Sit Down Comedy … April 10th, 2020

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Sit Down Comedy

My doubt has a gooey center and my faith is a bit crusty.

There are times I feel more like a sympathizer than a believer.

All the Bible-reading and ministerial chats still leave a festering in my curious soul.

For you see, I have been all alone in the wilderness or driving a car late at night when an inspirational silliness caused me to speak to the quiet stillness, “God, are you there? Do you have a word for me?”

It happened again this morning.

My friends left to get groceries and I was all alone in the house. The street was quiet and there were no whistles and buzzes coming from my Internet connection.

A chill went down my spine. I felt so close to something.

So I spoke again. “God, are you there?”

There was no answer—just as there wasn’t in the forest primeval or my motor vehicle.

Immediately, I felt foolish and cheated. Both emotions vied for the authority over my heart.

Suddenly there was this tiny notion that became an idea and evolved into a full-fledged sensation.

“Does my faith have to come from God?”

Are you telling me that if there were no God, we couldn’t figure out, “Love your neighbor?” After all, it lessens the murder rate.

Do we require tablets of stone? What is the purpose of that high mountain?

Could I discover the truth of this planet, and eventually the universe, without a Sunday School teacher? Or is it necessary for me to suffer rebuke, endure reading boring holy passages or shiver at the threat of eternal damnation?

Or is it just obvious that you should leave your neighbor’s wife alone?

Do we really need a commandment to inform us not to kill, to be generous or help the helpless?

Is it really profitable to be scared witless in an attempt to understand the mind of God?

Doesn’t “created in His image” come with an accompanying conscience?

Here is the entire essence of belief:

You can’t do your own thing if your thing messes up someone else’s thing.

Killing sucks.

Selfish leaves you alone.

Oh, and by the way, the Creator loves you enough not to speak. Because if He spoke to one, every human would want a private audience. Then we would start counting words. How many did he speak to Edith? More than Harry? Was his tone sweeter with Joe than with Donald?

Great people don’t need to talk. Great people do.

And if you’re talking about the greatest Being in the universe, speaking could be an immense disadvantage.

***

A friend of mine sat in a garden, pleading for his life. The answer came when the authorities arrived, arrested him, put him on trial and executed him.

How lonely he must have felt during his death.

How forsaken.

He was buried because he was confirmed dead.

But thirty-six hours later, he rose from that body and stepped out of his own grave.

It was an uncomfortable delay, but still … impressive.

Sit Down Comedy … April 3rd, 2020

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Sit Down Comedy

Eunice Buell was a Sunday School teacher for the junior high class at my church. Somewhere deep in her heart, I think Mrs. Buell liked me very much—maybe even found me entertaining.

But every once in a while, I sent her into a near-saintly tirade over some of my comments. She called them crude, unwarranted, hurtful, offending—and once even went so far as to say “vulgar.”

When I said something she did not approve of, she often turned to me (while simultaneously gesturing to the whole class) and said:

“Think before you speak. That’s what separates us from the animals.”

I didn’t have the heart to correct her and say, “Animals don’t speak.”

She expected us all to understand.

We did.

And we still do. There is no place you can go where “think before you speak” would not be considered a holy axiom, possibly even found somewhere in the Bible.

Because of this, we now have politicians who polish their lingo, scrubbing it of all possibility of controversy, while inserting enough lying to make sure the proclamation has some heft.

Our religionists require blind devotion from all followers, lest someone stand up and suggest that there are contradictions, or at least confusions, dwelling in the Holy of Holies.

Our corporations and businesses hire lawyers to develop statements placed at the bottom of the product in small print to protect the stockholders and investors against all liability.

And relationships—oh, dear God—relationships are riddled with a series of phrases used to manipulate one party into performing “your will”–without ever noticing that they’re sacrificing their individuality.

It spawns from the notion that humans are capable of perfecting themselves.

We aren’t.

The theory is permitted to exist so we can maintain our arrogance. But it is the emotions in our lives that need to be spoken, even though they are often raw and uneducated.

They are the real we feel.

Certainly, these thoughts fester with frustration and can frequently be proven wrong.  But when we are the only ones correcting the language in our brains, we close the door to greater revelation being afforded us through discussion.

So without trying to cast myself in the role of renegade, I challenge each and every one of us to:

Speak before we think.

And since we know it comes out as raw ore—not gold—after we speak, we should be quiet.

Listen. Register the reactions. Ponder the possible contradictions.

