tales2apoint

…stories and poetry to touch, teach, & turn the heart toward truth.


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The Prisoner

I awake in a dark, wet, cave-like dungeon. The stench of human waste overwhelms me, and I remember that some of that stench belongs to me. And what other choice do I have here? It’s not like I can walk away from these chains to a proper bathroom facility. I’m not sure what’s worse: being isolated from my dearest friends or being bound to men who care as much about me as the rats that feed on the filth around me. The most I see of the outside world is the polluted rainwater and sewage that trickle down from the marketplaces above. I am always cold. I am always hungry. And I always hurt. Of the difficult places I’ve been, this is the most unpleasant.

I am left here with the memories of a dichotomous life and a desire to finish well. When I was younger, I was blessed by the fellowship of devout, honorable men. We took great care to “please God” with our hygiene, conduct, and diet. When I was younger, I was known as the man who was as close to perfect as could be attained. When I was younger, I was more unhappy than I’ve ever been.

Now, I’m not imprisoned here because I’m a dangerous man—at least not in the traditional sense. In fact, you could say that I’m here because I’m too loving. I love my God and Savior too much to stop living for Him.

My enemies have placed me here, and here I will patiently await the time of my trial. I have been in prisons like this one many times and have been released, but I feel an ever-growing confidence that this time will be my last.

Some of my friends have risked their lives to visit me here over the years. I cannot express my thankfulness for their faithful love. Even though this body of mine has been sorely abused, I am thankful. I am thankful to serve my God. He is the truly faithful one. I am in need of nothing. Whether or not I live on in this body, I do not fear. For I have learned no matter where I am to be content in the perfect provision of my Lord, Jesus Christ.

Yes, I am in prison for faithfully proclaiming the life-saving Gospel of Christ, which I continue to do even here. Yes, humanly speaking, my treatment is unjust. But let me tell you, I am exactly where God wants me. Yes, I will likely die soon at the hands of wicked men. But I can assure you of this, in spite of it all, I count this suffering as a true privilege. There is no place I would rather be than where God has placed me. I am Paul, and I am thankful to be here.

___________

For further reading: Prisons in Paul’s World; Philippians 1:12-26; & 2 Timothy 4:5-22.


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Freedom Day

This story was not meant to be happy…

As I break from my busy day, I see through the eyes of my broken heart a young boy. He is a small child, but he is brave and strong.

He has seen what most could not imagine, but he lives calmly among common, everyday suburbanites. If you were a fellow 11 year old, you would never guess he’d been born into third world poverty. If you were his elementary teacher, you wouldn’t easily suppose he’d only lived in the U.S. for five years. If you called his name, you wouldn’t know by his response that it wasn’t the name his mother gave him. If you passed him on the street, walking beside his new mom, you’d be stunned to hear that he’d watched his childhood abductors drive a machete into his birth mother’s chest.

There were two who took him from his childhood home at the age of five, two sixteen-year-old boys. There were two, because evil desires companionship. There were two, because cowards don’t prefer to work alone. There were two, because one might have lost heart when he saw the depth of love that is shared between a mother and her son. One might have remembered his own mother who’d been snuffed out in a similar way only a decade before. Yes, two was safer. When boy soldiers were in high demand, there was no option for sentiment, no room for weakness. Two meant the job would get done.

I will call this child, Boyd, though his true name—his heart’s name—is Angelo. Boyd doesn’t mind being called by his new name, though. He likes it, in fact, because he is grateful for what it represents. It represents his freedom day.

When his abductors were caught and arrested only hours after they captured him, Boyd was placed in a children’s home. The small orphanage was filled with 147 other children, most of whom had similar stories to Boyd’s own tragedy. The long war had destroyed most of the families in his region. What few families the war had spared, disease and AIDS had quickly snatched.

Boyd was sharply aware, even at such a young age, that his hopes of escaping a life of hardship and pain were all but futile. Some older boys in the orphanage used to boast about who would sell the most drugs or sleep with the most hookers when they got turned out to the streets in a few years. These children had been orphans longer than Boyd, and they’d already forgotten much of what it was like to be safe and loved, to be held in the tender arms of a mother. Some didn’t remember their lives before at all. They’d been orphans since shortly after infancy.

Boyd was sickened by these sad ambitions. He wanted nothing to do with drugs or hookers. He wanted a mother, maybe even a father! What could drugs or prostitutes offer that a family could not ultimately surpass? Once, he had voiced these thoughts, and the other boys grew very quiet for a while. After a few uncertain moments, one of the older and more hardened boys had called him a little mommy’s boy who “had much to learn,” and the nonsense had quickly resumed. It was obvious that they had given up hope. Realizing this, a little more of Boyd’s own hope had died as well.

