Birthday Blog

One year ago I started this blog. On my About this Blog page, I describe my intention to explore off the map if need be, in search of God sightings and venues where the Spirit is operating. Today I want to share a little of what I have found.

But let me back up for a minute. The bulk of my church and religious history includes a somewhat dispensational idea that this world is in a spiritual freefall; a spiral that can only end in a well-earned damnation of eternal, never ending lake of fire future for those who didn’t make the choice to serve God.

I won’t argue the merits or deficiencies in God’s strategy for dealing with his unbelievers. Quite frankly, I don’t plan to be in a place like that anyway so I’m not forced to deliberate the Fahrenheit of Hell.

Of course, for the faithful, a quick snatch away from the jaws of certain roasting-without-being-burned brings a sigh of relief. Again, I am not enticed into the debate about pre, mid, post or whenever deliverance will come. Do you know how many churches have blown up, how many believers have gone to the dark side of a life sans faith, how many sincere people have been mortally wounded because of polarization on the last two paragraphs?

My determined position is that I will invest my hungry heart in searching for how I can join with the activity of God and see His Kingdom Come in my lifetime. For me, a way to identify what that looks and feels like is the Hebrew term, Shalom. As I have researched the meaning it seems to include the concept of a peaceful, orderly environment where the will of Yahweh is not questioned but lived by all joyfully.

In short, our long-lasting tenure in that previous church culture concluded implicitly and explicitly that although we should preach the Gospel, not many would be converted. In fact, the “not fifty righteous” evaluation from God to Abraham about Sodom was juxtaposed over our culture and evil times to result in a resigned sigh that “maybe we were the only ones who would make it, and I’m not so sure about you” kind of mentality.

“The world is going to hell in a handbasket loaded on the bullet train. So why try to de-rail that certainty? Just get more holy and be sure you are ready” is the conclusion I came to. So why try? Why entertain the possibility that there may be an amazing move of God in this era of history?

Well, when I read “I will pour my Spirit out on all flesh,” it bothers me. When I read the Great Co-mission housing the command that I, one of his disciples, should be making other disciples, casting out devils and healing the sick, it bothers me. When I look at most church structures and communities today and I don’t see all five of the leadership gifts operating in concert like St. Paul insisted in his letter to the Ephesians, it bothers me. When I see that the problems in our world today and the slippery slope this nation is on, it bothers me. It bothers me because I believe it is because the church as a whole has no power.

We have powerful, moving entertainment. We have powerful moving, charismatic speakers. We have powerful, high quality coffee bars. What we lack is the power of God.

I firmly believe, and this is an adamant statement, that the reason we are so polarized as a nation, so divided on issues of rights, entitlements, and so full of hate is due to a lack of power in the church and out of the church. That bothers me. And when something is bothersome, like a sliver, we tend to do something about it.

So now, returning to my opening statement, how and where have I seen God activity? Some of what I am seeing is awareness in other folks of their own rising hunger. As I engage with others and build new relationships I am more sensitized to God activity in our conversation. At the core, material stuff and frivolous pursuits have lost color because of (as we know) that insatiable vacuum that only a connection with God can satisfy.

The second place I have seen God activity is in me. It has been very hard for God, I’m sure. In the last several months, as I have prayed for direction and clarity I have only heard his words of counsel to have faith. I have searched my memory archives for that one huge Word of promise that He would bring me into my place of destiny and it would look like . . . whatever, but I can’t recall that earth-shattering, bolt of lightning, undeniable, black and white Word that can never be doubted, kind of communication.

However, there is a faithful, steady stream of small words of favor, snippets of reassuring hymns, a sentence in scripture, a quick scene from a dream, a paragraph from a book, a gentle “Atta-boy” from a friend that has been my story and my journey.

Do I see the Spirit moving? Is there a moving in my spirit? Is there a shaking of the leaves on the trees in my social circles? Yes. Am I encouraged? Yes. Do I believe I can be a power tool moved by His Spirit? I must be. It is time to do my part and step into the position of authority that He has planned for me.

