The Ugly Truth: I Love Will

School Shootings on Valentine’s Day? What is happening to this world?

There is nothing new, really, under the sun. As it was in the days of Noah so it is still today. Everyone is in love with the same person. This is the crux of the matter.

At our church women’s prayer time a common weekly request is for patience in the context of children and family.  We all know what it means. The battle of the wills. I want and he wants and what I want must win.

We love our Will.

Precious Will

We tend it and care for it. Like Gollum and the precious ring, we treasure our will and if anyone tries to touch it we lash out at them with fangs and sharp teeth. We want what we want and nobody. Ever. Forever. will take that from us.

Yet at the same time we pray the Lord’s prayer: thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.

There is a big problem in the world, and it starts with us. With our deepest love. Did you give chocolates to someone today for Valentine’s Day? Did you give a card? Did you go out on a date?

Perhaps you wanted to show your love to someone, or perhaps you had no one “really” to show love to today. No special someone. So you ate a bunch of chocolate yourself and watched a movie you’ve been wanting to watch.

We do this because of Will. We love him. He is our precious. If no one else appreciates him, we do. I will be treated special today, if I have to do it myself.

Impatience

I’ve been praying lately, trying to get to the bottom of this impatience with my children. Why can’t I be patient? Why can’t I be loving and sacrificial and serve them, like Christ did?  He took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist and got to business showing his love by serving.

I’ve been praying that God would show me what it is that is wrong in my spirit to make me battle to the death to win. I found the answer. It’s a little thing that holds me in sway. It’s Will. Will won’t let me lose.

I have a pampered Will. And now I don’t know what to do. So I pray, and I look at the Bible.

A few hours after Christ washed the disciples’ feet, he was in the garden praying, “not my will but thine be done.” There’s where his Will is! It is set there in front of the throne of the Father in heaven. It’s resting there.

Putting Will to Rest

I think I know what Will will try to do if I try to put ’em to rest at the foot of the Throne. He’s gonna wiggle and toss and turn, like a 3 year old at nap time. But putting our Will down is an inherent part of sanctification. Because a Will that does not rest there will get into more trouble than a 3 year old without a nap.

We’ve gotta put ’em down.

But there is hope. Where else? In Philippians 2:

“it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

What a wonderful thing to know. God’s Spirit works in us shaping that Will to rest at the foot of Jesus. And as the Will rests, bending to the the Father’s will, the body works out God’s good pleasure.

A verse earlier in Philippians it says:

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…”

How do we obey? How do we work out our own salvation? We gotta put Will to rest.  Look a bit earlier in Philippians. Surrounded in the context of Christ’s great humble example of loving, giving and serving we see these words:

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  This is what it looks like when Will is resting before the Throne.

School Shootings

What does love of Will have to do with the school shootings? People are broken and hurting, they are “without God and without hope.” And certainly, in this country, they have all known a Christian or two.  Somehow those relationships were not enough to stay the violent anger growing inside them. They loved their Will and chose to give it free reign, lashing out at the world that hurt them.

The Bible is very clear that the Church is the key to world peace. “Wars and rumors of war” and all that is ugly will be and is the characteristic of the last days. However, at the same time, there has always been a direct relationship between the Church getting right with God and the neighborhood getting cleaned up. Think about all the great RE-vivals. It’s when Christians repented.

GOD’S PEOPLE are supposed to turn. God’s people are supposed to humble themselves…(wait–didn’t we just see the connection between humbling ourselves and putting Will to rest? Yes! Philippians 2!)

…God’s people seeking God’s face with confession and repentance…this is the If/Then of social healing.

You know what I’m saying. You’ve seen hypocrites in your very church. You know the hypocrisy that hides in your heart, that few people see. It starts with Will.

We love Will. But the Will we should love more is God’s Will. That’s the one that’ll bring peace to your neighborhood, your city, your nation.

If we want to see school shootings go down, rise up o Church arise. If we want to see abortions and social disasters relieved, rise up o Church arise. Put aside Will.*

Suggestions for Putting Will to Rest:
  1. Humble Yourself:  Confess that you love your Will more than you love God’s Will. Name specific times that you disregarded clear Scripture in favor of your Will. Dwell on the justice of God, where your stubborn preference proves your guilt in his sight; dwell on the great kindness of God to forgive you in Christ’s name. Thank the Lord that Christ lived with a submissive will on your behalf, and that by faith this obedience has become yours.
  2. Pray: that God would put you in a situation where you are forced to let go of Will for the sake of God’s good plans. Ask him to test you until you learn to do this naturally, regularly, and faithfully.
  3. Seek God’s Face: Do a word study in Scripture on “the will of God;” make a list of stories or parables in the Gospels where Christ teaches or models the submission of the will.
  4. Confess: Make a list of people with whom your Will contests. Ask for forgiveness for the ungodly practice of loving your Will more than loving God’s way. Pray for opportunities to give-in and serve them instead of fighting to win.
  5. Turn from Wickedness: If you do not recognize your disobedience as wicked, you have not truly repented and turned and sought God’s face. Idolatry is putting something in place of God. If you are protecting Will, you are worshipping Will.
  6. Repent: To ensure you do not forget, but truly are moving into a new way of life, post one or all of the verses above on your bathroom mirror or car dashboard to memorize and to meditate on daily. Date this every Monday to keep track of your faithfulness.

My prayer is that you will be able to do this. I am going to try, and I feel already that it’s not going to be fun. But it may bring peace. It will bring peace.

______

What about you? Any ways you can suggest for us to put Will to Rest at the Throne of God?

*note: Through this posting it should be clear that Will is our selfish desires to do what is good for us primarily. I am not referring to the WILL of the “freewill” debate.

R.C., Me and the Maverick Molecule

When I met R. C. Sproul, I was spanking new to this theology thing.
We were at Westminster Seminary in California, it must have been 1996, and had just finished an evening seminar on the Providence of God. I came after work to join Fikret for R.C.’s class on God’s rule over the universe, and how it kept human responsibility and culpability but did not allow for free will.
 
In the lecture he explained to us his famous analogy of the Maverick Molecule. But I still was not convinced.
 
After class I waited for my turn to speak with him and told him this sovereignty thing doesn’t work.  “Look at Ezekiel 33:11 and 2 Peter 3:9,” I said.
 
He explained how we have to look at context. Ezekiel was speaking to Israel…and he went into detail about that passage. Then he said the “everyone” of 2 Peter 3:9 has to mean something that coincides with the rest of Scripture.
 
I stopped him mid-thought. I said, “You can’t twist words to make the Bible say what you want it to say.”
 
The people around us gasped. I really had no idea who R.C. Sproul was. All I thought was “this guy” is disregarding those verses for the sake of his idea.
 

“I’M NOT TWISTING WORDS….”

…I can still hear his raised-voice (but humored) appeal echoing through the years.
 

Quite the contrary. That arrogant snipe I was got struck with the non-existence of the maverick molecule. And R.C.’s teaching got lodged into our hearts and minds.

 

We soaked up tape series after tape series, graduating to video tapes. Eventually we got the DVDs and kept learning more and more of the God R.C. had been trying to tell us about. The God who IS. And HOW he is.

 

They talk about ships that pass in the night. One moment in time forever changing me and my husband. It was a slow change, but this was the moment. For me at least. Lucky Fikret had full-time of this amazing thing at Westminster Seminary with other teachers like Peter Jones and John Frame and Robert Godfrey.

Me, I had R.C. Sproul. Until I met John Gerstner a few years ago.

Ships that pass in the night, but he gave some precious cargo. For that–for his being ready and willing to be used by God for dispersing that cargo–I am eternally grateful to God.

I am not the only one who is writing today about R.C. I am reading over and over of other people whose stories were like mine.  The way he chose to live his life really changed the world.

Benjamin Franklin once said,

“If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.”

R.C. Sproul’s life and death reminds me of this. His principle of working as long as it is today is summarized in these loaded words:

“I’ll retire when they pull my cold dead fingers off my Bible.”

May we all be as diligent. May we all invest ourselves in such a way. Ten-fold. So when the Lord returns he says to us:

“Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with little, I will put you in charge of much” (Matt 25:23).

