Marcy James leans against the railing of the terrace of her penthouse apartment. Her thoughts wonder from her decision to sleep in this Sunday morning which seems lazy to her, to whether she should have gone to church with her younger brother, Lee, whom she raises since their parents’ death, to how much she loves her balcony. One other thought keeps trying to grab a moment of attention, but she keeps dismissing it as she is not ready to wrestle with it this warm but gorgeous September Sunday morning.
Marcy stares out at the bend in the river and watches a barge lazily creep down and out of sight. Its wake is sprinkled by sunlight sparkling like diamonds. The sun glistening off the river mesmerizes her into vulnerability and the one thought she avoids grows too strong for her to ignore.
“Like a silly little school girl,” Marcy concludes, “I trusted my heart to Josh Crockett.”
She tries desperately to dismiss this thought, again, but just like her feelings for Josh, this thought is overpowering. She walks away from the railing and turns her back on the hypnotic view of this side of the bend in the river.
The thought persists, “Why do I think there could ever be a future with him?”
Tears begin to moisten her eyes and she bats them back with multiple quick blinks of her eyes. She fights the tears off with reason.
In the novel A River Bend, Marcy James and Josh Crockett develop a strong bond, but Josh is only visiting her city and returns to his home with the promise of his soon return. Waiting for Josh to return, Marcy struggles with her feelings for Josh Crockett, but this is the least of her challenges in Through the Valley of the Shadow.
In this excerpt from Chapter 1, “Never My Love,” Marcy struggles with her trust for Josh who is far away even though she talks with Josh everyday. In one chapter of the book, Marcy shares her doubts with Josh and when he expresses his love for her, she is unable to reciprocate.
Later in the novel, she is attacked and her attackers get away. Shortly after, she is stalked by one of her attackers. Josh is still far away.
Will Josh come through for Marcy? Will Marcy resolve her doubts and what will that mean for Josh? Coming soon – Through the Valley of the Shadow.
Like Marcy to Josh, in my struggles, it seems sometimes that God is far away. It has been my experience that it is not God who drifts. I have not doubted God’s love, but have not spent intimate time with him or thought about how much He means to me until a challenge greater than my means to handle hits. Then, I turn to Him and realize he is distant, even though we talk everyday.
I am grateful that God’s love for me is not dependent or quenched by my apathy or complacency. I know through the experience of many trials that God has never left me or forsaken me. God is faithful. God is always near.
I promised excerpts from my second novel which is soon to be published. Here is the second excerpt. The first was from Chapter 10. This one is from Chapter 3. Marcy James and Josh Crockett began a whirlwind romance in just a few days, then Josh had to leave, but promised to return. It has been weeks and Josh calls every day, yet Marcy is beginning to doubt their relationship.
From Chapter 3, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”
“Yes, your text has a ring of urgency in it,” Marcy admits. “Is everything alright?”
“I’m sorry, Marcy,” Josh apologizes, “I did not intend to stress you. Everything is great.”
“Great?” Marcy questions, “I sure misread that, then.”
“How about for you, Marcy?” Josh asks.
“I don’t feel so great,” Marcy confesses.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Josh responds to the discouragement he detects in Marcy’s voice.
“Maybe after you share your ‘great,’ I’ll share my ‘not-so-great,’” Marcy decides.
“Well, I’m getting things in order here and am leaving for Melo really soon, just weeks away, now” Josh declares.
“Oh,” Marcy realizes that is probably not the response Josh expects.
“Marcy,” Josh’s previously joyous tone devolves, “you seem disappointed.”
“I know and I’m sorry, Josh,” Marcy wishes she could take the few seconds back. “I have waited weeks to hear those words, but I guess I had prepared myself for never hearing them.”
Josh contemplates this over before responding. The silence is sickening to Marcy. She never intends to hurt Josh, but she always wants to be honest with him. Something about him and their brief relationship draws her to honesty with him.
“I should be there in a few days,” Josh states, “It sounds like we have something to talk about.”
“It’s just that you’ve been gone longer than we even knew each other,” Marcy acknowledges. “There is so little I know about you and you left so suddenly.”
“Is it alright that we talk when I arrive?” Josh grapples for understanding of what is happening.
“Yes, of course, Josh,” Marcy answers. “Don’t misunderstand. It will be wonderful to see you, again. Your news just came on one of those crazy days for me.”
“Tell me about it, then,” Josh requests hoping it will make some sense of this apparent change in their relationship.
“It can wait until you get here, I suppose,” Marcy delays.
Josh reacts, “Please, Marcy, I want to know. I need to know.”
“Josh,” Marcy asserts, “What happened today is only part of my confusion about our relationship.”
“So, you are having doubts about us,” Josh clarifies.
