Visits From A Man Named Nobody 41

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 41

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Finally! Paul wasted no time charging the man. He unleashed a flurry of punches, all of which Nobody dodged as if Paul were moving in slow motion. Nobody didn’t make any effort to retaliate. 

“Fight me!” Paul shouted. 

“Why?” Nobody asked. The jerk wasn’t even out of breath.

“Because if you don’t I’m going to kill you!” Paul meant every word. He wouldn’t hurt so bad if he hadn’t trusted Nobody and let Bill into his life.

“Would you rather have lived a life never knowing Bill?” Nobody asked the question even as he ducked another wild punch from Paul, who fell to the ground sobbing.

“I don’t know.” Paul managed to speak through the tears. “It hurts so much.”

Nobody stood far enough away to dodge in case Paul got up, but he was out of fight. He was out of energy.

“The lives we have on this world are always temporary,” Nobody said softly. “People tend to act as if they’ll live forever, if not a nice long while, but we don’t have any say in it.”

“So God gets his kicks out of ripping the people we love away from us!” Paul rolled over and sat up, but he still didn’t have the strength to fight anymore. It took everything he had to keep from just sitting there and crying forever. 

The anger he felt gave him a distraction, and that’s what it had always been. The rage was a tool to keep the sadness at bay, but none of it ever worked well.

“I believe Bill was a great Christian, loved by God,” Nobody said.

“So what?” Paul sat there covered in road grease and bits of trash from the alley. 

“So what I think is that God called his child home,” Nobody said.

“We were his home!” Paul found a pebble and threw it. Nobody dodged it easily. 

“So we come back to the question of property. You don’t own your mom. You don’t own Bill. The people in our lives are gifts, but they’re not property.” Nobody took a few steps closer as if to test Paul’s willingness to lash out again.

“It’s not the same!” Paul screamed.

“Then what is it?” Nobody asked.

Paul stammered a bit, trying to find a way to explain how he felt without making it seem like Bill was some toy he wanted to keep to himself forever, but he couldn’t think of a way. “Fine,” Paul said. “I wanted Bill. He was supposed to be my dad and my mom’s husband. We were supposed to be a family.”

The words came out more like whimpers than the ones before it. 

“Nobody this side of Heaven understands why we lose the people we love when we do.” Nobody spoke in that soft, gentle whisper he always used. It was hard to hear through Paul’s sobs. He wasn’t even sure he cared enough to listen.

“You loved him.” Nobody said.

“Of course I did!”

“You wanted to make him proud,” Nobody said.

“Yes!”

“Then make him proud,” Nobody said. “Become the man you know he’d want you to be.”

Paul couldn’t shout anymore. He couldn’t even speak. All he could do was curl up into a ball and cry. The temperature swung from normal, to freezing, to hot, to normal again. Just as quickly, less than an eye blink, a light flashed, which meant Nobody had left.

“But how do I do it?” Paul finally managed to say. “He taught me everything. How do I be the man he wanted me to be when he’s not here to tell me what to do anymore?”

Of course Nobody would leave those questions unanswered. He never really said anything. He just pointed at some dumb Bible verse or quoted the Bible and left it there for Paul to think about.

Isn’t that what Bill would do?

The thought came unbidden, and Paul shoved it down. No! I won’t turn to the one who took Bill from me!

Isn’t that exactly what Bill would want?

Paul lost the energy to argue even with himself. Whatever happened, he couldn’t think of what to do.

“I don’t know what to do without him,” he muttered. 

Someone embraced him. For a split second, Paul jerked in surprise, but the slender arms and gentle manner were familiar to him. 

“Neither do I,” his mother whispered. She had to have sat next to him and wrapped him in her arms. 

“Stop!” Paul said, trying to pull away. “That dress of yours is expensive.”

“I don’t care,” she said softly, gripping him tightly even as he tried to stand. The tremble in her voice made it clear she was crying, too.

Suddenly, another pair of arms wrapped around him. Paul glanced to his left to see Jordan there. The moron! He didn’t know what to say or do, so he just held Paul quietly. He was the greatest friend anyone could have. 