 

Luther, the Blue Portal & the Pea-Green Coat Guy, Final Episode

THE SECRET OF ZEFF

Episode 8

by s. nicole böcek
Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
2017 and AD 33

Amber’s Rules to Live By #354: If a Pea-Green Coat Guy climbs in your window, it might mean something big is going to change in the world.

—–

Amber is rolling out a circle of dough for the top crust of apple pie. She looks at her time-travel watch. People will be here for Thanksgiving in five hours still. Plenty of time.

“Honey, don’t forget to cut out little leaves to put on top of the pie crust.” Mother hands her the small leaf-shaped cookie-cutter.

She wipes her loose hair back with her shoulder and rolls the dough again, to make sure it is even.

An urgent knock on the door takes her attention.

“Mom, my hands are in dough. Can you get it?”

A minute later, Lacey is in the room. Lacey pulls Amber in a hug. “I had no idea,” she whispers. “Thank you so much.”

Amber hugs her friend back, trying to keep her hands from making handprints on her friend.

“Thank you for what?”

“For inviting me to church. And to Bible study. Oh, everything!”

Amber grins. “That’s great. I’m so glad you’re enjoying it.”

Lacey holds up her phone. “I need to show you something. It’s about Thanksgiving. Can you—can you finish the pie later?”

Mother nods and takes the rolling pin out of Amber’s hands. Amber washes, then dries her hands and goes up into her room with Lacey. They sit on the bed and Lacey starts typing something into her phone.

Amber cringes. Not Candy Crush again.

“Okay. Listen.” A familiar horse-trotting sound comes into the room with a little song. She knows this. It’s the White Horse Inn!

“Have you been listen—“

“Shhh. Listen. He says it right away.”

They turn their attention to the podcast. Michael Horton is saying, “In the Bible we learn that God’s Word alone delivers salvation to us. Sola Scriptura. A salvation that is by God’s initiative and grace alone. Sola Gratia. Through faith alone. Sola Fide. In Christ alone. Sola Christo. So that God may receive all the glory. Soli Deo Gloria.

Amber smiles, remembering Augustine and Luther and Calvin themselves talking with her about these principles. Lacey’s finger is still raised to keep Amber from speaking.

A few minutes later Michael Horton is speaking again about the glory of God, “Idolators lay their gifts at the feet of their speechless idols. And many professing Christians in the world turn God into an idol they think they can pacify and control. This is good news for image bearers who are weary of trying to earn God’s favor.”

Lacey pauses the podcast, and grabs something out of her pocket. She wipes her tears with a tissue.

“That’s me. That’s been me. I’ve been thinking like that. And I’m that weary person. I’m so tired of trying to be as good as my mom. But that’s not what God wants. He said it at the beginning. God’s word alone delivers salvation. And it’s in Christ.”

Amber put her arm around her friend.  Lacey leans into Amber and wipes her nose.  “Wait. Another thing. Right away. At like the seventh minute. Hold on.”

Lacey and Amber listen to the podcast, and Amber notices her watch begin to glow.

That’s the whole story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. God wants to be with us. But he can’t without destroying us because of his holiness and our sin. And so he takes on our humanity. Without sin. Comes into our world. Takes on our impurity, carries it off like the scapegoat, comes out the other end in the Resurrection, alive—as the first fruits of the New Creation.”

“What is this podcast, Amber? Every minute is like pumpkin pie with whipped cream. A feast. Really. He even mentions that here. Listen.”

Michael Horton’s voice raises in joy, “But what can we say in response to this but live a life of thanksgiving and gratitude—pointing everybody in the world to God in Jesus Christ.

Amber laughs. She had also been listening more over the past weeks since she first had heard about it. Yes. Perfect for Thanksgiving Day.

Lacey hugs Amber again. “Thank you. For inviting me to church. For still inviting me when I only wanted to play Candy Crush. What was I doing with my life? When there is a Bible like this to read, why would I waste my moments on that?”

Amber shrugs her shoulders. “A new friend I met,” Zeff, she says to herself, “showed me that I should not just live my life for myself, either. And I wanted you to know Jesus.”