So when I read these words this morning, they resonated with my thirsty spirit. I can only post a short segment but this aptly and succinctly described my 40 year desert wandering.

“There are many of you who have received a word from the Father. Perhaps the heavens didn’t open up, but the Lord has spoken to you, called you His beloved, and His Spirit has alighted upon you. Many of you have received a word from God, but your life has never changed. You have felt God release you to set sail, but you remain moored at the dock—stuck in a particular phase of your life.” Faisal Malick: Positioned to Bless

For you and I, this is a pregnant moment. How will you; will I, move into the next thing God is doing? Friends, we are on the leading edge of an incredible shift that will usher us into a Kingdom reality like we have not seen in our lifetime. I am preparing my heart with a determination to not look back. Are you with me?

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Storied Past – 21

“Is Pastor Marlowe home?”

A distinguished man stood on the porch. He was dressed well and looked important.

“Uh, yes; yes he is. Please come in. I’ll tell him he has a visitor. I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name,” Mary Elizabeth queried awkwardly.

“Oh no, my apologies. Please tell him Judge Parker would like a few moments of his time, if at all possible. Thank you, miss.” He stepped into the small entry.

“Of course; I’ll be right back.”

“Dad, there’s a Judge Parker here. He said he’d like to see you for a few minutes.”

“Judge Parker? Oh my; I wonder what he wants. Thank you, Mary Elizabeth. I will be right there.” Marlowe looked a bit rattled. “What in the . . . ?” he thought. He went out to greet the visitor.

“Judge, welcome. What brings you over today? I hope I don’t have an unpaid parking ticket.” Marlowe gave a nervous laugh. “Thank you, Mary Elizabeth. Could you give us a few minutes alone?”

“Pastor Marlowe! Great to see you again. It’s been a while. And is this Mary Elizabeth Hammberg, wife of Ed Hammberg?” he asked.

“Yes sir,” Marlowe answered. “That is, she is married to him, yes. What does that . . .”

“Oh, good!” the judge interrupted. “I’d love to have her be part of this conversation, if you don’t mind, Marlowe.”

“Well, does it concern her?” Marlowe was puzzled at this request.

“Actually, I believe it does, and should. May we sit down and talk someplace?” They gathered in the pastor’s office with the two residents wondering what this was all about.

“Thank you Pastor for giving me a few moments. I’ll get right to the point.” He paused for emphasis. “I’m sure you are both aware that Ed was involved in an accident a couple of weeks ago.”

“Yes,” Pastor Marlowe said. “I had heard something about that. Is he OK or did he wind up in jail?”

“Well, he is fine. No injuries that I am aware of. I assigned him some community service in place of incarceration. He has started that already. What I want to talk about though is why you, young lady, are living here with your parents and not with your husband. Did he mistreat you in some way or is there some other reason?”

“No, he has never hurt me. My father said . . .” She apparently thought better of the direction she was headed. “Well, Ed started drinking some and my father thought he might hurt me. He insisted, er . . . suggested that I come back home for a while.”

Marlowe butted in; “Well, I felt like he was developing habits that could cause problems down the road for Mary Elizabeth, Judge, so I . . . suggested that she come home until he got straightened out, that’s all.”

“Mmmm,” Judge Parker intoned. “But he never physically or verbally abused you or caused you to feel afraid?”

“No, never, Judge. He came home after work a little late sometimes and I know he had been to the pub but when he came home he usually just went to bed. A few times he seemed angry and spoke rough to me but he wasn’t mad at me. Seems like there was something bothering him, like he was angry about something or someone.”

“What do you think was bothering him, Mary Elizabeth?” The Judge probed a little, hoping to get to the bottom of this. He had known Ed since he was a pipsqueak and his family as well, so the recent behavioral acting out wasn’t adding up.

“Well . . . I’m not really too sure, Judge. I noticed it a little while after our wedding. We do still love each other so I don’t think he was sorry we married or anything.”