“We miss him, too,” his mother whispered. “I’m just doing my best. I’m just trying to do what he’d want, and it’s not because I  don’t miss him; it’s because I miss him. It’s not because I’ve stopped loving him; it’s because I still love him.”

Paul codlin’t even speak. The dam of anger he’d tried to hide his sadness behind had come crashing down, and the tears wouldn’t stop. 

Jordan gave him another squeeze. He didn’t say a word. But that firm hug said everything. It said, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here.”

They were a trio of well dressed idiots from the perspective of anyone who might have seen them. They were all sitting in a filthy alley holding each other and crying as if they’d been beaten or robbed. 

Paul felt that way. Maybe I did think of Bill like mine, but that’s only because I wanted to be his.  

Paul kept thinking as he cried. Even his mother had gone silent. 

Paul wondered what Bill would want. It wasn’t hard to imagine. He’d want Paul to do what his mother had done. He’d want Paul to become a Christian. 

He couldn’t do that. He couldn’t turn to the one who took Bill from him. 

Was there something else? Yes. 

“We’re going back to work on the project tomorrow,” Paul said. 

That was something he knew he could do. 

The End of Chapter 12. To be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 35

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 35

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An annoying thought kept popping into his mind. 

He was Bill’s God, too. Well that made Bill an idiot! What was the sense in praying to a God and serving a God who was only going to let you die right when everything was so great?

Another, less annoying and more convicting, thought occurred to him. 

Your mother is downstairs alone.

Paul rushed down, but she wasn’t on the floor in the living room anymore. He opened the door, wondering if she went out with those two policemen, but there was no police car there. 

Paul went inside. He started to worry as he looked around and let out a sigh of relief as he found his mother sitting in the dining room. 

Just a while ago, we were all celebrating.

Paul didn’t know what he felt. Suddenly all the white boards and numbers seemed wrong to him. It wasn’t the same without Bill. A part of Paul was shocked to feel hatred. He hated himself for letting Bill in. He hated Bill for dying, and that didn’t even make any sense.

Paul’s mother sat in her usual place. She stared at the boards as if she were trying to figure the science out. 

“Mom?” He didn’t have a clue what to say. He opened his mouth again to ask if she were OK and shut his jaw as soon as he realized what a moronic question it was. 

“Do you know what he always said to me before he went home?” Her voice quivered even as she spoke. 

Paul shook his head.

“He’d always say, ‘I’m thankful for today, and if this is my last day, I’m glad this was it.’” She started sobbing again just as she finished the quote. It did sound like something Bill would say. It was still stupid. He was still an idiot for pretending a day was worth every day that could have come after.

Paul darted over and wrapped his arms around his mother. Still unsure what else to do, he just held her and let her cry. 

“Why?” Paul hoped she wasn’t asking him, but he knew what he would say. 

He’d say, “Because there isn’t any God. There couldn’t be one if he’d let something like this happen.” 

Something held his tongue though. It was probably because he knew saying something like that wouldn’t help his mother feel any better. As much as he wanted to punch Nobody so hard that mask shattered, he wanted to comfort his mother that much more. 

“You know he loved us, right?” This time his mother pulled back and looked right at Paul. He knew she wanted an answer.

Yeah, he thought. The word didn’t come out. 

His mother grabbed his chin in her hand in a firm grip and stared into his eyes. “He loved you! And I know he loved me.”

Paul’s jaw trembled. “Then why didn’t he stay?”

“Oh, Paul!” She pulled him back into an embrace. “I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s more to love than where you sleep.”

But if he’d stayed, you would have been together! He wouldn’t have been on the road! He wouldn’t have died! In fact the only reason he’s dead is because he was too afraid of pissing off an imaginary being. He died anyway. He did the right thing, and he died because of it! 

“It’s OK.” His mother whispered gently to him, and he realized he was weeping again. He was so angry. All that anger was back. It was like all the years he spent trying to let it go was just like some sort of deposit into an account, and now it was back with interest. The only things stronger were his sadness and his desire to make his mom feel better. 

She held him, and they cried together until the sun came up. 

Pastor Tom Leake, A Tremendous Example of Faith Given to Christ

Pastor Tom Leake, A Tremendous Example of Faith Given to Christ

Obviously, this isn’t the next installment of Visits, but I have this unfortunate need, and this feels like the right place.