“These have been the best days of my life. Ever. What a perfect Thanksgiving Day!”

~~~

Amber closes the curtains and changes her clothes out of her Thanksgiving outfit. Her stomach is stuffed. It feels good to change into sweats. She hangs the clothes up and catches a glimpse of the pea-green coat. Pulling it out, she lays it on her bed and stares at it. Zeff. The curtains rustle. Amber looks just in time to see the Pea-Green Coat Guy come into her room. He grins, runs over to Amber, and pulls her into a hug. Amber is a bit shocked at first but then she smiles and pats his back.

“You did it,” Zeff whispers, pulling back.

“I think I understand. But I’m not sure.”

“Lacey is…or will be…my mother. And she became a Christian because of what you did.”

“I hate to disagree with you, but she became a Christian because of what Christ did. Solus Christus. Do you forget?”

“RIght. You’re right. But God uses people. And he used you to get her the gospel. So thank you so much. Mission accomplished.”

“It was fun,” Amber says, looking up at him. “I’d gladly do it again. You probably want your coat.”

She hands it to him and he pulls it on.

“But what was with all those dates? Why didn’t you just ask me?”

Zeff crosses his arms, grinning down at Amber.

“Who are you?” she asks.

“I am also a Reformer. But from the future. I was here to reform you.”

“So that’s why you had me meet Luther and Calvin and Wycliffe and Bunyan.”

“The Bible says the truth sets you free. And you needed to find the freedom of that truth.”

“That makes sense,” Amber laughs. “I was so tied-up inside, and was afraid to tell her, afraid of what she’d say, of her rejecting me. But actually the truths those men told me made sharing Jesus the most natural thing.”

When she says the name of Jesus her heart began to race. The watch had been glowing since she had been listening to White Horse Inn. Zeff starts to grin. Zeff glances at the watch on her wrist.

“I know what you’re going to say.”

Amber sighs, looking down at the watch. Maybe…just maybe…maybe it will work this time.

“You want to go to Jesus one more time?”

Amber nods emphatically.

“It will work one last time. I’ll be waiting here.”

Amber twists in the date AD 33. The watch’s blue light stops flashing. Despair settles in Amber’s mind after a few moments pass. Then, the world spins. Yes! Yes!

Amber looks excitedly up at Zeff and then down at the watch again. The blue dome surrounds her and everywhere goes dark.

Amber wakes up. It’s bright. She’s on the side of a hill. Several people are sitting around and there’s a man in the middle. Jesus! Amber bites her lip but approaches him. Jesus turns around and looks down at Amber, smiling. Amber takes a deep breath, her heart beating violently against her chest.

“I’ve been waiting to talk to you for so long!” Amber says, her whole face glowing. “Since I saw you on the Emmaus Road I’ve been wanting to come back. I tried every day. But I finally told Lacey, Jesus!”

A disciple comes up to them and gently tries to push Amber away.

“I’m sorry for her disturbance, Lord” he says. “Come, girl. Away from the Master.”

“Why are you bothering this young woman? She has done a beautiful thing. Let her be,” Jesus gently rebukes him.

The disciple nods and takes a step back. Amber’s eyes are shining as she looks up at Jesus.

“I told Lacey,” she breathes, eyes wide, “I took her to church and I gave her a Bible and she said she’s going to read it every day and…” She notices the crowd pressing in. She only has a few seconds left with him. “…and she loves her Bible, Jesus. Oh, and she listens to White Horse Inn! Jesus, I’m so thankful for you! You did this for her…” Amber trails off, too excited to say anything else.

“Well done, my good and faithful Amber,” Jesus says, his shining face on her. He stands up and places his hand on her cheek. “I’ll be back soon.” He winks at her and turns to face the people. Her heart clenches excitedly at the thought of his return.

Hundreds of people are crowded around them. Jesus leads them to the top of the hill, then turns to face the people. Amber bites her lip, watching him intently. He outstretches his arms.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” he says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

As he is speaking, a mist floats around Him and His feet rise from the ground. He slowly ascends into heaven. Amber feels tears in her eyes as she watches him go. She wipes her eyes and sniffs. Jesus fades away into the sky. All is silent. A blue light surrounds her, pulsing in her ears. The disciples are gone and the ancient countryside. Everywhere is dark.

Amber wakes up in her room. Zeff is sitting on the bed, waiting for her.

“Go where you needed to go?” he asks, looking over at her.

Amber sighs and unstraps the watch from her wrist. She stares at it for a few seconds and then hands it to Zeff.

“Yes,” she said, nodding.

“Thanks, Amber. You’ve been a great help.”

Zeff gives her one last hug and then fades away as well. Amber can hear the neighbor dog barking and the birds chirping. The leaves rustle in the wind. Taking out her Bible, Amber lays down on her bed and begins to read Psalm 138:

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.

All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
for great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

THE END

HAPPY THANKSGIVING
from Amber, Zeff, Lacey, and S. Nicole Bocek

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Luther, the Blue Portal & the Pea-Green Coat Guy, Episode 7

by s. nicole böcek
Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
2017 and 1666

 

What most of us do not realize is we are either slaves to our idol factories or friends of God.

—–

Amber traces the outline of Martin Luther onto the pumpkin. Nonetheless, she continues. After finishing the outline, Amber puts the pencil down and takes the paper off. This looks nothing like Luther. Amber grasps the knife. Just as she begins the carving out process, her phone rings. Wiping her hands on a towel, she looks at the caller ID. Lacey. Amber taps the answer button and presses the phone to her ear.

“Hey, Lace,” Amber chirps.

“Yo,” Lacey says.

“What’re you up to?”

“Nothing much. You?”

“I’m carving a pumpkin.” Amber hesitates. Invite her. Now. “Say…are you doing anything on Wednesday?”

“Um, wait a second. Let me check my schedule,” Lacey says.

There’s a moment’s silence and then Lacey comes back.

“Nope. I’m free. Why?” she says.

“Would you like to—” Amber’s face flushes red, “Would you like to come to Bible Study with me?”

There’s another long silence. Amber waits for what feels like an eternity.

“You know…I just remembered I actually have a Candy Crush tournament with an online friend…um…maybe another Wednesday?” Lacey says hesitantly.

Amber’s heart aches, but she says nothing of the brush-off. “Okay.”

They talk of unimportant things, then Lacey says bye and hangs up. Amber groans, wanting to bang her head on the table. Once again, guilt overwhelms her but she tries to shove it down and continue carving. Gah, this looks nothing like him.  I need a break.

Amber sets the knife down and enters in the next date. 1666, Bedford England.

Amber appears on all fours in an alleyway on a wet puddle. It’s dark. She lifts her hand, catching the scent of metal. Amber stands up and walks away, wiping her hands on her jeans. Something trips her and Amber sprawls on the ground. Scrambling to my feet, Amber notices it’s a body. What? The body isn’t moving. The sharp, metallic smell only becomes stronger.

“Stop where you are!” a loud voice rings out. “Murderer! Murderer!”

Amber freezes.

“Put your hands up!”

Amber puts her hands up, confusion filling her mind. What’s going on? What’s happening? Why is there a body? There is no where to run, and she is still in shock.

The men tie her hands together and lead her away. Dawn is breaking and Amber sees her hands and jeans covered in blood. Bile rises to her throat but she swallows it down.

“Where are you taking me?” she whispers, hands shaking.

Her legs feel weak.

“You’re going to jail,” the man growls. “How could such a young thing like you be such a heartless murderer?”

“I-I didn’t do anything!” Amber protests, struggling a little.

The man jerks Amber into a small building.

“Lock her up with the others,” someone orders.

Amber is taken downstairs and to a prison. The man opens a cell door and shoves her in. There’s already a man inside, sitting at a desk and writing down something in a book. I’m sick of this. Amber sits down in the corner and groans. The man at the desk glances at her.

“Are you okay, miss?” he asks.

“They think I killed that guy. No, I’m not okay. And my name’s Amber,” she added, not bothering to ask for his name.

“I’m John Bunyan.”

Amber nods and looks at the high small window. The bars are thick.

I gotta get out of here and find—

The man’s name sinks into her mind. She gazes back at him, eyes wide.

“John Bunyan?”

“Yes, that’s what I said.”

“The author of Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan?”

Bunyan gives Amber a confused look. He glances at his writing and back to her.

Why would the Pea Green Coat Guy—Zeff—want me to meet John Bunyan?

This was uncanny. Last year for Thanksgiving Mother had given her a really nice old-looking copy of the book.

“I hope you will treasure this story, Amber,” she had said.  “For the early settlers of America, that book was second to the Bible. It came out just after Plymouth was settled.”

And hadn’t Father said that the truths of the Reformation were wrapped up in that little allegory? Does Zeff know about this?

Bunyan interrupts her thoughts. “You know of my story? May I ask how? As far as I know, it’s still in my head and on my desk.”

“Uh—“ I’ve gotta change the subject!

“Word…gets…around?” She looked at her watch. Is this about Lacey?

“Sir?” Amber sits up.

Bunyan looks at her. 

“You’re a pastor, right?”

“Yes, I am. The pastor of Bedford church.”