“You know folks; I’ve known the Hammbergs for many years. They have lived in the Valley for more than thirty-five years and have been a good, solid Christian family. Ed’s dad and I went to college together and I have been in their home many, many times. I watched Ed grow up with his two sisters. I saw how he treated them and the way he honors his parents. He has always given my wife and me the utmost respect. So his behavior the last little while really puzzles me. And, it seems to have started not long after he and you, Mary Elizabeth, were married.”

“Well, I . . . I don’t know. Yes, he, or rather it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me either.”

“Well, people change you know, and sometimes they aren’t always who you think they are,” Marlowe interjected with a hint of sarcasm.

Judge Parker looked directly at the pastor.

“Yes, that is true, Pastor, but they don’t usually change overnight like that unless there is a motivating factor in their environment. In Ed’s case, it seems like what he has been doing is some kind of coping mechanism for, as you pointed out Mary Elizabeth, some pain or disappointment he has been experiencing. My years of judicial experience and psychology training years ago have taught me to look deeper than the presenting misbehavior. Usually, there is a reason.”

Marlowe could hardly sit still. “Well I had counseling training when I went to Seminary, too. These kinds of behavior are, at the root, sin. So when someone goes out and gets drunk there is a simple answer; he or she needs to get saved!”

“Pastor Marlowe, I don’t think every situation is quite that simplistic. And, in my court room, I try not to rush to judgment but try instead to look behind the behavior for a cause. Sometimes folks just need a little understanding or someone to take the time to help them process through a past or present issue. Seems like that would be how you would operate in your position too, don’t you think, Pastor? Kind of like how Jesus did with everyone, except the religious elite?”

“Er, yes, of course. Like Jesus did. Right.” Marlowe realized he had been set up.

“And, going one step further, aren’t we all glad we didn’t get immediate judgment for our past sins and “mistakes?” Judge Parker looked directly at Marlowe again, hoping he got the implicit reference.

“Oh, absolutely, Judge, absolutely. I completely agree; couldn’t agree more. In fact, Mary Elizabeth and I were discussing their getting back together again right before you came. Right, sweetheart? We were just saying that it might be good for them to have another go at it; that he was needing help with his recovery. Yes, I completely agree.”

“Well now, that is good news, Pastor. Let me know if there is anything I can do in addition to the community service piece. I am looking forward to reconciliation and recovery for this couple. I believe that’s what God would want, don’t you agree?”

“Yes, your honor, yes I do. That’s what God would want. Amen.”

“Wonderful! I will excuse myself then. I am hoping the best for you two, Mary Elizabeth. Oh yes; there’s no need to share our conversation with Ed. He has enough to worry about right now. Good day!”

“Thank you Judge, thank you very much,” she mumbled.

Mary Elizabeth couldn’t quite grasp what had just happened. Stunned at the influence the judge apparently had and her father’s sudden reversal she wondered how, or what could cause her father to change his hard views so quickly. Did the judge elicit that much respect from Marlowe, or . . . or did the judge have some kind of power over her father? Did he know something? What was it?

– To Be Continued –

Storied Past – 19

“What’s that supposed to mean, sir? Here you are right now telling me something I know nothing about and asking me to own up. I’m not owning up to anything until I talk to that girl—your daughter I guess, and find out what’s going on.”

Mr. Beckett backed off for a minute. Realizing his confrontational approach was making Paul mad and wouldn’t get the information he wanted, he figured he would try a different tack.

“OK, I guess I came off a little intense, Paul. Suppose I start over.” Beckett breathed out slowly. “Ramona’s mother and I raised her to be a Christian, to go to church. We were very careful to make sure her friends were church friends. She wasn’t allowed to go to movies or wear pants and makeup. But she started rebelling against our rules and several months ago she quit coming to church.”

“Her mother, Sarah, passed away a couple years before and she must have blamed God or something. She started hanging out with kids I didn’t know and she got to dancing and partying and . . . and I’m guessing that’s when she met you.”