At night, Boyd would struggle for hours to overcome the terrors that made him tremble as he relived the memories of watching his mother’s death. He never let the other children know he was crying, but he couldn’t hold back the silent tears that shook his lonely little body. Each night his hope of rescue had grown fainter and weaker.

Boyd had never met his father. From a young age, he had dreamed that his father was alive and looking for him. He imagined a strong, handsome man who’d lost his way temporarily one day while hunting. He’d been convinced that his Papa had spent every waking moment since trying to find his family again. When he would speak of this to his mother, she would smile sadly and tell him to keep dreaming, that one day any dream might come true. She never told him to give up on the father who had abandoned them. In truth, she’d never given up on him herself.

Most of a year had passed since Boyd was placed in the orphanage, when two kind-eyed Americans came to visit. This was a day Boyd hoped never to forget for the rest of his life. This was the day of his freedom.

photo credit: http://www.fastfifty.net/Watoto-Boys


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Lunch at the Lake House

Malcolm walked into the large room and lowered onto a brown, cushioned chair. He was here now. The hardest part should be over.

To this point, Malcolm had avoided eye contact, but had chanced a few unheeded glances at the backs of people’s heads. This alone provided a glimpse into the kinds of people he was among. It was the usual demographic he was growing to expect in this small mid-western town.

Malcolm hadn’t attended church many times before, but in the empty silence of his home he’d convinced himself that this would be a good way to do some networking. His other option was the bar, and that wasn’t quite the kind of networking he sought.

He hated first impressions—mainly because he usually left others in confusion. He was shy, but self-assured; deep, but self-conscious about how others saw him. In short, he didn’t fit well into society’s molds, and he wasn’t confident enough to embrace it. For these reasons, he could simultaneously appear kind, vulnerable, awkward, and aloof. When making new acquaintances he even confused himself sometimes, so he rarely wondered why others seemed awkward when trying to visit with him.

People-watching was one of his favorite pastimes, but in a small community like this it was hard to do without seeming like a creep. There were enough creeps in the world; he didn’t need to add to their numbers. Malcolm had selected his seat on the edge of the room to provide him with a view of those around him. This way he could attempt to decipher the social structure and predict who might be good to reach out to in conversation after the worship hour.

The songs were all new to him, so he mainly just read the poetry of the lyrics, listened to the melodies, and picked out the talented singers sitting around him. Much of what was spoken from the pulpit was confusing, but listening to the preacher was easy enough. Slightly over middle age, he seemed genuine about what he taught—like what he said mattered. Malcolm respected that. Many religious people—especially leaders—seemed pretty disconnected from their message. Predictably, their message remained disconnected from their lives too.

After thinking about it for a while, Malcolm guessed that being a pastor—with all of its social expectations and misconceptions—would be a challenging position. People would expect you to be approachable, yet separate. Many people go to pastors for encouragement, but Malcolm found himself wondering who pastors go to when they need encouragement or advice. Then again, he reasoned, what spiritual leader wants to feel like he needs someone else to be a leader to him?

That question occupied Malcolm for several minutes, until he made eye contact with the preacher for a brief instant and realized that he’d been staring blankly up at him for several minutes. Awkwardly, Malcolm blinked and nodded slightly to acknowledge the man. Recovered and back to the present, he turned his head to observe the rest of the crowd.

A sophisticated lady in a crimson dress sat a row ahead of Malcolm and several feet to his right. She seemed to be connecting with what the pastor was saying, and was taking notes on an iPad. Malcolm found that intriguing and wondered what she was writing. He tried to tune in to the preaching again, by realized quickly that it was futile. If he didn’t get the beginning, he would never understand the end. He would have to concentrate more in the future. If he made it through medical school, he was sure he could figure out a Sunday sermon. He was just really distracted by his own thoughts today. He told himself it was because of the move and being in a new place.

From her appearance, Malcolm guessed the lady to be some sort of businesswoman. She wasn’t wearing any rings on her left hand, but there was a large emerald on her right ring finger. Maybe she had a serious boyfriend. Her attire suggested that she had a generous income, and he wondered why she was living in such a humble community. He tried to guess where she might work in town, and decided she probably commuted to one of the larger cities nearby. He reasoned that she may have grown up here and enjoyed living near family and away from the competitive pretenses of city life. If such was the case, he couldn’t blame her.

Malcolm had just begun employment at a local medical clinic. He specialized in alternative treatment styles which sought to use natural means of medicating illnesses largely through diet, exercise, and natural supplementation. At first, he’d been surprised that such a rural community would be interested in his somewhat unconventional methods. They were beginning to catch on in certain health-conscientious urban settings, but mainstream, symptom-masking medicine was predominate everywhere.