Then we must do something that makes the human race truly unique:

Change our minds.

As a species, we are worthless to one another and an enemy of the Earth when we are incapable of recanting our initial feelings and replacing them with common sense.

Because once we change our minds, we can speak again.

And those who know us realize that we are not only sharing the truth with them as we feel it in the moment, but we have also alerted ourselves to gain new insight—and then verbalize our fresh discovery.

Thinking before you speak turns you into a self-editor.

No good writer should ever trust himself to be the sole editor.

Speaking before you think presents the emotion and heart which very well may be overwrought or even wrong.

Yet it provides the opportunity to inform those around you that you are fully aware of your imperfection—and prepared to be a student of the planet we share.

 

Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

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Sitting Twenty-Eight

All at once, Karin was chilled by a startling realization. She considered herself to be an intelligent, astute, and even clever discerner of human emotions, especially being able to separate the false from the true, with some regularity. Now she found herself completely overwhelmed by the common sense of two twelve-year-old boys, whose argument not only left her perplexed, but nearly breathless with its sincerity.

Was she going crazy? Had she spent too much time in the desert with these two youngsters? Or perhaps it was just her own internal questioning about the hypocrisy of the society surrounding her, surfacing and finding voice in the two adolescent rabble-rousers.

But there was no doubt about it—Karin Koulyea, newspaper woman extraordinaire, was stymied. She realized that Iz and Pal could not be coaxed back to their former lives through the presentation of treats or the sum token of receiving a little more freedom.

She took a deep breath and then growled at them with the most gravitas she could muster. “You see, here’s the problem. They are grown-ups. They have earned the right to be stupid. The years that have passed, that have grayed their hair, have also given them the privilege to do stupid things. I’m not telling you I agree, but I am telling you that nobody cares what my opinion may be on the matter. Guys, they don’t have to make sense. Of course hate is stupid! But hate is what they always do when they run out of ideas. And if you ask me, government is what people do when they feel they’ve lost control. If you’ll just hear me for a second, I, Karin, your friend, am just telling you that they are not going to let you continue to be your own little country out here in the sand.”

Iz interrupted. “I suppose you’re talking about the rally.”

Karin was taken aback. “Iz, how did you find out about the rally?”

He just shook his head. “They wrap some of our food in newspaper, so as we sit and eat the cheese and bread, we read the local news. We understand that next Thursday, they plan on coming out here and taking us away.”

Karin sat for a moment. Pal started to speak but Iz reached over and put a hand on his leg, encouraging his silence.

Finally Karin asked, “So what are you going to do?”

Iz lifted his hand, motioning toward Pal, giving him the moment. “You just don’t get it, lady. What do you mean, ‘what are we gonna do?’ We’re gonna stay. They’re the ones who are going to cause trouble. So as long as we don’t fight, they’ll end up looking like the troublers.”

Iz interrupted, “And we will end up looking like the heroes.” The two boys exchanged a high five.

Karin didn’t know what she felt about their statements. There was an optimism that might have a grain or two of truth, but deep in her heart, she was aware that the staunch purveyors of religion and culture would never be satisfied without dominating.

She reached out and took each boy by the hand. “They won’t let you be what you want to be—mainly because they all want to be something else but have convinced themselves that their God is mad at anyone who is truly happy.”

There was a moment of stillness, almost resembling understanding. Suddenly, Iz crawled away on all fours, across the desert sand, stumbling to his feet, and walked a few paces away. Turning, he said, with tears in his voice, “What good is it if we start something out here and don’t finish it? How are we any different from them? They make peace treaties, and the first time it becomes hard to follow, they drop it. They make promises to love and care, and then they just forget.”  He stepped toward Karin. “We will not forget. And we will never give up.”

Karin struggled to her feet, stood and pointed at Iz. “Yes, you will. Because they will make you give up. They will defeat you and humiliate you and make you seem even younger and smaller than you really are.”

Karin turned to include Pal in her words. “Maybe when you’re men someday, you can change the world. But nobody changes the world with a child’s hand.”

Pal leaped to his feet and pointed to Iz and back to himself. “Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘a little child shall lead them?’” he asked defiantly.

“The Bible says a helluva lot of things,” Karin scoffed, “but the Bible always gets shouted down by folks with money and power.”

The three stood in the desert, exchanging glances. Slowly, Iz stepped over and sat back down. He looked off in the distance as if speaking to the universe. “I don’t care about that. We have a plan.”