Paul thought for a moment before he spoke.

“I’m sorry but that sounds kinda weird to me, Mr. Beckett. I mean, you told her what to wear and stuff? Sounds a bit strong. It’s no wonder she kicked at that. I would have, too.” He started to say something about being glad his parents weren’t like that but thought better of it. After all, they weren’t really model parents anyway.

“Well, Paul, I know you’ll be talking to her very soon. I’m sure she has a lot to say to you. And, you can be sure the law will be involved at some point soon.”

Paul groaned.

 

Ramona walked toward the hospital very slowly after her chat with Becky. So much was going through her mind. Maybe she was wrong about church. Well, no, maybe not so much about church but about her understanding and experience with church.

Could it be that in walking away from the church she also walked away from God, throwing both in the same wastebasket.

Becky’s story intrigued her. She tried to imagine what it might be like to have faith in God without being forced to experience Him only through the eyes of a church and its demands on her. What did God demand? What did He really want from her? If what He wanted was to look like everyone else, sing the same kind of music, marry whoever the Pastor okayed and not enjoy life, then that would never work for her.

IF, however, and this was a big IF. If God could love her for the way she was created, the way she seemed to be wired; if God was more concerned about people simply loving Him and loving other people and doing the right things for the right reasons, then . . . then she was in.

 

The afternoon was cool but sunny. Spring was coming. She thought again about the baby’s due date. October seemed so far away. In Maple Valley, that time of year would start bringing the rainy, cold, blustery winter days. Brrrrrr! Summer would be a really different life this year. No stylish swimsuits for her.

She thought as she approached the front doors that she should stop at the desk and get a referral for a pediatrician. Now that she had mostly decided to keep the baby it was time to get that piece in place.

She also told herself that she wanted to come see her dad. But she hoped Paul would be awake. Now this might be awkward with her dad in the next bed but she figured he would be on her side and in spite of the situation, he would protect her.

 

The two men had conversed little since Beckett’s threat about bringing the Law around. Paul’s depression was not improved with the conversation anyway. He considered the morphine drip again.

“Hello Dad, how are you feeling this afternoon?”

Ramona tried to be cheerful, thinking she needed to contrast her attitude with her dad with the one she intended to use with Paul.

“Hi, pumpkin. Your day going alright?

“Ok so far, I think.”

Paul groaned again. Now, he figured; now he would face the music and he didn’t know what kind of tune Ramona would play. He braced himself.

“Looks like you are awake, too, Paul. Guess what? You are a father.”

“Ramona, I . . . I am so sorry I . . . I’m really embarrassed. I had no idea that . . .”

His voice trailed off.

“Do you know what kind of trouble you are in, mister? Do you know? Did you realize how long you could go to jail if you got caught in your little con game?”

Her voice had become strong and she clenched her teeth so that it caused her to literally quiver with anger.

“Did you even think about it before you . . . before you raped me? Before you charmed me and drugged me and raped me? Did you even think with your brain instead of . . . instead of . . .

She stopped abruptly, remembering her dad was in the room.

“. . . instead of thinking about your victim? Huh? Speak up, I can’t hear you.”

“No; no I didn’t. Is that what you want me to say? I totally was thinking about myself; about what I wanted. I have always thought that; what I want in life. I never cared about anyone else but myself.”

Paul’s voice broke.

“Ramona, this, this baby is just way over the edge for me. I actually think I may know how you feel because I have had so much crap happen to me I think this must just be some kind of payback for the life I have lived. I have always been able to control my life and other people but now . . . now I think I’m in over my head. I don’t know what to do.

Paul looked at Ramona with a face that revealed he had met his match. “Can we just talk about stuff? Maybe; maybe you can help me, if you wanted to.”

That last comment disarmed her and partially diffused her anger. Why would he ask her for help? Did he mean it? What kind of help?

She turned so her back faced Paul.

“I . . . I have to think, Paul. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do with that. I need to think.”

