” category. Of course there are limits as to what may qualify. And I am certain that we have always been completely honest regarding those guidelines. As a friend of mine used to say regarding our honest intentions, “Do you swear on your love for Jesus?”
Hold on to your seat because I have another one of those “throw-cold-water-in-your-face” scriptures regarding our giving habits. Look at Matthew 6 . . . “Be careful not to perform your religious duties in public so that people will see what you do. If you do these things publicly you will not have any reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it, as the show-offs do in the synagogues and on the streets. They do it so that people will praise them. Remember this! They have already been paid in full. But when you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it, but it will be a private matter. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.”
Is it cold in here? Because I feel as though someone just stripped me bare and I am standing naked before His eyes. How often do I subtly suggest or outright tell friends or associates about my giving or helping others? And what about income tax incentives? Am I willing to give anonymously, foregoing all tax credits?

A Package of Hamburger

A Package of Hamburger

At eleven years old, David had a great imagination. He often played by himself, becoming the hero and his arch enemy. Most of his games were daring and adventuresome like climbing to the tops of the tall eucalyptus trees, swaying in the breeze as he pretended to scout the horizon for enemy ships.

His favorite games involved fist-fights and gun or knife battles with himself (sometimes the bad guy won to be fought another day). After wrestling his dangerous foes, either he or they would tumble down the stairs, sprawling out onto the TV-room floor. This brought a scowl and warning from his mother.

“David, stop that, we’re trying to watch TV!”

Like any secret agent or daring cowboy, he paid no mind to the voice. After all, what could she know about his dangerous missions? Besides, she seldom punished him on the first warning.

His biggest challenge had been to find a way to use knives that looked as though they were sticking in him. As he pondered the idea he knew he needed some sort of padding hidden beneath his T-shirt that he could stab. That way the knife would be stuck into his shirt, as though he was stabbed. But what could he use? And then it became crystal clear; a package of hamburger!

His mother always bought her meats at the country market and they packaged them in butcher paper. He got a paring knife from the drawer and opened the fridge and scoured through the hamburger packages, measuring each one with the knife blade, looking for the perfect depth that would take the knife but not stick his body. In a few seconds he found the one. To make sure, he cautiously tested by putting the package beneath his shirt and slowly inserting the knife. It worked!

Now armed with a new weapon he could fight for his life until the final moment either he or his enemy lost the battle as the knife was pushed into his special-effects padding beneath his shirt. The final moment was always gritty and vein popping as one of his hands held the other wrist that held the knife. Ohh, he would exhale, reeling backwards with shock and pending doom, seeing the knife protruding from his chest.

Over and over he fought his imaginary enemies, each time ending the duel with a plunge of the paring knife into the package of meat. He was thrilled at his cleverness and realistic results. But, as all boys do, he tired at last of this game. He tossed the knife into the sink, the hamburger into the fridge and his soiled shirt into the dirty clothes. And thought no more about it. Until later.

“DAVID!” his mother called from the kitchen. He paused to reflect on what he’d done that day and could not think of anything worthy of trouble so he light-heartedly dashed into the kitchen.

“What is this?” she said, holding the package of hamburger with multiple stab wounds.

He told her his story hoping she would show mercy. She had to look away so he wouldn’t see her smiling. She composed herself. “And what did you do with your T-shirt?”

“Oh,” he was concerned now, “I put it in the dirty clothes.”

“Don’t ever do this again,” she said. “I’ll probably never get that shirt clean. And what about the holes? Go outside and play.”

As the back door closed behind him, he thought he heard his mother laughing like she’d just heard a great joke.

© David Nelson

All In A Day’s Work

One of my father-in-law’s favorite stories took place on a cattle ranch in West Texas.  It seems the cook wanted to quit because the men complained so much about the quality of cooking.  After much persuasion, “cookie” agreed to stay on with the following condition:  “The first man to complain about my cooking will be the cook!”  Everyone readily agreed, not wanting the job themselves.

The very next meal was bread and beans.  As the men sat down to eat, one of the cowpunchers said, “Boy, howdy, these beans are salty.”

Absolute silence as the cook reached for his apron strings.

“But that’s just the way I like ’em,” the cowpuncher quickly added.

©David Nelson

The Voice

His life had been a constant turmoil; one colossal blunder after another: the drowning of his son, the divorce following, the business failure. All gone. Alone, he opened the gun cabinet, loaded the nickel-plated Colt, set a note on his dresser and headed for his son’s tree house. A fitting place to finalize his life.

Once settled in, he reached for the Cold beside him, not wanting to prolong the act. But his hand was frozen above the gun. He could not move his arm or fingers. Confusion and panic set in. Then fear and then the wind. Somehow, in the wind, was a voice.

“I love you. I gave everything for you, even My Son. My only Son. I I gave Him freely. His death was more than I could bear too. I know how you feel. I will walk with you every day. Don’t give up. My love for you will balance your loss. You can trust me always.

Now free to use his arm and hand, he picked up the Colt. . .and stuffed it in his waistband so he could climb safely out of the tree house. After he locked the pistol back in his cabinet, he opened the phone book, under churches.

David Nelson