“So…I guess, in light of your book…what would you say about my friend Lacey? I want her to know about Jesus. And I feel guilty about not telling her. But all she does is sit around and play Candy Crush on her phh—ph…” Amber catches herself. “You know, Candy Crush.”

Bunyan stares at her and clears his throat.

“So she is a confectioner?”

“A what?”

“Making desserts? Candy?”

Amber blanches.

“Her work gets in the way. I understand what you mean. She ignores her soul.”

“Exactly! She thinks she’s good enough for God.”

“In that case, if I were to categorize her, I’d say she’s like a fellow I know, named Ignorance. Or maybe like Civility.”

She strains her mind to recall.

“Let me tell you my story,” he starts, putting his quill down.

She nods, settling in place on the ground.

“There is a man with a terrible burden on his back. His name is Christian. He lives in the City of Destruction with his wife and two kids…”

Amber listens intently to him talk of the scroll and the burden, even though she already knows the story. His voice is full of energy.

“…Christian meets up with another man on a hill. This man’s name is Mr. Worldly Wise. He tells Christian that there is an easier way to get rid of his burden. The way is by going up to a city where a man named Mr. Civility can cut the burden off. Do you know what’s wrong with this?”

Amber nods. “There can only be one way to get the burden off. Christian has to go all the way to the Place of Deliverance. ‘Cause there, God will forgive him and his burden will roll away.”

Bunyan smiles. “You sound like you’ve read my manuscript. But yes. However, instead, Christian goes off the path. He goes toward the city on the mountain. Your friend, Lacey, is climbing that impossible mountain.”

Amber tilts her head, chin on her hand.

“She is letting the world carry her away to a place of destruction.”

Nodding, Amber recalls the story. “The door in the hillside.”

“On the other hand, she could be like Ignorance. He keeps walking the path, though Christian tries to tell him he needs to have a scroll, which he will get at the cross. But he disregards the warning, and denies he needs it.”

“That’s her, too! She doesn’t know. Not really. And she’s satisfied with just moving on without thinking about it.”

“Sweet sister, without Jesus, your friend will not be let in to the Celestial City. She will have a rude awakening on that day, unless—”

“I know,” she replied. “Unless I help her to understand.”

Amber stands up, worry for her friend overwhelming her. “I have to tell her!”

Bunyan smiles again. “Guilt is not what pushes us to share with our friends, Amber. Paul said, ‘the Love of Christ compels us.’”

“Thank you!” Amber shakes Bunyan’s hand. “It’s like light. Shining in darkness.”

“Right.” The world spins around her and the cell disappears. Amber appears back in her room.

Oh no! Pastor Bunyan saw me disappear! I hope he’ll think it was a dream.

“Dad! Dad!” She runs downstairs. Her mind is filled with the adventures of the past weeks. Father is listening to a radio talk-show, so he holds up a finger for a moment as he pauses his smartphone. She overhears someone say,

“The heart of fallen man is an idol factory. The desire to worship is still there. We’ve turned away from the one who created us to things and creatures, even to ourselves.”

The words make her stop. “Daddy, what did he mean? Idol factory. What’s that?”

“Calvin said that. The White Horse Inn is just talking about how we all worship—but what we worship depends on what we know about Truth.”

His words pierce to the heart. “I want Lacey to know Truth, Daddy.”

“Have you prayed for her?”

She shakes her head, no.

“I’ve invited her to Bible Study on Wednesday, but she’s too busy with Candy Crush. She preferred a Candy Crush tournament to going to church with me.”

“You see the idol factory at work?”

“How do we change her heart? How can we get her to listen?” She chews on her lip then adds, “You know how Ignorance in Pilgrim’s Progress didn’t listen to Christian? It’s like she just won’t hear me.”

“Only God can change her heart.” He pulls her to his arms. “Can I pray with you for Lacey?”

“And pray for me. I’ve been nervous about telling her.”

They spend a few minutes praying for Lacey. When they are done, she pulls her phone out and calls Lacey and Father turns his talk-show back on.

“What’s up?” Lacey asks when she picks up.

“Lacey, would you like to come to church with me on Sunday?” Amber asks, this time not feeling timid in asking, hoping God will speak to her heart.

“Why do you keep inviting me?” Lacey asks.

The answer was clear. “I want to share with you the most important thing in my life.”

“Wow.” There’s a pause and then some rustling.

“I’ll have to check with my parents.” Lacey begins. “If they say yes, then sure. I’ll do that. And I’ll ask if I can come to Bible Study tomorrow. Candy Crush can wait.”

“Thanks,” Amber smiles and her heart throws out a thanks to God. “I promise, you won’t regret it.” She runs back downstairs, grabs an apple, and finishes listening to the White Horse Inn radio show with Father.

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Luther, the Blue Portal, & the Pea-Green Coat Guy, Episode 6

by s. nicole böcek
Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
2017 and 1382

 

For light to shine, you’ve got to turn it on in spite of the darkness.

—–

Amber watches as her friend taps away at her phone.

“You’re always on your phone,” Amber comments.

“You’re always on my nerves,” Lacey retorts.

Amber chuckles and grabs Lacey’s phone.

“Hey!”

Amber’s eyes narrow. “This is what you get when you ignore me.”

Lacey grabs her phone back and looks down at the screen. Amber feels pressure on her shoulders. Tell her. Invite her to church or something. Tell her, the words echo in her head. Ignoring her conscience, Amber stays silent. She waits for a few more seconds and then stands up.

“Gotta go, Lace,” she says.

Lacey nods. “Okay, see you.”

Amber walks home and twists her watch around, putting in the date 1382.

The world swirls around in blue and green light, then it goes dark.

Amber opens her eyes to find herself in a town. It’s dark and bats are flying around. There are footsteps.

Amber ducks into the porch of an empty looking house and presses against the wall, watching as a crowd of people with torches pass by. “We’ve got to find him!” one angry man growls.

She is about to come out of the shadows but she hears something upstairs.

It sounds like scrawling noises. Amber opens a door next to her and sneaks up the rickety wooden staircase. She sees a man sitting at a desk. Books surround him. Amber takes another step forward but the step is squeaky and the man turns around, catching sight of Amber.

He leaps up, surprised.

“What! Where’d you come from?”

I’m dead.

The man looks down at Amber with a frown.

“Who are you?”

Amber is about to faint. She turns to run back down the steps.

“Wait. Are you okay?” he asks, pouring a cup of water for her.

“Uh…yeah, I’m okay,” Amber nods,  going up the last step and taking the water he offers.

“What are you doing here?” the man frowns. “Are you one of them?”

“I—uh—I…” Amber trails off, swallowing.

“It was those bats, right?” he sighs, “they always scare people.”

Amber pulls her sweater over her watch. “What are you writing?” Amber asks, changing the topic.

The man sits back down at his desk and gazes at his books and papers, a hint of pride in his eyes. “I am translating the Holy Scriptures into English.”

Amber nearly squeals but she holds her breath and calms herself down. She looks down at the papers. “Isn’t that dangerous?” she asks, “Like, illegal?” She strains her brain to remember the man’s name. Who translated the Bible into English in 1382?

He stares at her. “Will you turn me in? I thought you were them.”

Amber shakes her head. “Me? No way!”

The man smiles. “What is your name, child?”

“I’m Amber.”

“And I’m John Wycliffe.”

“Wycliffe? Why you’re famous!”

He stares down at the papers again. “Infamous, more like. To answer your question. Yes, it is dangerous. Very dangerous and illegal. But it will be worth it.”

“What do you mean, worth it?” Amber tilts her head.

Wycliffe clears his throat and points down to the book. “Christ and His Apostles taught the people in the language best known to them. It is certain that the truth of the Christian faith becomes more evident the more faith itself is known. Therefore, the doctrine should not only be in Latin but in the vulgar tongue.”

“I just find it hard to think that you are willing to do something dangerous. Do you mean the police will arrest you?”

“More like the Inquisition. They don’t like people reading the Bible themselves. But I firmly believe, as the faith of the church is contained in the Scriptures, the more these are known in a true sense the better. The laity ought to understand the faith, and as doctrines of our faith are in the Scriptures, believers should have the Scriptures in a language which they fully understand.”

Amber blinks and then nods in slow realization. “I read my Bible everyday, actually. My father reads it to us.”

“You already have a Bible?” At his surprised look, she starts to backpedal. The Bible’s not in English yet, stupid! You’re messing with history.

“I mean. The stories. Yes. The stories. He tells us stories from the Bible. About Abraham and David and Jesus. Things like that.”

He chews on his lip, but his face is still twisted in confusion.

“You speak as if my dream has come real. I wish this exact thing—fathers freely reading the Bible to their children. Your father is blessed to have access to Scripture. People should tell the stories to their friends. Not just the stories. The gospel. Do you know the gospel?”

“Well sure! In Christ alone we can be reconciled to God. By his righteousness, not our own deeds.”

“Exactly. You are a strange child.”

A noise outside draws Wycliffe’s attention. He pulls his papers into a stack and collects his writing utensils.

“Come what may, Amber, you should not hesitate to spread this gospel to those who understand you. So many people are lost in superstition and fear.”