Walking past her dad, who was also taken aback by Paul’s request, she went out into the hall. This was not how she imagined the conversation would go. She intended to exert emotional pressure on him and demand some answers, but this . . . this idea of helping him get straightened out; this she didn’t expect.

“Oh God,” she prayed, “I don’t want to be manipulated. Please help me wrap my brain around this. I don’t want to help this man. He hurt me so badly.”

Storied Past – 18

Ed eased up to the front door of City Reach.

“Oh brother,” he thought. “One of those soup kitchen places for homeless losers. I don’t belong here. Why did that stupid judge send me to work here? Why couldn’t it be working in the City Park or something?”

He opened the door slowly. The smell of breakfast made him hungry for real food. He remembered the last meal he had was topped with white foam.

Ed looked around for someone that seemed to be in charge. Spotting Becky, who was directing someone to retrieve the salt and pepper, he hesitatingly walked over to introduce himself.

“Hello Miss; my name is Ed Hammberg. I was asked by a local official to give you a hand for a few weeks.” Ed had this part down cold. “Do you need any help?”

“Oh hello, Mr. Hammberg. Yes, the judge called me. He told me you needed a place to do some community service. We’re happy to have you help us for a while.”

Ed flushed. He hadn’t counted on his whole life history being laid out so soon.

“We do have a couple of rules, Ed. May I call you Ed?”

“Uh, yes, of course.”

“Good! You must always respect anyone who comes in here and treat them with love. And, we will have no swearing, no smoking, no alcohol and your first half hour each day here is with the staff only. We will talk about the daily menu for a few minutes and then we all pray for a bit. Sound OK?”

“Oh, uh yeah, I guess so. Pray? Yeah, OK, I can be here.”

“Great! So, Wednesday at 7:30 in the morning? Thank you, see you then.”

The duty nurse came in to check on the patients in 314. Mr. Beckett was sitting up and playing with the TV remote again. Paul was awake but a bit groggy. She slid the curtain back so each could see the other.

She then said, “Well, since you are both awake I think I will let you get acquainted. Mr. Beckett, this is Mr. Weiser; Paul, this is Frank. Enjoy your morning!”

“Good morning, Frank,” Paul said as wakeful as he could, still under some influence of the sedative.

“Uh, HUH,” returned Mr. Beckett, unsure of how to make small conversation with a man he was just now meeting who was probably the father of his daughter’s child.

“So . . . looks like you were in an accident. What happened?”

“Truck; I got hit by a truck,” Paul explained.

“Looks like the truck won, Paul. Are you a Christian?”

“A what?”

“Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” Mr. Beckett inquired.

“As my what? Savior? I don’t know what you mean. I was saved from getting killed, if that’s what you mean. And, I don’t know anybody named Jesus. I know Jose’ who was the salesman in the next region, that’s all.” Paul was unsure about what this had to do with the accident. Maybe Frank Beckett had some brain damage, though his head wasn’t wrapped up.

“No, I meant have you been to church and found Jesus.”

“Oh that. Yes, I went to church. That’s why I’m here. I came out kind of stumped, crossed the street and got slammed. The only thing I found in church was a bunch of people doing some ceremony that didn’t seem to include me. I don’t know how they expect to get anybody to come back when they are so unfriendly.” Paul laid back on the pillow, tired after that rant.

“Yeah, they are like that at the Catholic Church. I don’t blame you.”

“It was that big church down on Main,” Paul revealed. “I’m never going there again!”

Ramona had seen Ed Hammberg come in to City Reach. He looked familiar and thought she should know him but couldn’t place him. As she thought about it, she recalled a few years back seeing him at church. He was just a little older than her and looked a lot scruffier than she remembered.

“What did he want?” she asked Becky.

“You’ll never believe it, but he’s the guy who was driving the truck that hit Paul. The judge sent him here to do Community Service.”

“I think I know him, Becky. He went to my church and married the Pastor’s daughter.”

“Well, that’s interesting. How did Pastor Marlowe allow that?”