I may have said a total of 50 words to Pastor Tom Leake in person. I attended his Growing Disciples Class on The Sermon on the Mount. But I watched him the same way I watch all of my heroes. When I want to learn about writing, I watch Brandon Sanderson. When I want to learn more about how to coach the game of football, I watch Kyle Shanahan. When I want to know how to be a better Christian, I, of course, seek Christ, but I feel that Pastor Tom is as good an example to follow this side of Christ as any. It’s weird to write the word “is” because I learned March 26 that my hero died, and I’m not even sure how I feel.

I have many people I look up to. When I think about Pastor Tom, I looked up to him the same way I looked up to those who were much further off and less approachable. I’m certain we didn’t know each other as well as either of us would like, but he was so beloved by people he’s shepherded at our church for more than 22 years, and I’ve only been a member for just over two of those years.

So I wanted to dedicate this post to him and to Christ, who gave Pastor Tom a strength and conviction that is a testament to God’s power and mercy.

Somewhere around four years ago, I hated “organized religion.”

I’ve mentioned a few times that my home town had a lot of churches that were more cultish and hate based than anything else, and that led me to believe that’s what a church was. I wanted no part of it. I’d been to other churches. For me, it was downright frustrating to believe in Christ and yet feel confounded in trying to find a church that actually followed him. To be fair, I didn’t look very hard. I didn’t look much at all. I found a church in Virginia that I appreciated, but I live in Maryland now.

Then a friend offered the link to Hope Bible Church’s webcast of sermons. She told me to watch.

The first thing I noticed right away was that Pastor Tom opened a book of the Bible and just taught about that part. He was in Acts 2, and at the time of his death, he’d made it to Acts 14. It’s called expositional teaching. True, there were breaks in that to cover things like parenthood or how a church should function in society and how Christians should submit to leadership, but even those were grounded in specific passages of the Bible.

The more I watched, the more I realized Pastor Tom was this man who was grounded in faith, convicted in his belief and loving in his temperament. Some can argue I didn’t know him that well, and I didn’t, but that’s the man I saw, so that’s the man I’m speaking to you about.

Not long after my wife and I became members of the church, Pastor Tom was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. It was the second time he’d battle that condition. He was given less than a year to live, and he spent the next two years preaching, and I testify to you that he preached with as much fervor and energy as I’d ever seen. I watched for two years as a man’s clothes grew looser and looser. He moved more and more slowly. His strength and body rebelled against him. In his last sermon, he had helpers walk him to a lowered pulpit so he could sit while he taught scripture, urging others to serve the body of Christ.

I want to lie down and nap after I stub my toe, and this man preached about serving the church less than two weeks before he passed away.

That is strength, and that strength comes from Christ. This isn’t my statement; it’s his. Every day he spoke, he spoke about how Christ sustained him. Every day he preached, he talked about how it’s the purpose Christ has for him.

Now he’s gone. He’s gone, but I’ll never forget that example.

So I end this knowing what he would want. The last words I heard from him were for Christ, and if he had another second to live, I think he’d want to say, “Turn to Christ! Only he can save you.”

I am a sinner. I’m guilty of more sins than I can count and a number of sins I’d rather not discuss. There never was nor would be a thing I, as a man, could do to reconcile myself to God, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, the God of Jacob. He is a perfect and holy God who can’t abide sin. So how do I approach him? There is no sacrifice I can offer. The blood of animals and the deeds of my life could never make up for the sins I’ve committed. There must be a death. So God, in his abundant mercy sent his only begotten son down to earth. He is Christ. Christ was born of a virgin, according to prophecy. He lived a perfect, sinless life in accordance to prophecy and by the testimony of those who served him and even the enemies who conspired to have him crucified. The crime he was killed for was speaking truth. They asked if he was the son of God, and Christ replied truthfully that he was. But they did not kill Christ. Christ, the son of God, the man who is God, gave up his mortal life. That was the propitiation for the sins of mankind, and his one sacrifice was sufficient for all of mankind. And those who turn to Christ, confess him as Lord and believe in him will be saved. More so, God raised him from the dead. And as such, death has been defeated, and we too can share in the eternal life our master Christ has if only we believe in him, pick up our cross, and follow him.