He quickly glanced over at Pal, who widened his eye sockets to well back the tears. Pal nodded and added, “Yes. A plan.”

Karin pivoted and turned to them, a little bit shaken by their tone of voice. “Well, come on. You can tell me what the plan is.”

As if on cue, Iz and Pal stood and began to kick the soccer ball back and forth, running in circles around Karin, bouncing the ball against her legs, off her hips and then, her head, closing in nearer and nearer to her.

“Quit it!” she screamed, angry and frightened. But they didn’t. They kept kicking the ball, dancing in a circle around her. She stumbled, nearly falling, and tried to push back at them, but they kept kicking the ball, encircling her. They were laughing.

“All right, you little jerks!” she screamed. “I’m out of here!”

Gaining her balance, she rushed past them and stomped away, but as she left, she turned and said, “This doesn’t change anything. You can chase me away, but you can’t chase the goddamn world away.”

The two boys continued their kicking and playing, ignoring her words. When they were sure that she was far down the hill and would not return, Iz stopped, wiping the sweat from his brow. He turned to Pal, panting, and said, “She’s just like all the rest. She doesn’t understand. No one understands.”

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The J Word … April 9th, 2019

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THE

Image result for gif of letter j

WORD


Salt Lake City, Utah.

When the founders of this community came together to name their new home, they opted for an obvious and practical choice. Since it was located on the Great Salt Lake, it seemed natural to call it Salt Lake City.

Perhaps it was the same case with Little Rock, Arkansas. (I have no personal knowledge.)

But undoubtedly, the worst miscarriage of logic in naming any area is Jerusalem. It translates:

CITY OF PEACE

Yet there is no place on Earth, no ground, no terrain, that has been more blood-soaked than this domain. Almost every nation of the world that was once an empire has sent troops, conquered it and owned it for a season, only to have someone stronger, meaner and uglier snatch it away.

How it ever received the honor of being deemed “The Holy City” is far beyond this author’s comprehension. Because even though Christians joined with Jews and Muslims to tout the great significance of Jerusalem, it was the source—and the final execution arena—for Jesus of Nazareth.

Matter of fact, he wept over the city because it was so unable to repent of its self-righteousness and realize the futility of its direction. He closed his statement by saying, “Your house is left to you desolate.”

Desolate.

Empty.

Not worthy of habitation.

Even the great temple of Solomon, which is advertised by the local tour guides, is now just a piece of crumbling wall. Why? Because it was destroyed.

Then, in Crusade after Crusade, European Christians attempted to free this “holy of holies” from Muslim domination, as it was passed back and forth like a bloody hot potato.

There is nothing holy about this city. And let us not forget—the Bible warns that it will be at the center of the final last destruction of humankind.

It is a city of blood—the showcase of a great feud between the children of two faiths who should be brothers, but instead, struggle and battle like feuding rattlesnakes.

So the word that should never be spoken aloud because of its falsity, misleading nature and foul reputation is Jerusalem.

Yes.

J IS FOR JERUSALEM

And I, for one, can think of many other regions that are more deserving of the title, “City of Peace.”

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1 Thing You Can Do This Week (To Become a Better Communicator)

Don’t Quote From the Bible

Or Shakespeare, for that matter.

You might want to avoid constantly popping off with lines from old movies.

And nobody’s that interested in what your grandmother once said.

Human beings are just adverse to verse.

Along with coming across pious, self-righteous and intimidating, it leaves the listeners feeling ignorant if they’re not aware of the reference or fail to measure up to the content.

The Good Book even warns that “the letter kills.” In other words, quoting the Bible without allowing for the spirit of the idea to be included does nothing but condemn people.

HOW DO HUMANS LEARN?

Human folks do not learn by hearing lessons or even reading intelligent reports.

We imitate.

We see things we like or we view actions which have proven to be successful, and we come up with our own rendition.

Whenever you quote from the Bible, you’re not only telling people that “God has spoken,” but you’re also interpreting what God means. And the Good Book itself makes it clear that there is no private interpretation. In other words, you and I have not cornered the market on summarizing the heart of God.

This is why Jesus suggested that we “let our light shine before men, that they see our good works”–and then, from that positive experience, they can glorify the Father in Heaven.

The Bible does not encourage people to become faithful followers. You do that through the “word of your testimony.” Learn how to interact without needing to reinforce your experience with an “amen” from Almighty God.

It will turn you into a much better communicator.