Ramona told what she remembered about Ed as she helped Becky clean up. “He seemed to be a decent guy, not my type, but a decent guy. I’m not sure why he went sideways but I heard the pastor was in their personal lives too much.”

“Well that can happen with any parent and their children.”

“No, I mean TOO much. He expected them to be at church for everything and didn’t even let them take time off for a vacation. Ed must have felt he couldn’t—wouldn’t live that way and left.”

Becky sighed. “Sometimes people in leadership use their positions to control others, Ramona. Couple that with the idea that the pastor may have felt that his reputation hinged on the behavior of his children and you have a recipe for misery. It happens too often. I never told you but that’s one of the main reasons I quit being a church member and became a Jesus follower instead.”

“What exactly does that mean?”

“Well, the church I attended was similar to Main Street Church: friendly, like a big family, they said. But when I was there for a short while the youth leader came to me and wanted me to check in weekly with one of the other leaders. I asked why and he said that I needed to be accountable to those over me. I agreed to and for a while it seemed OK, but when the other leader said he needed to approve my social friends I couldn’t see it. I mean, I thought we were supposed to have friends that didn’t know Jesus so we could ‘be Jesus’ to them.”

“So what did you do?”

“I met a few other friends who felt the same way; Jeremy was one, and we started getting together, reading Jesus’ story and asking ourselves what it might look like in today’s culture to share His message with our friends and community. That’s why we started City Reach.”

“Cool!” Ramona said. “At first I thought you were just doing something to feel good about yourself; you know, giving back to the poor people. But I didn’t realize you had a deeper reason. I guess that makes sense. I remember now about Eben, the guy I met my first time here. That is cool, Becky. I like the idea of serving the poor so you can share His love.”

“Yep! After all, He did feed a bunch of them as He told them stories about God and His Kingdom.”

As Mr. Beckett lay there, he thought about the guy in the bed next to him. Anger crept up on his dark side. He was conflicted about how to bring up the topic but believed it was his parental duty to confront Paul.

Paul stirred; Beckett took this as an opening.

“So you know my daughter, Ramona, huh?”

Paul shot a nervous glance his way.

“I’ve met her, yes.”

“She said you’ve more than met. Are you prepared to be a father?”

“WHAT?” Paul reeled from this sudden revelation. “Whaaat?” he stammered again. “Damn, damn, damn!”

“Yeah, you will be,” Beckett returned, “if you don’t own up.”

– To Be Continued –

Storied Past – 17

The pain had slowly stolen back into Paul’s consciousness. He remembered the morphine drip and he pushed the button a couple of times.

Then he thought, “Maybe I could push it about twenty times; might solve a few other problems, too.”

That line of thinking caused him recall the confrontation with Ramona. She was right, he supposed. He had been a jerk, though that was so hard to admit for a man with an ego as big as his. He hoped that she would agree to listen to his . . . well; he didn’t quite know what to call it; confession was just too humbling a word.

The next morning, Ed Hammberg, the truck driver, was sitting in court waiting to talk to the judge about his version of the accident. He had “fortified” his courage with an adult beverage prior to arriving, contrary to his lawyer’s advice, but with his record, he figured was going to need all the help he could get.

Ed was Pastor Marlowe’s son-in-law and a long-time church attendee. Of course, there was a time when he was a Sunday school boy and knew all the Bible stories. He was fascinated by the flannel graph cutouts and loved the songs. Nobody else could sing I’m in the Lord’s Army and do all the motions as vigorously as he. But, like Ramona, he had rebelled against the pastor’s strong directives and his constant intervention in the smallest details of the lives of his congregation.

He was deeply struck by Marlowe’s daughter, however, and he played along with the whole system just so he could win Mary Elizabeth’s heart. Though a very pretty girl, no one ever suspected she had any thoughts of her own. She dressed very conservatively and tended to be introverted. With a strongly opinionated father, how else could she be?