I don’t follow him or serve him anywhere nearly as well as Pastor Leake did on this earth. Pastor Leake has received his crown of glory in Heaven. I’m still struggling just to act like Christ is some small way.

May God rest the souls and hearts of those who truly knew Pastor Leake. If I feel such loss for a man I didn’t know personally, I can only imagine the pain and loss they feel.

God bless and receive your servant Pastor Tom.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Sonnets For My Savior 51

Sonnets For My Savior 51

What Do You Desire More

Some questions for those who deny Heaven or Hell:
What if they do exist?
Would you still proclaim that all is well?
Would your desire for earthly things persist?

What would you give to avoid a moment of pain?
What if that torment were to last forever?
Would you still be selfish with all you’ve gained?
Wouldn’t you pursue a new endeavor?

If worldly goods are all you desire,
worldly goods will be all you receive.
But if you set your sights on One who is higher,
you will gain more than you could ever believe.

If after this life there is indeed something more,
what good are the worldly things you work so hard for?

 


 

Rest

Let us be joyful in our loss,
for believers who die yet live.
During life, we take up our cross.
When our time on this earth ends, we gladly receive the blessings you give.

Let us take comfort in You.
We fix our eyes on the unseen.
Though feel sadness in this grief we are going through,
we know that all pain, sadness, and sin has been washed clean.

Comfort us,
for our hearts are broken.
Heal us,
for we take comfort in the promises you have spoken.

We take heart because Jesus died and rose again,
and so we believe God will bring with Jesus those who’ve fallen asleep in him.

 


 

Shall Not Want

My Lord provides for me;
He will ensure I have all I need.
My Lord comforts me;
He wipes away my sorrow and grief.

My Lord defends me;
He prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies.
My Lord guides me;
He establishes my path and directs my feet.

My Lord loves me;
He is with me all the days of my life.
My Lord encourages me;
He is with me in times of joy and strife.

I will dwell with him; I need not despair or fear,
for my Lord is always good, and He is always near.

 


 

After The Door Is Shut

After the door is shut,
he will not answer you.
It will not open no matter what.
For you had the time to enter, and you chose not to.

When you say, “but I ate at table with You,”
He will reply, “I never knew you.”
When you say, “but I did so much for You.”
He will reply, “Depart from me; I never knew you.”

Strive to enter through the narrow door,
for many will seek but be unable.
Do not ignore the prophets who have come before,
lest you be forced to watch those who answered sit at His table.

Your pride and lusts are the costs you must pay.
But letting them go and following Him is the only way.

 


 

He is There

A man trapped in a dark room may think the sun has gone.
A flower planted in a desert may feel water has run dry.
One who toils all night may think he’ll never see the dawn.
A mourner may not feel God’s presence, though he may try.

But the sun remains in the sky even in the night.
The oceans still swell though the desert is far.
The sun will rise, and you will see its light.
God is with His elect no matter where they are.

He is with you;
Do not be dismayed.
His Spirit will guide everything you do.
He will strengthen you and give you aid.

Do not let the night lie and convince you the sun isn’t there.
He will answer, only seek him continually in prayer.

 


 

Gracious

The LORD is gracious,
though We are underserving.
He teaches and cares for all of us,
though we are constantly stumbling.

His rain falls on the just and the unjust,
but we need only wait to see
He allows the sun to shine on the just and the unjust,
for there is nothing that happens that He has not allowed to be.

He is merciful to grant us time to grow.
He is loving, providing His word to teach.
He sent His Spirit to help us know
that he is always with us, and nothing can take us out of His reach.

Sanctify us, oh Lord, and continue to guide us.
Thank You, oh Lord, for your patience and graciousness toward us.

 


 

Find me

Come and find me,
for I am lost.
Lift me up on your shoulders and rescue me.
Celebrate my return, for You’ve paid the cost.

Come and find me.
Though ninety nine are with you.
Come and rescue me,
for I am lost, and I don’t know what to do.

Pick me up.
Though you have nine pieces of silver still.
Lift me up,
so that I might serve Your will.

I cannot come unless you call,
Please let your voice be heard by me and by all.