“I’m not sure I ever admitted it before until I just said it, now,” Marcy affirms.
“Wow,” Josh chokes on this before he can find strength to continue, “I am more curious to know what went down today that gave you such clarity.”
“Josh, please, it’s really not like that at all,” Marcy tries to help Josh understand, but struggles because of her own uncertainty.
“Whatever it was,” Josh pleads, “please share it. It might help me make sense of this.”
Marcy blurts it out, “Geoff is leaving his wife … for me.”
Josh thinks of a hundred things he wants to say, but none of them kind. He wants to warn, preach, curse and threaten. But somehow he doesn’t. He wants to retaliate by telling Marcy about the call from Denise. He believes he should have mentioned it, but now it seems to be the wrong time and the wrong motivation.
“Josh,” Marcy, not sure of what Josh’s thinking and wishes now she had lied to him, “are you going to be alright.”
“I don’t feel alright,” Josh musters these words. ”I love you, Marcy. I have no doubts about that, not even now.”
“How can you be that sure, Josh?” Marcy asks. “We spent only a few days together.”
“The best days of my life,” Josh says.
“How can that be, Josh. You’re not being honest with yourself,” Marcy scolds. “You were constantly under suspicion, whispered about, confronted and finally banned from doing what you came here to do.”
“But you were there, beside me,” Josh declares. “You believed me and trusted me.”
“I still do, Josh,” Marcy admits.
“Then, believe me when I say I love you, Marcy,” Josh persists.
“I believe you,” Marcy confesses, “I wish I could say the same.”
“Can we spend some time together when I return?” Josh asks.
“I think we should,” Marcy agrees, “if you decide to return.”
Through the Valley of the Shadow is now in editing stage and should be just weeks from publication. I thought I would take the opportunity to “tease” you with some excerpts from the book while the book is being edited.
Marcy James and Geoff Westin leave a restaurant where they had a chance meeting. While walking to their cars to leave separately for home, they are accosted by four strangers including a broad shouldered man (Shoulders) and a hooded man (Hoodie) Marcy and Geoff are drug into the shadows of the restaurant at knife point by the four attackers. The following is from Chapter 10, “Help.”
It’s late and Marcy and Geoff were one of the last patrons to leave the restaurant. The staff begins to turn out the outside lights of the building making it even darker and the parking lot is empty of all cars but Marcy’s, Geoff’s and the staffs’ who are pulling away one by one. Hope of salvation is now almost completely lost.
Geoff is pleading, trying to make Shoulders understand there was nothing more anyone could have done to help his brother. This only makes Shoulders more determined and angry. He strikes Geoff in the face with the full force of his fist. Geoff tries to free himself, but his attackers are too strong and too determined. Marcy cannot struggle. She is frozen with fear, so frozen with fear she no longer feels anything else.
Hoodie wraps a huge, gloved hand around Marcy’s neck and slowly slides his knife blade under the snap to Marcy’s pants forcing the snap to open. The blade moves against her belly and as it slides downward the zipper slides open as well.
Hoodie drops the blade down against the crotch of Marcy’s pants and then stops and looks up at Shoulders. Shoulders’ ears perk up and his cohorts’ bodies stiffen in anticipation.
“Make America great, again,” “Better together,” – These are the two current slogans of the 2016 Presidential race of the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectfully. I still haven’t decided which way to vote and the slogans aren’t helping. I usually avoid discussing politics in my blog, because I am no expert. Although, I do talk about God a lot in my blog and I am constantly finding out that I am no expert there, either. Today, though, I would like to react to these slogans without endorsing either party. My thesis is basically that I am offended by both.
To me, a battle cry of “Make America great, again” implies that America is not great, now or hasn’t been for awhile. I take exception to that. Granted, we still have lots of problems we need to work through. We have enemies around us and within our borders. Actually, we have always had problems and enemies. We also have strengths and we still have friends and as always, we have admirers.
I was watching a television show last night, Americas Got Talent. If you are not familiar with it, you need to know that amateurs and professionals perform before a panel of judges who determine who has performed well enough to continue to compete until all but one performer is left and awarded 1 million dollars and a show in Las Vegas. There is a lot of talent from pro and amateur, young and old alike. But what impressed me last night was not just the amount of talent. I was impressed by the number of people who are from outside the U.S. desiring to make it in America, proud to have become American citizens and feeling great about it and working hard to take advantage of this opportunity. The panel of judges this year are mostly American citizens, if I’m not mistaken – one from Canada, one from Germany and two from England. I think most of those folks think America is still great. Politics and Presidents are important, but have only a small part in that. I think a better slogan would have been “Keep America great” or “make America even greater.”