As he’d pondered the reason for his being hired in this rural community, he’d begun a theory. He was learning that modern medicine, with its long lists of side-effects and the need to often increase dosage with longevity, was becoming trusted less and less—especially in conservative rural settings. He would be the first to admit that some ailments are only minimally affected by natural treatment methods. Much of his treatment was designed to be preventative, and only in specific cases was he able to actively combat an aggressive illness. With time and study, though, Malcolm was increasing his aptitude at understanding many of the diseases most affecting western society. When subjects were willing to work with him, he was seeing some incredible, naturally attained results.

Noticing the iPad again, he thought of his smartphone and reached for it to check his emails. Just as he placed his hand on it, though, music began playing from the front of the room and he realized it was time for a closing song. This one he recognized from some funerals he’d attended. It was an upbeat, modernized version of  “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” It was a fun melody change, and he’d always found the words encouraging.

As the song hummed to a close, all were dismissed and the congregation began to disperse and converse with warm gusto. He enjoyed watching how much people seemed to appreciate the fellowship. That’s why he’d come in the first place. As he stood up, a few couples near his seat welcomed him and shook his hand. He thought he’d seen one of the women at the grocery earlier that week, but he wasn’t sure.

After a few more brief introductions, Malcolm decided he was hungry. Not much in the mood for more small-talk, he started for the front doors. About half-way there, a husband and wife that reminded him of his parents stopped to greet him. To his surprise, they invited him to join them for lunch at their lake cottage. They acted so calm and friendly, that he accepted their invitation before he’d really even thought about it.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the attractive crimson-dressed lady walking toward them. She had a boy with her, who was maybe four or five. Malcolm hadn’t been around kids enough to know for sure. She made eye-contact with him, and smiled. She had deep brown eyes that gazed kindly into his. He smiled in return, as she and the boy walked right up to where he was visiting with the older couple.

The older woman introduced her as their daughter—confirming his prediction about her living near family, though he hadn’t expected the child—and he learned that her name was Rita. The boy’s name was Blake. Embarrassed, Malcolm looked back at Rita’s parents and apologized that he couldn’t remember their names. Brenda Sutton refreshed his memory, accepting his apology with a dismissive wave of her hand, and her husband, Garrett, asked Malcolm where he worked.

He gave a basic description, knowing they could discuss it more over lunch if interested. At a small lull, Rita turned to her parents and asked what their plans were for lunch. Malcolm could tell they were close, and she probably ate Sunday lunch with them regularly. He was about to uninvite himself, so they could enjoy time together as a family, but when Rita heard about Malcolm she exclaimed, “Great! May Blake and I join?”

“The more the merrier!” the Suttons declared, and before Malcolm knew it, he had lunch plans with one of the most beautiful women he’d ever met. He had no idea what to expect from this afternoon, but regardless he wanted to make a good impression.

The Suttons were two of the warmest and trusting people Malcolm had met, and their roomy lake house was welcoming and tasteful. Rita and Blake were kind and close. Rita had been a single mother since Blake was born, and the child had never met his father. Rita worked as a senior marketing manager at a large corporation in a nearby city, so Blake stayed with his grandparents on weekdays while she was at work. Malcolm was stunned to see how close knit they all were and how special their grandson was to them. No one would ever have guessed that Blake was a single-parent child.

Malcolm had never expected to meet such a genuine and friendly family on his first weekend in town, but they made it clear how much they wanted people to feel welcome in their church. That’s why they were so quick to welcome him for dinner. Their love for each other and even for him was openly apparent, and Malcolm found himself wondering if he had more to gain from a church like this than a simple networking opportunity. These were the kind of people you share life with and learn from; they were real.

A strange twinge brought out a longing in Malcolm. Whatever it was they had, he wanted.

Why hadn’t he ever felt like this before? This morning he would have described his life as no different from anyone else’s. Now, he was beginning to sense an emptiness in himself that he hadn’t previously allowed to surface. The most confusing part was the fact that he had absolutely no idea what to do about it.

Soaking in the sun on their large patio overlooking the lake, he looked around at the Sutton family and asked solemnly, “What is so different about you all? On the outside you’re just a normal family, but inside there’s something about you that I’ve never seen before.”

They all looked at each other with a knowing smile, and Garrett said, “Let me start at the beginning…”


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Pelisca and the Little, Grey Horse: A Modern Parable for Children

I would like to tell you about a special, little lady named Pelisca and a day she will always remember; but first, I must tell you how Pelisca got such a special, little name.