Wycliffe’s gaze pierces into Amber. “Why do you cringe when I say this? Do not hesitate or run from giving the Truth to anyone close to you, Amber. Do not be ashamed.”

Amber stares at him and then nods in agreement.

I have to tell Lacey. I can’t run from this. I don’t want her to face God’s wrath alone because of my hesitation.

“How do I do that?” Amber asks after a minute’s pause. “I want to tell my friend, Lacey. But I don’t know what to say to her that won’t sound weird.”

“Show her your father’s Bible. Obtain a reliable text, help her understand the logic of Scripture, compare the parts of Scripture with one another, maintain an attitude of humble seeking, and receive the instruction of the Spirit,” Wycliffe instructs.

Some loud footsteps trample on the stairs. In a swift move, Wycliffe slides his books and papers into a basket, opens a secret door in the wall, and steps into it. He holds his finger to his mouth and closes the door softly.

Amber turns around to face the men throwing open the door.

“Where is he?” they demand, grabbing Amber by the neck of her shirt.

“Who? What? I don’t understand.” She squirms out of their grasp and runs out the door.

“Catch her! She knows where Wycliffe went!” they shout.

She darts outside and, just in time, the world spins around her.

The English town disappears and she’s back home.

Amber feels even more burdened than before. First, Calvin, now Wycliffe. Look what they risk for the faith to not die out. You can’t be ashamed of this, Amber! Just tell Lacey! Just tell her!

Amber sits on her bed and groans, wiping her face with her hands. A whole life depended on her. Two whole lives.

Somehow Zeff is connected with Amber. Maybe she really names her son Zeff. Amber opens the closet and takes the coat out. He still hasn’t come. If Zeff is her son from the future, his life is tied to hers. Maybe that is what he meant!

Amber, in anger, opens the window. “Hey, I got your coat!” she shouts into the dark, night air. No one except a wandering policeman hears her.

“That’s not my coat,” he says.

Amber blushes. “Oh. Sorry.”

She closes her window and puts the coat back into her closet. Why me? Why me? Why didn’t Zeff choose someone else? Ugh!

So many people are lost in superstition and fear. Wycliffe’s words come back to her. Lacey is lost. In the dark.

Amber sits back on her bed and cries.

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Luther, the Blue Portal & the Pea-Green Coat Guy, Episode 5

by s. nicole böcek
Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
2017 and 1517

 

Sometimes you have to open your mouth to change the world.

Amber holds tight onto the coat as the world spins around her.

The Pea-Green Coat Guy, Seth, stops struggling to free his coat.

The world goes dark and then everything is bright again. She has arrived. But where? And when?

Amber opens her eyes and realizes he is gone. The coat guy is gone, slipping away and leaving his pea-green coat in her hands.

The air is chilly, so Amber wraps the coat around herself and begins to look around. The place is similar to 1522.

So where am I now? She looks down at her watch. 1517. Well Seth—or whatever his name is—is here, and I’ve got to find him.

Hesitantly, she approaches a vendor. “Excuse me,” she says.

The vendor scans Amber’s coat and then looks into her face.

“Yes?” he leans forward. “Wanna buy an indulgence?”

“A what? Where am I?” Amber cringes at her question.

The man snorts.

Yeah, I get it, stupid question.

“Wittenburg.” He points at the center of town.

“Thanks,” Amber turns around, studying her surroundings. Wittenburg.

In the center of town is a large church with a wooden door. Several people mill about, reading notices on the door and talking. Then Amber notices a man striding up to the church.

He’s wearing a long black cloak. And he seems familiar. She’s seen him before. In his hand is a long paper and in the other a hammer.

She knows who it is! She’d seen him from the rafters! Amber watches him set the paper on the church’s wooden door, on top of other notices, and then pound a nail through it.

This is the moment! This is Luther and the Wittenburg Church door! The Ninety-five Theses! She feels like she is going to faint. This is that historic moment!

Luther steps back and looks at his paper. Then, with a nod to himself he walks away.

She moves forward to talk to him but then suddenly two men behind him approach the 95 Theses. One of them is wearing a high hat. They study it and next thing she knows, they tear the paper off the nail.

She stands, frozen in her track.

What?! They are undoing it! They are undoing the Reformation!

The men start running away with it.

No! They can’t do that! Amber watches the, mouth wide open. No! The world will be destroyed if they take that! What will the world be without the Reformation? I’ve got to stop them!

She starts to run and trips on the long bottom of the pea-green coat hanging down around her ankles. She falls face-forward into the mud.

Her front is filthy now. She looks up just in time to see the men turn a corner. So Amber picks up the hem of her coat and takes off helter-skelter after them.

“Stop! Thief!” she cries. Nobody seems to notice.

Amber shoves through the crowd and turns the corner, catching sight of the high hat again.

Hurry! The Reformation has to happen! If the people of Wittenburg don’t see this paper, they’ll never know about Jesus, Augustine, Calvin, any of them!

She trips over the coat and sprawls on the ground, landing in mud again. She ignores the mushy grossness and stands up again, dodging around a horse. The world depends on people reading that paper!

The men go into a small house. Amber catches up to them, panting hard, and flings the door open. The four people inside look up in surprise.

She brushes off the mud on her front, knowing how ridiculous she looks.

“Y-you can’t—” Amber wheezes, “You can’t take the 95 Theses! Put it back! The world will be destroyed if you throw it away!”

There is silence for a few seconds and then the man on the left begins laughing, the others joining in quickly. Amber just stands there, very confused.

“I mean it!” she says, stomping her foot.

The man on the right finally stops laughing.

“We absolutely agree with you. This is world-changing.”

“We’re not destroying this, child,” says the second man, pointing to a large machine. “We’re going to make copies of it with the printing press so everyone can see it.”

The printing press! That’s right. Amber feels weak with relief. She leans against the doorframe, trying to catch her breath. Thank goodness. Thank you Lord.

“Thank you,” Amber mouths, closing her eyes.

There’s that familiar wind in the air, blue silence, and then the loud noise of the lawn mower.

Amber blinks, opening her eyes. She’s back in the garage. The door opens and Father steps through.

“Amber?” he looks down at her, confused.

“Hey, Dad,” Amber waves.

“What are you doing in the garage?”

“Uh…” Amber looks around and grabs a can of gold colored spray paint. “This.”

“What are you going to do with it?”

“Spray-paint a leaf I found.”

“Uhm…” Dad tilts his head and then shrugs. “Okay then. Have fun.”

Tilting his head he looks at her muddy green coat.  “Where’d…How…” he starts to say, but he looks at her face then changes his mind. “Oh, never mind.”

Amber slides around him and hurries to her room.

She shuts the door, tosses the muddy coat off and onto the floor, and flops on the bed.

Dad probably can tell I’m feeling bad.

It is more than embarrassment in her heart. More than feeling silly telling some grown men to put back Luther’s Theses. It is a worry. A growing concern in her heart. What if Luther had never nailed that to the church door? What if Augustine had never spoken? What if Calvin had never spoken? The world changed because they did not keep silent.

But I am silent. This is why I feel bad. I want to share my faith with Lacey.

She fingers the corner of the pillow, a sense of guilt overwhelming her. But I can’t…it’s embarrassing. Lacey will laugh at me. I’ll be shamed.

Guilt burdens Amber down like metal chains.

But I have to! She groans, hiding her face in her hands.

I can’t. I don’t want to. A tear slips down Amber’s cheek. Ugh! Since when did this get so hard?! I can’t do this…

Amber decides to pick up her room instead of moping. She gets as far as picking up the coat. She studies it and gasps. Grasping the tag, she reads the name again, eyes widening.

ZEFF.

Amber scratches the back of her neck and drops the coat on her bed.

Zeff? Grabbing her phone, she texts Lacey.

Are you really serious about the name Zeff?

Lacey’s response is almost immediate.

Oh yes! Most definitely! I’m gonna name my kid Zeff someday.

Amber turns her phone off and stares at the coat.

This coat belongs to Seth. Not Zeff. Unless Calvin mispronounced the name.

She sighs and picks the coat up, shaking off the dried mud outside the window then hanging it in her closet.

If Zeff, or Seth, wants his coat back, he’s going to have to come and get it. Then maybe I can get some answers.

Amber finishes her room and goes down to dinner, peeking at the next date as she walks down the stairs.

1382.

That’s a hundred years before Columbus! I wonder who lives then?

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Luther, the Blue Portal & the Pea-Green Coat Guy, Episode 4

 

by s. nicole böcek
Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
2017 and 1536

We always hope that the last time we see someone isn’t the last time we see someone…

“Mom! I’m going out with Lacey,” Amber yells up the stairs.

There is a moment of silence and then footsteps on the steps as Mother comes down.

“Where are you going?” Mother asks.

Amber sighs. “To the mall. But her mom is stopping by their church first.”

Mother frowns a bit, “Isn’t her family Mormon?”

Amber nods.

“Are they going to their church for classes or teaching?

“No. I don’t think so.” Amber hopes her mother doesn’t stop the plan.