“Better together” is offensive because it leaves too many unanswered questions. It’s too vague. Because it’s too vague, I feel the slogan writer thinks I won’t recognize that fact and support the cause because I agree that often we accomplish more when we work together. “Make America great again” does the same thing. It’s slick advertising. They play on the emotions. Republicans and Democrats are trying to blame the other for what problems we do have. I wish they would work together to keep America great.
The problem I have with both slogans is that they point to government as the solution. That has never been the case. One might argue that “Better together” implies that government and the people working together will accomplish greatness, but that isn’t true, either. Another could challenge me that “Make America great, again” means that voting for Republicans who support less government is not pointing to government as the solution at all. When I listen more carefully, I hear “vote for me and I can make America great, again” as the slogan.
America is great. I got a little concerned about that in the last few weeks with police shootings and a sniper killing several. I know there are vast neighborhoods and the number is growing that are not safe and good people live in fear. I know the number of homeless is outgrowing the number of shelter spaces. I know there are still unwanted pregnancies and starvation in America. I know there are problems. I also see teachers, school systems, pastors, churches, concerned citizens, private agencies and even politicians who work to calm the fears, redirect the hate to positive energy and fight prejudice, poverty, disease.
These slogans are the wrong words and they place the power in the wrong hands. Take the millions to build a wall of isolationism and spend it on communities and community programs and education. Let the local village decide what the children need to learn. Less government, not necessarily – I would like to see less government arguing and more government listening. I would advocate for less government telling us what America needs and more government asking us what we need. I think we stay great when governments’ hearts are with the people – all people and not so much with one party over another.
It seems like every time I’ve voted in any election, federal, state or local, someone always cries that it’s time for a change. They usually mean a change of parties, a change from partisan to bi-partisan, a change from corrupt to honesty or political to public. I think they miss the real change needed. I believe we need a change of heart and government is not in that business, nor do we want it to be. The needed change must come from the citizenry if we are to keep America great.
No matter what the slogan, neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is going to keep America great, together or not. Each of us, doing our part with the talents we’ve been given and developed ourselves and with the help of others can keep America great. That could mean a change of heart. Less time finding the best entertainment and more time supporting our community and helping our neighbor. It means a change of heart. Instead of hoping the other side is going to change, take the first step toward changing your own heart or habit or attitude.
I’m not preaching. I know many of you are doing what I propose. I know thousands volunteer. I know from experience that helping others, using my talents working beside other volunteers, I’ve changed for the better. If you volunteer or work for an agency, organization, church, school that helps to improve our communities or keep them safe. I thank you. I wish to thank the police, fire, rescue, hospital staff, teachers, youth workers, pastors, social workers – all of you who have made it your life’s work to serve and protect us. Thank you for doing your part to keep America great.
Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump, please join us, because together we can keep America great.
“I suppose everyone heard about the latest shootings,” Cole introduces.
“If you’re talking about the police officer who shot a black man in Minnesota,” Monica adds, “I think it’s terrible.”
“That’s yesterday’s news, Monica,” Bill proclaims, “Just as terrible is the black sniper who shot police in Texas.”
Cole declares, “I think the sniper fired on police patrolling a protest because a police officer shot a black man in Louisiana.”
“A cop shooting a black in Louisiana is not news. I think it’s an ordinary occurrence down there,” Bill chuckles.
“I don’t think that’s funny,” Monica points out.
The threesome and two other acquaintances sip their evening coffee outside their favorite coffee shop. Cole, Monica and Bill relax around a small round metal outdoor table while Shanda and Samara sit peacefully on a wooden bench beside them.
It is a warm, but comfortable summer evening. A soft breeze stirs through occasionally to add to the relaxation and cool the hot rich coffee served at the small, but popular city shop. There are few patrons tonight as many of them grabbed coffee-to-go. There’s some talk that it might storm as a cool front pushes out and a warm humid front invades the area.
This group of customers defies the weather warnings to meet as they do most week day evenings between work day’s end and dinner at home. Each come from separate downtown offices and leave to various different neighborhoods in the city. The coffee shop is the only place they ever meet to socialize, discuss what’s on their mind and seldom resolve any issues.
“You’re right, Monica,” Shanda, who very seldom comments, shares, “It’s not funny.”
Monica puffs out her chest and glares at Bill as she responds to Shanda, “Thank you, Shanda.”
“You’re also correct, Bill, when you call it an ordinary occurrence and not just in Louisiana. That’s why it’s not funny,” Shanda acknowledges.
Bill feels some shame and thinks it would be good to apologize for offending. But he doesn’t want to show weakness, so his pride keeps him silent.
“I’m going to refill my cup,” Bill ekes out, “Anyone else need anything while I’m up?”
