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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The Toll of a Secret, Part 5

The passing of time allowed Daina to carefully evaluate her surroundings. She only ceased to sweat when darkness came, and by counting the times of darkness, she determined that she had been awake in this remote box of concrete for three days and two nights. From the heat and surrounding noise, she actually thought she might be somewhere in the tropics.

The sun set on the opposite side as the door, so she had the most light in the mornings. It was during this time that she took advantage of the sunlight glowing under the door to explore as much of the room as she could.

The building had a dirt floor, and at first she though she might be able to use her hands to dig under the wall. This hope was quickly dashed, though, when she realized that almost half of the wall was underground. The door actually began about three feet up from the dirt floor. She had carefully explored each wall, both windows, and the door at least twenty times to see if there was some way to escape. There absolutely was not.

Her recurring desire had been to try to dig with her hands under the wall—however deep that went—and then up and out the other side—like a dog under a fence, only worse. Once, she almost had her gumption built up to try it, but a new discovery had quickly stopped her.

She was being watched.

Hidden discretely in the left, rear corner of the room was a tiny glass dome, behind which hid a camera. If they were watching her, she would never manage to dig out of here before they came and stopped her. What would they do to her then?

After her initial shock and bewilderment at being kidnapped, Daina had realized that she wasn’t in the custody of some creep or serial killer. She felt more like an inmate, or even a lab rat! Once she had finally grown brave enough to leave her bed, she’d found military-style MREs in a box labeled, “6 Months Rations.”

The realization that she was intended to live here for at least that long, had sent her back into bed in paralyzing desperation. After crying it out for another several hours, she had simply reached a resolve.

She was thankful they hadn’t killed her. Aside from a small red dot in the soft crook of her left arm from an IV, she was unharmed and undefiled. All she had to do now was wait patiently until she discovered an escape. With that resolved, she continued to search her surroundings. She never let herself wonder if escape was even possible. Even if it was false, she needed something resembling hope.


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The Toll of a Secret, Part 4

After Lex left Nana’s, he went home to his flat and began devising a plan. How would he explain Daina’s disappearance to their friends and her family? A twinge of guilt tickled at the back of his mind, but he suppressed it anew with the knowledge that the secret must never again be exposed.

How could he continue his life as before? Could Nana expect him to continue as though nothing had happened? People would ask him about her. Her family would want to know what he knew. The law would doubtlessly consider him a suspect. What was he going to do? Oh, how he hated the truth of this whole mess. Why did this all have to happen to him?

Suppressing the questions he couldn’t answer, Lex forced himself to honestly review the entire circumstance. It all went back to the secret.

Lex’s father, Myron Walton, was a scientist—a nuclear physicist. He worked in some advanced form of radiation research that could redefine atomic warfare. As a legal front, his father’s company published groundbreaking cancer treatment research.

Before Lex had turned eighteen, he had known next to nothing about what had kept his father away from home throughout Lex’s abandoned childhood. On his eighteenth birthday, Lex had been given a special gift by Nana. The gift was a book that had now been passed down in his family for four generations.

According to Nana, the book contained information about the work that Lex’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had compiled through covert research so advanced and classified, most of the world had yet to even know it could exist. At first, Lex thought his grandmother was joking when she explained to him the importance of the book. The look in her eyes and the explanation that followed sufficiently convinced him otherwise.

“Lex, the information in this book would change the world as we know it for the grave worse. You must make certain, as the next generation of Waltons, that this information is never revealed to anyone. It may seem like a joke now, but this responsibility is a great one.”

In the years following, Lex had taken his responsibilities seriously—until he met Daina. She had one of the most infectious personalities he had ever encountered. When she looked into his eyes and asked him a question, he felt he could do nothing but tell her the truth. Despite his resentment for the truth, this grip Daina had on him was intoxicating.

One night, they were out together on a quiet walk. With his pretenses all lowered, he’d been careless enough to bring up the secret book with her. It hadn’t taken her long to pull out of him the information his grandmother had told him to keep hidden.

As Lex had done, Daina initially thought he was joking. To prove himself to her, he had taken her to the book and showed her its contents. Together they were able to work out some of the mathematical algorithms contained within.

Lex and Daina were both chemistry majors in college. It was how they had met—Lex following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, and so on. Grasping even a small amount of the information held within that book, both of them realized quickly the depth of information it contained. It truly would change the world for the worse if the wrong people discovered what it said.

That’s when Daina had ruined everything. She had decided that she wanted to discover how to use the secret for good. Ever the idealist, Daina was convinced that if the right people were allowed access to this information, it could change the world for the better. Lex had to threaten her to convince her otherwise. He’d told her that not only could no one be trusted with his family’s secret, but the secret was not to be shared—regardless of the outcome. He’d told her that if anyone found out that she knew, they could both be killed. When he’d said it, he thought he was exaggerating to make his point. Now, he was unsure of that.

That day, Lex and Daina had promised to never reveal Daina’s knowledge of the book to anyone. Aside from a few off-handed mentions to him of the good she thought the secret could do, Daina had kept her side of the promise. She hadn’t pushed the issue.

In the end, he was the traitor. He might have found her idealistic notions annoying, but she didn’t deserve this. The full truth of what he’d done—knowing what could become of Daina—filled him with rage. How could he have been so stupid as to tell her the secret? This really was his fault!

Lex had never asked to be born into a corrupt family. He’d never asked for the burden of the secret to be laid upon him. Nonetheless, he’d been imprisoned by the dark secrecy that had been harbored for generations. He was still paying the price it required.

Now, so was Daina. Even though he could say she was partly to blame by not leaving it alone, Lex would always blame himself. He had to. If he hadn’t given in to trusting her, if he hadn’t allowed himself to believe that the burden of the truth wasn’t as heavy as he knew it was, Daina would still just be annoying, idealistic, beautiful, smart, lovable Daina. What would happen to her? He couldn’t allow himself to imagine.

Lex left his flat for Daina’s. Marching into the cloudy afternoon, he went to find her. He couldn’t just let them have her. Even if she had been a complete pest as of late, he knew she was worth it. He had to try to save her. Maybe they could escape the prison in which his family had so mercilessly bound them. Why hadn’t he thought of this years ago?

When he got to Daina’s apartment, Lex found the door open. Regret hit him like a blast—another burning truth he would hate forever. He was too late.