While Pelisca’s mother was waiting for her to be born, she was playing a word scramble game. There on the page were the letters, “P-E-L-I-S-C-A.” When her mother unscrambled the letters, she found that they spelled the word “SPECIAL.” Pelisca’s mother liked that very much, and decided that P-E-L-I-S-C-A would make an excellent little name for her own special, little daughter. From the day she was born, everyone knew that Pelisca was to be a special, little lady indeed.

Now, many years later, Pelisca had a special, little day. It went something like this…

It was on the first, little day of the special, new week when Pelisca woke up early in her special, little periwinkle-blue house. She jumped up, cleaned up, and put on the same special outfit that she wore every Monday: a chocolate-brown business skirt and a bright-orange blazer. She loved to start the week off looking sharp.

After a special little breakfast of eggs and grapefruit, Pelisca drove carefully through the especially busy town of Littleton—waving at friends along the way. Just in time, she entered her special place of work and went straight to her own little office. In her office, on a special, little periwinkle-blue shelf, were perched several nifty, little statues.

While her periwinkle-blue computer got warmed up for a busy day of work, Pelisca made herself a fresh, little pot of coffee and poured it into her special, periwinkle-blue mug. Then she carefully dusted her special, little collection of trinkets on the shelf.

This little collection was her very favorite part of her very special, little office, and she took time each day to admire and appreciate each one. First was a little, pink pig, munching on an old ear of corn. Second, was a little, golden-brown statue of a squirrel with BIG blue eyes that seemed to smile right at her. Next, sat a special, little black-and-white cow with a yummy mouthful of hay in her cud. She had a big, red collar around her neck with a special, little yellow bell hanging from it. There was also a little, pale-pink bunny sniffing a pretty, purple flower, and a…

Pelisca gasped! A statue was missing! And she knew exactly which one it was: a special, little gray horse with a long, curly tail and a sleek, black saddle.

Pelisca was very worried that it was missing, and she searched quickly all over her special, little office for it. No matter how hard she looked, though, she just COULDN’T find it! Saddened, little Pelisca slumped into her periwinkle-blue desk chair and tried to work on her computer. Only two minutes passed, though, before Pelisca wadded up a piece of periwinkle-blue paper and, discouraged, tossed it into the periwinkle-blue garbage can beneath the partly-empty shelf.

That’s when Pelisca got an especially nifty idea…the trash! Her special, little horse statue must have been knocked by accident into the garbage can and taken away by the cleaning man. She had to find it and rescue it!

First, Pelisca grabbed for her periwinkle blue telephone and called the maintenance man, but he didn’t answer. She left a special, little message on his phone, then sat back down and tried to work while she waited for him to call her back.

She waited, and waited, and waited…but he just didn’t call!

Flustered, little Pelisca made a BIG decision; she was going to go and find her special statue all by her own little self!

She jumped up from her chair, marched outside, rolled up her bright-orange sleeves, and climbed right into the STINKY, little dumpster! She dug around in the trash searching for her special, little horse statue—hoping very much that she would find it without stepping on it first.

Pelisca dug in the dumpster for nearly twenty minutes and was about to give up in distress, when she found a periwinkle-blue scrap of paper in a clear garbage bag. It had to be from her trash can! She searched frantically through the bag.

In her haste and excitement, she didn’t even notice digging past an old banana peel that she’d eaten last Tuesday, or the mushy corn flakes that she had forgotten to finish on Friday. By now, her bright orange blazer was covered in chocolate brown smudges to match her skirt, and she smelled like last week’s strawberry yogurt…YUCK!

Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, Pelisca’s finger brushed against something little, cold, and grey. She’d found it! Quickly, Pelisca snatched up her special, little horse statue, jumped out of the stinky and NOT-very-special dumpster, and ran inside to tell all of her friends & co-workers what she’d found.

Later that week, she even took special, little periwinkle-blue cookies and blue Kool-aid to work to celebrate her special, little adventure! She had learned a special, little lesson about how God rejoices when one of His special, little creations repents and gets found by His love.

Based loosely on the parable of the lost coin in Matthew 15:8-10


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Your Favorites…

Dear Reader…that means you…I have a question for you:

Out of the content you have read at tales2apoint thus far, what style of content would you like to more regularly see? More POETRY? Rhyming or random? More STORIES? Short stories or chapters of larger works? Anything else?

I would like to thank you with DEEP SINCERITY for your readership, likes, comments, and your own quality writings.

Blessings, Clayton from tales2apoint (with my son, due in October!)

fd

A recent ultrasound revealed that my wife and I are expecting a little BOY in October.