Every head shakes followed by a palm raised, a “no thanks” or a “I’m good, thanks.”
“I think you put poor Bill in his place, Shanda,” Cole assesses when he believes Bill is out of earshot.
Shanda looks Cole in the eyes and clarifies, “That was not my intention, Cole. I just don’t want to make light of the racist issue here.”
“I agree,” Monica retorts. “We need to talk about racism.”
“I don’t think Bill’s remark was racist,” Cole defends. “I think he was just uneasy and tried, poorly I might add, to lighten the conversation.”
“Why was he uneasy?” Shanda asks.
“Haven’t you noticed? He’s always cracking jokes when the discussion gets real serious,” Cole submits.
Shanda ripostes, leaning forward towards the table, “I have noticed. Would he have been so uncomfortable if Samara and I were not here?”
“I think Cole’s right, Shanda,” Monica argues, “I really don’t think Bill is racist.”
Bill returns with his cup of coffee. Instead of sitting at his place at the round table, he stops.
“What’s this about me being racist?” Bill inquires sharply, “Are you all accusing me of being racist?”
“Your joke was in poor taste,” Cole answers. “I think it offended Shanda and Samara.”
“It did offend Shanda and Samara,” Monica points out, “It offended me. I think I was the first to declare it in poor taste.”
“But no one said the word ‘racist,’” Bill shouts. “OK, it was in poor taste. But because I was uncomfortable talking about this stuff that happened far away.”
“You think the issue of racism isn’t right here in our own community?” Shanda attacks. “The cops right here in this city treat African Americans different than their own.”
“Shanda, that’s a pretty broad generalization,” Bill claims. “I find that offensive and a little bit racist.”
“Please sit down, Bill,” Monica pleads. “There’s no need to attack each other over this.”
Bill sits down, “I won’t be called a racist and not feel the need to defend myself,” he declares.
“You can call me whatever you want to call me,” Shanda professes. “But because I speak the truth, I’m called a racist. Billy white makes a racist joke and you want to defend him.”
“I think what Shanda means is that…,” Cole tries to explain before he is interrupted.
“Don’t be explaining what I mean like I’m stupid or something,” Shanda demands. “I spoke the truth and I meant exactly what I said.”
“All officers in this city treat African Americans differently,” Monica clarifies, “That’s what you’re saying.”
“I’ll be as clear as I can be,” Shanda clarifies, “ALL cops, white, Hispanic or Negro, in this city treat African Americans more harshly, more disrespectfully than they do the Caucasians.”
“Samara,” Bill directs this question, “Do you feel the same as Shanda?”
“I do,” Samara answers. “I found the joke offensive and racist as well.”
The three at the table are in shock and even Monica, who always has something to say, is silent.
“But don’t misunderstand or get angry at us,” Samara requests. “This is not intended to shame you or shock you.”
“I am not a racist,” Bill continues to defend. “I’m sorry about the joke, OK? But I’m not racist.”
“It was a racist joke to me,” Shanda confesses. “But I would be willing to accept that it was carelessness, not racism that spawned it.”
“But Bill,” Samara cautions, “Maybe you need to examine closely what kind of heart caused you to tell that joke.”
Bill maintains, “I’m not a racist. I don’t believe any certain race is superior to another.”
“Shanda’s and my claims,” Samara shares, “were not to guilt you.”
“Why does everybody think they can speak for me?” Shanda protests.
For me, then, I hope you see it as a request to be understood – an act of awareness to the struggle with racism we have to deal with every day right here in our city.”
“You can’t be healed,” Cole inserts, “until you admit you’re sick.”
“I believe that’s how we need to respond to incidents like these that occurred this week,” Samara adds. “Not with anger or pride or defensiveness, but make an honest look inside our own hearts and ask the tough questions instead of pointing the finger at others.”
“I’m sorry I offended you, Shanda, Samara,” Bill apologizes. “It, rather, I was insensitive.”
“I think maybe I was too harsh to judge you as racist,” Shanda admits. “But the joke sounded racist to me.”
Cole stands and grabs a chair from another table and places it beside the other empty chair at the table where he sits.
“Would you two be more comfortable joining us at this table?” Cole asks.
“it might help us to hear each other better,” Monica adds.
Romans 12: 9-21,New International Version (NIV)
Love in Action
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Prayers for the family and friends of Alton Sterling, Philando Castille and the deceased police officers killed in Dallas. Also prayers and support go out for those wounded in Dallas and their friends and family.
Also, I pray and ask God to search my own heart and see if there be any undesirables in me.
I found this on Facebook. I think this is what makes this “home builder” happy.
Please tell me what you think about what this man is doing for the homeless by commenting to this post.