Mother sighs. “Well, alright. Just be home before lunch.”

Amber nods and tromps outside to meet her friend at the pond. After a few minutes, she arrives and sees Lacey waiting on the bench, tapping away at her phone. Amber stealthily sneaks up to her and grabs Lacey’s shoulders. Lacey yelps, dropping her phone. Laughing, Amber slides into the bench next to her friend.

“Filthy Hobbitses,” Lacey hisses good-naturedly, bending over and grabbing her phone.

“Ah, gets you every time,” Amber grins. “How’s life?”

Lacey smiles. “Great. But I’m just stuffed with cookies. I brought you some.” She hands Amber a sandwich bag with chocolate chip cookies.

“Wow. Thanks!” Amber starts eating one right away.

Lacey looks down at her phone and then out at the pond. “My mom made them for the church bake-sale. Mother’s really a good woman. And such a great person. Dad’s so pleased with her. I hope I’m half the woman she is when I grow up.”

Amber frowns, touching the edge of the bench with her fingertips.

Lacey continues to prattle on about everything her Mother did. Amber becomes uneasier by the second, especially when she hears the words, “I’m sure God is pleased with her as well.”

Luther’s words ring in her mind. “Not by works, but by grace. We are saved by grace alone.” Maybe I should say something.

But she does not know how to open the topic. “Oh,” Amber says instead, interrupting Lacey. “Have you studied for tomorrow’s chemistry test?”

Lacey rolls her eyes. “I tried. All I can remember is Zeff.”

(Zeff)

“Ugh, you’re really stuck on that word, aren’t you?” Amber snorts, remembering her science class.

 

“So what? It’s cool! It sounds sci-fi and futuristic and stuff like that!”

“Yeah, sure.”

Lacey’s mother honks the car horn and the girls climb into the back of their car. The trip to the mall is shadowed by Amber’s fearful silence about God. But gabby Lacey hardly even notices Amber’s silence. She has so much to say about other things. When they arrive home, Amber opens the car door.

“See you later, sneaky booger,” Lacey snickers.

Amber smiles and runs up the front steps.

She’s been waiting for this moment for so long now. At least when she’s time-traveling she doesn’t feel so guilty.

Going into the garage, she checks herself to make sure her clothes are normal, and then she twists the date 1536 onto the watch.

The blue portal surrounds her. This time she feels an electric buzz, and then nothing. Amber opens her eyes in the midst of falling forward. She squeals and catches herself against a door. There’s shuffling inside the room and then the door opens.

The man opening the door has a long beard and is wearing a funny hat and a long, fur-lined cloak. His eyes widen.

“I saw an ethereal glow under my door,” he whispers, “and then you knocked on my door.” His gaze roams around and then settling on Amber’s watch. “Like that blue light! What is that bracelet?”

Amber’s eyes widen. Say something! Say something! Her gaze roams into the room and she sees a bunch of papers on the desk. “Oh!” she hurries over to the papers. “Are you a writer?”

The man looks surprised for a second and then walks over to her. “Yes, I am.”

Amber looks at the papers, almost choking on her breath when she saw the name on the front page. John Calvin!

“John Calvin? The reformer?”

“Yes, I suppose I am trying to reform things. Though that is a strange word to use.”

Amber’s mind races as she looks down at the papers. Jesus. Augustine. Luther. Now Calvin! “What are you writing?”

“I am writing The Institutes of the Christian Religion,” Calvin replies, brushing his fingertips over the papers. “What’s your name, child?”

Institutes. Calvin’s Institutes…Dad always talked about those.

“Oh. Sorry. I’m Amber.” They shake hands and smile at each other.

Amber’s eyes return to the papers. “May I ask? What are they about?” Amber tilts her head a bit.

“Well…” Calvin looks down at the desk, “It’s everything about being a Christian.”

“You’ve got a lot of papers here. So, can you summarize it? Like Institutes for Dummies or something like that.”

“For dummies? Oh. Are you learning disabled?” He tipped his head and studied her, then with a laugh added. “I see. Simple terms. Okay, then. Let’s put it this way. The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.”

Amber nods, her interest piqued. The gospel should possess the whole soul and heart.

“Having then used the Law to tell us of our weakness and impurity, the Lord comforts us through trust in his power and mercy. And,” Calvin lifts his finger, “it is in Christ, his Son, that he reveals himself as being benevolent and favourably disposed to us.”

Amber scratches the back of her neck. “Favor means grace, right?”

“Yes. His grace comes through Christ. Christ alone. In the Law, God only appears as the rewarder of perfect righteousness—of which we are completely bereft—and, on the other hand, as the upright and strict Judge of sins, in Christ, his face is full of grace and gentleness, and shines on miserable, unworthy sinners.”

“That sounds nice. His face full of grace and gentleness. It reminds me of Aaron’s blessing, ‘the Lord make his face to shine upon you…’”

Calvin smiles warmly, “Exactly. For this is the admirable display of his infinite love that he gave to us: he delivered up his own son for us and, in Him, opened to us all the treasures of his mercy and goodness.”

“So, is everyone allowed to go to heaven then?”

Calvin’s slight frown and shake of his head drew her in to his words. “No man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men: neither is there any other thing which keepeth us back from entering in, save only our own belief.”

“So we must believe and call upon God. And then we can be saved. But what if we’re very good and everything? Doesn’t God expect us to be good?” Amber asks, remembering Lacey’s words about her Mom.

“Deeds do matter. But the more eminently that any one excels in holiness, the farther he feels himself from perfect righteousness, and the more clearly he perceives that he can trust nothing but the mercy of God alone. Are you following me so far?” Calvin looks down at Amber.

Amber nods. “You mean that when we realize we are sinners we lean more on God’s mercy. In a sense our good deeds should show us we are not good enough.”

“Right. As believers are every day involved in many faults, it will profit them nothing that they have once entered the way of righteousness, unless the same grace which brought them into it accompany them to the last step of life.”

“So being good is not good enough. It has to be goodness on the path of Christ.”

“Why do you call yourself a dummy? You know the gospel, my child. This is from Psalms. ‘Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.’” Calvin smiles and nods. “Psalms 32 verse 1 to be exact.”

“But how can we have perfect faith? I feel like I can never do the right thing when I should. I should have shared with Lacey about Jesus, but I didn’t… Lacey’s my friend. Her family’s Mormon.”

“Mormon? Is that in India?”

“No. It’s—It’s…”

“Never mind, Amber. You ask about perfect faith. A perfect faith is nowhere to be found, so it follows that all of us are partly unbelievers.”

“We are?”

“Yes. You see, a man will be justified by faith when, excluded from righteousness of works, he by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, and clothed in it, appears in the sight of God not as a sinner, but as righteous.”

“So if Lacey’s family believes they have to be perfect to go to heaven, they’re wrong. She has to have faith in the deeds of Jesus Christ. She has to be an actual believer in his deeds for us in order to go to heaven. But being a real believer is more about grace than deeds. Our failing good deeds prove we need Jesus. I really should tell my friend Lacey.”

“Right. You’ve got it! It’s by Christ’s deeds alone.” The reformer smiled.

“By Christ alone. By faith alone. By grace alone.”

“That’s sounds catchy!” Calvin laughs. Suddenly his attention is drawn to the doorway. “Oh! And there’s my good friend!”

Amber turns and locks gazes with the Pea-Green Coat Guy at the door, who has a giant smile on his face.

Calvin looks back at Amber. “This is my good friend Seth.”

Seth?

“Uh…I’ll catch you later,” Seth says, taking a step back and darting off down the hallway.

I can’t let him get away!

“I have to go, too,” Amber tells Calvin, pushing past the reformer and swinging around the doorway down the hall.

The patter of fast footsteps ensues until they reach downstairs. Seth darts away full speed down the waterfront.

Amber follows him, panting already. This is not going well.

Seth ducks under a cart. The donkey brays. Amber slips back and runs around the animal. Come on. Come on. You ran a marathon last year; you can do this.

Seth’s green coat is nearing. Amber pants. Hurry. Hurry.

He throws down a barrel of apples in front of her. She stumbles to avoid stepping on them.

“Hey! Who’s going to pay for those! Don’t step on my apples!”

Amber looks with apology at the angry greengrocer, but picks up speed again and with a burst of energy catches up to the green-coated young man.

“Wait!” She pants. “I just want to ask you something!”

She reaches out, almost able to touch the coat, to grab him. She has too many questions. “Why can’t you just stop?”

Just a bit more. Amber strains herself. At the last second, she slips on a rock and she’s propelled forward. Grabbing the green coat, she holds on. The coat slips off of Seth.

He makes a grab for his coat, but the world is spinning. Both of them are pulled into a glowing blue portal.

Amber feels like a ton of bricks is being pushed against her mind. Everything turned blue now goes black.

She has no idea where she has ended up this time.

She is lost in time….

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Luther, the Blue Portal & the Pea-Green Coat Guy, Episode 3

by s. nicole böcek
Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
2017 and 1522

Sometimes who you are in the inside matters more than what they think you are on the outside….