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Story of Hope, Chapter 12 – part 2

As Cowboy trotted from the barn lot, pulling the small, two-person riding cart, Beulah Opalinksi grabbed her town hat and hurried out the front door of the small house she and Jamin shared. The morning was still young, but Edwin Swarth was reining Cowboy onto the narrow dirt road, just as she arrived at the edge of the front lawn.

“Whoa!” he commanded the gentle horse, pulling back slightly on the reins. Turning to Beulah as she approached the cart, he called, “Good morning! Need a ride into town?”

“Thanks, Eddie,” she replied, “I was planning to ask today if you or Elizabeth were planning to go into town soon, but I didn’t get over to your house before I saw you were already on your way! I do have some business to attend to, if you don’t mind some .”

Edwin and Elizabeth Swarth had been close friends of Beulah’s when she was a child, and they had kindly allowed her son, Jamin, and her to live and work on their farm since Jamin’s father had finally left them in the city. The blessing of their friendship was appreciated beyond what Beulah could possibly express, but they made it clear from the first day that it was their blessing to have the Opalinksi’s presence on the farm. Jamin was a hard worker, and had developed a truly delightful personality since he’d surrendered his old self to God. Likewise, Beulah’s gentle ways and motherly care were cherished by the Swarths and their six children.

Beulah aided Elizabeth regularly in the responsibilities of mother and farm wife, which was often much more than one woman could accomplish alone. From baking, cleaning, laundry, and babysitting, to feeding chickens, sheep, and cows, the women were never short on things to do. Edwin, Jamin, and two other part-time helpers worked no less diligently to manage the small dairy of nineteen milk cows and farm nearly three-hundred acres of crop land.

It was rare for Edwin to take time to travel into town, and even less usual for him not to take the large wagon to bring back supplies. Beulah inquired as to the occasion.

“Got some legal work to do in town that I wasn’t plannin’ on, and I just got supplies last week. So, I figured I could get there and back faster with old Cowboy than with the big rig. If you got something you need to get accomplished in town too, you might as well climb in. I should be in town for at least a few good hours. Will that suit your plans?”

“That would be just perfect! I promise not to hold you up. You tell me where to meet you and I will be there promptly.”

With that, Beulah climbed on board, and they circled back to the main farm house to inform Elizabeth of Beulah’s temporary absence. After hugs all around from the four youngest children, they started off to the big city. Beulah honestly had no idea how this day would turn out, but there were two things that she felt she really must do. She prayed as she rode in the gentle autumn sunlight that God would give her wisdom to carry them out with grace.


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Story of Hope, Chapter 12 – part 1

Black Tea in a Tea Cup on a Saucer on Plate

The steaming black tea tasted bitter on Monica’s tongue. She had allowed it to steep in the heated kettle a full ten minutes longer than usual, and it was strong. She felt a slight shudder at the back of her neck as she forced herself to palette the bitter liquid. She needed this.

Her heart was so dark with bitterness, that even a small outward display like the tea helped her to process it. She had allowed her heart to fully transition from resenting Oliver to despising him. She hated that man for all he had caused and allowed to happen to her.

Her emotions were soaring up and crashing down these days, so much that she felt completely out of control most of the time. She needed something to ground her, and hate had quickly become that anchor. The guilt of her own mistakes was much less severe when she focused on hating him, and that was all she cared about right now. She was tired of being guilt’s victim.

She knew she was unstable, but right now she simply needed to be that way. Her friend, Mrs. Townsend, understood that and let Monica hurt openly without reprimanding or lecturing her. Even though Mrs. Townsend didn’t know about what Monica had done in the harbor district, it felt good to know that someone accepted her without question. Mrs. Townsend was the only person Monica knew who allowed her to grieve over her pain. She was a true friend.

Conversely, Olly was the personification of everything Monica hated about her life—about herself. She couldn’t keep him in her life if she was ever going to move beyond her mistakes and regrets. She also knew she could never bring herself to forgive him for how he’d hurt her, much like she could never ask him to forgive her. That was simply how life would proceed to be.

No one Monica knew had ever divorced their spouse before, and she knew she would be severely judged—even ostracized—for her choice to permanently leave Olly, but she truly felt she had no other choice. None of them had gone through all she had experienced either. Let them judge! They could never understand.

After willfully sipping the tea for several minutes, Monica grew intolerant of the overwhelming acidity and finally disposed of it. The taste had been awful, but it had, nonetheless, strengthened her resolve to return one last time to the place she had called home for over half of her life. She would retrieve her personal belongings, leave a letter of explanation for Nina, and then return indefinitely to live with Mrs. Townsend.

With a sigh, she raised her chin and stood from where she’d been sitting.

It was time. She could do this.