Not very long after they were married, Ed started to miss church and within a year he had joined his work buddies at the nightly bar stop before going home. Mary Elizabeth, on the advice of her father, left him and moved back in with her parents. That only served to give Ed permission to engage in whatever he wanted. After a DUI last January, he slowed down for a while but resumed the plunge into self-destruction soon after probation.

Now, as his name was called, he moved to the front of the courtroom.

“Edward Hammberg?” The bailiff called out.

“Yes sir.”

“Well young man, you look familiar. When were you before me last?” the judge inquired.

“Uh, last January, sir,” Ed stated.

“Yes, I believe that’s right, and my record states that we had a conversation about alcohol abuse. How have you been doing with that? Are you attending those classes I sent you to?”

“Oh yes, sir. I went to all of them, sir. All ten weeks.”

Ed was a bit nervous about the question but had attended the AA classes faithfully through the probationary time.

“So then, tell me what happened on the 25th; last Wednesday evening.” Judge Parker prompted.

 

Becky and Ramona stood next to each other serving in the meal line at City Reach. As each person passed in front of her she placed a generous portion of scrambled eggs on their plate and gave them a smile. She also noticed that as the morning flew by she recognized the feeling of joy at participating in this act of kindness and that it energized her. In fact, it became a genuine, fulfilling activity that affirmed her in ways that little else had for a long time. This must be what Becky had referred to last night about becoming who she was wired to be.

She was also to be something else. Morning sickness seemed to be passing more easily but now she had noticed her body starting to exhibit physical signs of pregnancy. Standing that morning in front of Becky’s mirror she could see her profile was changing. The idea of motherhood was settling in to a certain degree and unlike her initial rejection, acceptance of this idea was truly a miracle.

“I don’t know Becky, but I’m thinking I might be able to do this mothering thing; that is, I think I might want to try.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Ramona. I’ll help but I believe you have the self-confidence inside you to raise a child once you’ve made that decision. You are a strong person, you know. Just look at how your conversation went with Paul. You showed your strong side!”

“Yeah, I kind of surprised myself there. But I was ticked and he needed to hear the truth. Of course, I guess I need to hear the truth about my own actions, too.”

Marona; I mean Ra-mo-na,” Marcy had just moved into view. “How’s your Dad doin’ today; how’s he doin’ I mean?”

“Good morning, Marcy! Well, I saw him last night and he fell asleep on me so I plan to get back after I’m done here. Thank you for asking.”

“Awright, that sounds good. Tell him I’m prayin’ for him, OK, I’m prayin’.”

Then Ramona said something she wouldn’t have dreamed of proposing six months ago.

“Would you like to go with me, Marcy, to see my Dad?”

“Yup, I would. Then I can pray for him myself! I’ll be waitin’; whenever you’re ready! I’m goin’ to the hospital to pray for her dad,” she told the man in line next to her. “He’s real sick!”

 

Ed finished his rehearsal of the night of the accident. The responding officer that night gave his report, which largely matched what Ed said. To the judge, the facts were pretty clear that Ed really was not at fault. However, since the judge knew Ed and his propensity for alcohol addiction, he decided an additional rehabilitation effort might be helpful. The judge knew Pastor Marlowe and a little of the home life situation of the Hammbergs and in his wisdom he had a brilliant idea.

“Mr. Hammberg,” he started, “your story and the officer’s story are close enough that I feel like this Mr. Paul Wieser, the victim in this incident, was primarily at fault here, even though you should have maintained control of your vehicle. I also believe that with your record and tendency to want to drive when you have had more alcohol than you should, you need a little accountability in your life. I will call your employer and have a conversation with him but I am assigning you some community service.”

Ed shifted on his feet.

“I am going to have you show up three days a week for three hours a day for a total of six weeks at the service organization, City Reach, down on Main. You can find it. Report back to me in six weeks and we will debrief. Understood?”

“Yes sir, your honor!” Ed replied.

“Next?” the judge queried.

Ed paused for a minute before shuffling off. What was this place? Six weeks? Talk to his boss? Little did he know what was in store for his and Mary Elizabeth’s future.