~~~

Amber walks down the sidewalk, hands in her pockets. She strolls over to the school park where her best friend, Lacey, is sitting on the monkey bars and checking her cellphone.

“Hey,” Amber smiles.

Lacey waves. “Hey. What’s up?”

“Nothing much.” If she only knew. Amber’s mind is swirling with Jesus, Augustine, and that strange pea-green coat guy.

“Hmm, nice watch! Where’d you get it?”

If she but got started, the story would never end. Amber decides against even starting. So she shrugs and sits down on the swing next to her best friend.

Lacey jumps down from the monkey bars.

“Speaking of watches! School’s going to start.” She wipes her sweaty hands on her pants.

“Let’s go then.” Amber jumps off the swing and follows her friend.

The two girls hurry to their chemistry class. The teacher, Mr. Jones, is already inside and so are the other students.

“You’re late,” the teacher says.

Amber flushes red and glances at Lacey.

“Sorry,” Lacey apologizes.

“You have missed the beginning of the lecture. Get out your notebooks. We’re talking about Zeff and its role in chemistry.”

Amber and Lacey sit down. After a few moments of listening, Lacey leans toward Amber, grinning. “Zeff is a super cool word. If I ever have a son, I’m going to name him Zeff,” she whispers.

Amber rolls her eyes. “Yeah right,” she whispers.

“I’m serious!” Lacey murmurs, incredulous.

She grabs her pen and writes in the corner of the notebook, Zeff. She surrounds the name with a heart. Laughing inwardly, Amber concentrates on listening to Mr. Jones.

The watch hums, drawing her attention. She pushes a button to try to get it to stop making noise.

“Amber?” Mr. Jones says. “If you can’t keep your watch quiet, do not wear it to school.”

“Yes, sir,” she answers. Somehow it stopped its noise.

~~~

Amber does the finishing touch of make-up on her face. She stands up and studies herself over the mirror. Practicing for Halloween, she had made fake scars and stitches on her face with make-up. Just like a zombie. She had even dyed the tips of her black hair red. Sitting on the bed, Amber grabs the watch and puts it on.

What was that next date? She thinks for a couple seconds and enters in, 1522. Someone knocks on the door. Amber lifts her hand off the watch and looks up. “Come in!”

Mother enters the room and upon seeing Amber, her happy expression falls.

“What?” Amber tilts her head.

“I thought you were going to the Reformation party,” Mother says quietly.

Amber groans and rolls her eyes. “Really mom? No way! I don’t want to be the only one in my class not going trick-or-treating.”

Mother frowns. “Honey, if you’re going to dress up, at least don’t look like death itself.”

Amber laughs. “This is the most popular fashion for Halloween. Get with the times.”

“Anyway,” Mother sighs. “Go do your chores, dear. You still have several days to decide. And don’t come to dinner with that on your face.”

Amber nods and strolls out of her room. She goes to the garage, yanking the handle of the dumpster to pull it out to the street. Noticing her brother Andrew playing with his skateboard, she chuckles to herself, chin elevated and eyes narrowed.

“He never does chores. That kid’s on his way to hell,” she murmurs, strutting down the sidewalk.

She leaves the dumpster for the trash truck and goes back into the house. Next thing she knows, she is tumbling head-over-heels. She has stepped on her loose shoelace. As she lands on the ground she falls on her wrist.

“Owww…” Amber groans.

But it’s too late. The blue light is all around her. Wha…what’s going on? The lights go out. After a couple minutes, blinding light causes Amber to close her eyes. Voices surround her and then there’s some silence.

“It’s a witch!” someone screams.

What? Who’s a witch? Amber opens her eyes and blinks, realizing the people around her are staring at her. The woman who screamed is pointing to her. Me? A witch? I’m not a witch.

“I…I’m not a—” Amber tries to protest but she perceives some men running for her.

Jerking herself to full consciousness, she shoves past some people. Women scream. Men shout. Amber’s heart rate rises.

Where am I going? What am I doing? Where am I? She trips over a stool but quickly scrambles back to her feet. The cobblestone pathway is making it hard for her to run, as well as the carts. Christmas Day, 1522. That was the last date.

A horse rears up in front of her, neighing loudly. Amber squeals and jerks herself backward to avoid the flailing hooves and falls to the ground. Two men grab hold of Amber, hauling her to her feet.

“I’m not a witch,” Amber gasps, trying to catch her breath.

“Burn her!” a woman shouts. “Look at her hideous face! Look at her clothes!”

Others agree with her. Amber looks down at her black hoodie and sweatpants.

“I’m not a…I’m not a witch! It’s my Halloween costume!” Amber says but everyone else’s voices are drowning hers out.

The two men are dragging her away. Amber feels a rush of adrenaline. She stomps hard on the left man’s foot and bites the right man’s wrist. They let go of her and she darts away again, heading for a church.

She stealthily slips inside without anyone noticing her. She hurries up some stairs to the very top of the church, to the rafters. Amber sits on the rafters, catching her breath. A voice drifts into her ear. It’s a man preaching.

Christmas morning! How could they treat me like this on Christmas! What kind of Scrooge-people are these?

“So he discards all boasted free will, all human virtue, righteousness, and good works.”

Good works. The words bring Augustine’s words to mind about the babies. Is this the reason these dates are connected? Is this why I was given the watch?

The priest continues, and Amber settles in to listen. Somehow the people she is meeting and the big words she is hearing has to do with the watch and saving that guy’s life. She concentrates.

“Paul concludes that these good works are all nothing and are wholly perverted, however brilliant and worthy they may appear, and teaches that we must be saved solely by the grace of God, which is effective for all believes who desire it from a correct conception of their own ruin and nothingness.”

What was it Jesus had said, about this same topic? She struggles to remember. How were Jesus’ words related? She can not figure it out.

“He who does not receive salvation purely through grace, independently of all good works, certainly will never secure it. Truly, then, we are saved by grace alone, without works or other merit.”

Amber’s heart finally calms down and she sits on the rafters with a pinched face, thinking about the man’s words. Not by works but by grace…?

“A witch!” A scream shakes Amber out of her thoughts. “Brother Martin, it’s a witch!”

Someone is coming up the stairs. Amber balances herself on the rafters and moves toward a window. She opens it, almost losing her balance, but she manages to right herself. Taking hold of the rooftop, Amber slowly inches herself up, closing the window behind her. Her hands are shaking.

Come on, go away. Go away. Just leave me alone. People are staring at her from below. Why is it so complicated this time?

Amber inches upward again. The wind whistles in her ear. Her hands are sweating. “Leave me alone. I’m not a witch,” she whispers. Amber rests her forehead on the roof.

Suddenly, her foot slips and she tumbles backward. It all happens so fast she has no time to scream. Feeling herself fall, she closes her eyes. Amber’s back hits the pavement and she blacks out.

Silence. Amber groans and opens her eyes. She’s lying on the pavement back at home where she had tripped. Gosh, why does my back hurt so bad? Oh…right. She stumbles to her feet, trying to gain hold of her balance.

Once Amber can stand, she slowly limps back home and up to her room. Mmphf, hurts so bad, she thinks, rubbing her leg. The man, the priest’s words come to her mind again.

They had called him Martin. Brother Martin. Grace alone. I’ve heard those words before. Dad read it to me. I think it was…I bet it was Luther preaching. Amber smiles, almost forgetting about the pain in her back. So it’s not by works that we get into heaven?

Her words from this morning come to mind. “Road to hell.” She blushes with shame, even though no one can see her. Luther had said, “These good works are all nothing and are wholly perverted, however brilliant and worthy they may appear.” 

I guess I was wrong. Andrew and I are really equal before God. It’s not by works God accepts us and saves us. It’s by grace.  Amber stands up and goes downstairs to her Mom.

“Mother?” she says, approaching her.

Mother looks down at her, frowning. “You look like a mess. What did you do?”

“Never mind that,” Amber smiles. “Mom, I think I’ve decided to go to the Reformation party next week. I’ve had enough of witches and zombies.”

Mother’s eyes widen and she stares at her daughter for a couple seconds before slowly nodding. “Oh…yes! Of course!”

Amber hugs her mom. “Thanks, Mom. Love you.”

“Love you, too,” Mother says, though still perplexed.

Behind Mother’s back, Amber unravels the yellow note. The next date is 1536.

Note to self: Amber, wear normal clothes next time.

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Luther, the Blue Portal & the Pea-Green Coat Guy, Episode 2

by s. nicole böcek
Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
2017 and AD 354

Having a journey in the middle of the night sounds exhausting, but sometimes, it’s just the way to help someone fall asleep…

~~~~~~~~~

Amber sits on the edge of her bed, fingering the watch. It is a restless night for her. All she can think about is the journey she had a couple days ago.

The surface of the watch shimmers blue, casting a light on the ceiling. Amber enters in the number AD 33, thinking, Maybe, this time…. But the blue light flashes red.

Sighing, she hunches her shoulders. She opens her laptop and skims through her online dashboard on the question and answer site Quora for her Bible homework. A question title catches her eye. Someone asks, Why do Christians say babies are evil? Amber snorts and clicks on the button to answer it.

“Babies are not evil,” she says to herself. “Everyone knows that. This is plain nonsense. What kind of Christian would say that?”

She plans out a long answer and begins writing it when something knocks on her window. Clicking the save draft option, she shuts her computer lid and looks out the window.

Nope. Nothing there. Amber returns her interest back to the watch. Should I go to the next date? She sighs. The man in the pea green coat did say his life depended on it. I wonder if he dies, will it be my fault? She didn’t want to risk that. I’d better go.

Amber looks out the window once more, and enters the date September 10, AD 354 into the watch. The blue dome comes around her, ensuing the room in darkness. Bright light flashes like an electric rainbow, and she finds herself in a stone-made room.

Amber tip-toes toward the wooden door. It is a good thing the door is already open, or Amber would have created a heck of a noise breaking the medieval-looking lock. She sneaks through the hallways, catching a glimpse of scrolls in one room. Scrolls? It’s a library! In 354? She darts in. So who am I supposed to meet here?

Amber runs her fingers along the shelf, trying to keep herself from touching the scrolls. But she can’t help herself. She opens one. Latin. Bummer. She puts it back down then hears voices coming her way. She ducks behind a shelf of the scrolls, holding her breath.

“I cannot accept this,” says a man’s voice.

“It is only truth,” says the other voice, also a man.

“Men become sinners. They are not born sinners. Consider my sweet daughter Maria. She is a mere infant. She has done nothing wrong.”

This is the topic of that Quora question!

“How can you call her a sinner, Bishop Augustine?”

Amber’s breath catches. She almost coughs but manages to hold it in. Augustine! It must be Saint Augustine! Jaynee did a presentation on him in class last month. I wonder why the Pea-green Coat Guy wants me to meet him.

Peering over the shelf, Amber sees Augustine take a deep breath and stop, facing the other man. “You speak of your infant daughter. What then was my own sin at that age? Was it perhaps that I cried so greedily for my mother’s breasts? Certainly if I behaved like that now, greedy not for breasts, of course, but for food suitable to my age, I should provoke derision and be very properly rebuked.”

Amber blushes, sinking further behind the shelf. The other man laughs and agrees with Augustine. “No sane man would consider you with respect were you to scream like that for food. Good point well made.”

A flash of green draws Amber’s attention. She looks toward the corner of the hallway; she catches a glimpse of something pea green. What? Her mind piques with interest. She cannot go over toward that corner because Augustine has stopped in the middle of the hall. Is it that guy?

“And of course the tantrums,” Augustine continues, “the actions of a child who begs tearfully for objects that would harm him if given, gets into a tantrum when free persons, older persons and his parents, will not comply with his whims, and tries to hurt many people who know better by hitting out at them as hard as his strength allows, simply because they will not immediately fall in with his wishes or obey his commands, which would damage him if carried out?”

Augustine takes a deep breath here, his chin elevated a bit, “The only innocent feature in babies is the weakness of their frames; the minds of infants are far from innocent.”

The other man lowers his head, nodding.

“And Paul said, ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.’ The law of Moses proved this to us, Ciro. The law was like a teacher to prove we are not ever able to meet God’s righteous requirements.”

“But Bishop, what of our desire to do the right thing? What of our works?”

“It is not our works. Consider that Joshua told the people in the Promised Land that they would not be able to keep the law. No. Not law. Not works. Christ brought for us this righteousness. We are justified by him alone, not by being good and avoiding sin.”

“Yes, I see your point. Even my darling Maria cannot be righteous on her own. Sin is inherent within her, just immature.”

Augustine puts his arm over his friend’s back. “Yet because of Christ, God sees us as innocent as doves. This is the gospel.”

They continue their walk down the stone hallway. Amber rises to her feet, her mind whirling. Innocent as doves? Jesus had said something about that. On Emmaus Road.

She hurries toward Augustine to ask him how, when she is surrounded in light and dark. No, no, don’t take me away from here! I want to learn more! She covers her face…

…and when the blue fades away finds herself standing in her bedroom in 2017 again. “Take me back!” she whispers.

Amber groans at the failure, wiping her face of sweat.

Why do I always get taken away at the most important moment?! She sits on her bed to consider what she saw. I guess Augustine was making sense.

Remembering the numerous times she got in trouble as a toddler, Amber blushes and looks down at the ground. I was a little rotter; and I did sin. Mom said as a baby I was a nightmare to put to bed. And I was greedy, I stole candy from her whenever she wasn’t looking.

She nods to herself. I guess I was wrong about babies sinning.

Her eyes catch the window frame and she walks over, her mind drawn back to the pea green cloth she saw in the library corridor. Was it him? Is he stalking me? How did he get there in the first place? Who is he? Amber leans out the window, wondering if he will climb through it again.

She sees no one but she can’t help feel a bit spooked out. He had given her the dates. Somehow they would save his life. But how? Jesus, Augustine. Hmm. Latching her window, she goes back to her bed and picks up the yellow paper.

The next date is December 25, 1522. Jesus’s birthday! I should try AD 33 again.

Amber flops on the bed and puts her head on her pillow. I saw Jesus! She stuffs the note under her pillow, closes her eyes remembering Jesus and Augustine. Before she knows what is happening, she falls into a peaceful slumber.

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Luther, the Blue Portal & the Pea-Green Coat Guy, Episode 1

by s. nicole böcek
2017 and AD 33

Sometimes life takes you where you don’t expect to go. When Amber woke up, she had no idea that a man in a pea-green coat would soon be crawling through her window.

But it happened….like this:

The strange man shoves a bundle into her hands. Amber’s eyes widen.

He grasps her by her shoulders. Her mouth opens to scream but no sound comes out.

“Listen,” he whispers, eyes wide. He looks down at his watch and starts trembling, “You must visit those dates. My life depends on it; do you understand?”

He looks out the window for a minute and then back at Amber.

“I need your answer.”

Just as Amber reluctantly nods, he looks at his watch again and disappears like dust flying away.

No way!

Tearing the bundle open she sees it is a piece of paper with a watch inside. On the paper is a list of dates. AD 33. AD 354. 1521.

A flashing blue light in the middle of the watch draws her attention.

I guess I’m supposed to press the activate button. His life depends on it.

A blue light surrounds her like a dome, smooth as glass. Amber types April 23, AD 33. The lights go out and she is consumed in darkness. Suddenly, a bright light startles her. When her eyes adjust, she sees three men on a road; the man in the middle is speaking.

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken,” he was saying, “Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into glory?”

The words sound familiar.

“Do you not remember what Isaiah wrote about the Messiah? Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

The tunics and cloaks they wear look like the kind in those old Bible-times movies like Ben Hur.

Ben Hur? Wait! AD 33! That’s when Jesus died.

Amber looks again at the scenario before her, her heartrate rising. She covers her mouth in shock. The man in the middle is Jesus!

That’s Jesus! I know him!

Amber rushes forward and grabs his arm.

“Jesus!”

He turns and winks at her but the other men don’t seem to notice her there. What should I say? Her heart burns inside her. It’s Jesus!

Suddenly, the world of light and dark spins around her with a glowing blue light and she finds herself in her bedroom.

Covering her face, she moans, “Oh no. I wanted to talk to Jesus.”

Fumbling with the watch, she tries to return but it is flashing red.

Please, please, let me back in. She wants to cry. I saw Jesus! Take me back!

I should tell my parents. Will they even believe me? What is this watch?

She heads downstairs to the kitchen.

“This year is the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation,” Amber’s father announces.

Amber scratches the back of her neck. Why did that guy want me to see that conversation? Why Jesus? Maybe Dad can help.

“Dad?” It must have something to do with what Jesus was saying.

Her father looks at her as her mom put plates on the table in front of them.

“You know that verse that goes he was wounded for our transgressions and by his stripes we are healed?”

He nods. “Right, that’s Isaiah 53. It’s exactly what I’m talking about. This is the gospel. By his stripes we are healed. The Reformation that we are celebrating is getting back to this gospel. Jesus reformed everything. He taught us about grace. The Reformers took the works-based errors of the Church and brought them back to the pure gospel.”

Mom adds, “It’s the new covenant. We are saved not by our works but by Christ’s work.” She sets the pancake platter down. “Are you two ready to eat?”

As they eat, Amber’s mind wanders back to Jesus winking at her. I wish I could see him again. What does this all mean? Who was that strange man? He said his life is depending on me. I must figure this out.

She takes out the slip of yellow paper and looks at the next date. AD 354.

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