 

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Cracked 5 … December 1st, 2018


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Cracked 5

Things I Don’t Want for Christmas

 

A. Coffee cup with Grandpa Something-or-other on it

 

B. A gift card from a store I’ve never been to

 

C. Anything that needs an explanation

 

D. A Bible, no matter what translation

 

E. A gag gift. There’s a reason they call it “gag”

Christmas drawing

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Catchy (Sitting 67) Just When You Realized the Donkey’s Ears Were Not As Long As You Originally Thought… September 23rd, 2018

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The name of the restaurant was Vous L’Appelez, which was French for “You Name It.”

It was one of nine restaurants at the Haven on the Mount which offered all sorts of fine cuisine at very reasonable prices since money was not an issue.

The frustration of cash had been removed from the compound by using credits and bartering as a way of distributing goods and services instead of passing around American currency, which really had no relevance. Each family maintained their own personal accounts in other parts of the world, depending on whether they wanted to be “missing in action,” or “presumed dead.”

But Vous L’Appelez had a wonderful advertising scheme of offering anything you wanted to eat–as long as you phoned ahead. Matthew had rented the entire facility for the evening, for what he hoped would be a very special night.

It was the six-month anniversary of his arrival in the mountains, and he felt it was time to sit down with Leonora, offer a ring and a proposal he hoped she would not refuse. Their relationship was sweet. It was well-thought-out. It was without contention–for after all, everything in the region was minus strife and the pursuit of vanity. Their romance was clean, free of obstruction.

But there were moments when Matthew felt that the energetic young woman, who had a tendency to lose interest very quickly, was absent and that her mind was floating to other concerns, even during their times of intimacy.

He had no way of proving it. Every time he brought up some problem with their connection, she cited a hundred examples of bliss and joy. So pushing past his own foolish insecurity and overbearing need to throw a wrench into all great works, he set up this dinner–this meeting, this moment–to once and for all enter a relationship with a woman that would last for more than a night.

It had been an amazing six months. Although he had seen Michael Hinston for some meetings and luncheons, and made sure to connect with Jo-Jay, and even had a coffee a time or two with the billionaire king himself, most of his daytime hours were spent being mentored and emotionally healed by Joshua Jackson.

Joshua was a large man–formidable. Almost frightening. Had it not been for his gentle eyes and warm embraces, Matthew would have been intimidated.

Joshua knew everything.

He knew all the stories of what led up to Matthew’s arrival at the Haven on the Mount and he seemed to have a unique way of taking the cumbersome Bible scriptures and bringing them down to common sense and simplicity for the often-cynical former marketer.

They developed such a deep friendship that several of the residents mistook Joshua and Matthew for lovers. So Matthew was careful to spend his days with Joshua and his nights with Leonora. He wanted to at least appear bi-sexual.

Joshua filled in many of the blanks. He explained a phenomenon that Matthew had never considered–that in every organization there always existed a subversive core of individuals who wanted to use the power of their authority to gain wealth, even if they had to hurt other people.

It made no difference if the organization was a library, a country or a bank–tucked deep into the underbelly of every business or corporation were the radicals who desired to manipulate.

Joshua had been hired to find those under-bellies. It was his job to join them, fellowship with them, drink their favorite booze and learn how to prevent their nasty plans from destroying the movement.

Therefore he often appeared to be the enemy, when he was actually the stopgap who kept tragedy from befalling the lives of those who were trying to bring a little peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.

Joshua had planned the abduction of Jo-Jay, rescuing her through that kidnapping from being murdered by a car bomb. He had carefully placed her in the Amazon forest, knowing full well that another member of the team, Reverend Paulson, would be nearby for the recovery when the time was right.

(Matter of fact, the Paulson family, with both children, were currently dwelling in the Haven on the Mount–a blessed retirement for years of bringing the Gospel to the ignored.)

Joshua had also quietly saved Jubal’s life several times, and had even set in motion a plan to foil the plot in Salisbury, North Carolina, killing believers, by joining up with the three assassins. Joshua’s plan was to murder the trio right before the attack. Unfortunately, his fellow-assassins got nervous and antsy, and decided to instigate the job before Joshua arrived.

When Joshua came to Salisbury and saw the death and destruction around him, he was overcome with grief and took his pistol and aimed it at his head to take his own life, feeling he had failed.

It was Carlin Canaby who stopped him; otherwise he would have been marked by all eternity as one of the deceased murderers.

This was before Carlin became known by the group, standing on the sidelines to make sure “the edges didn’t curl up.”

Joshua told story after story of his work among the more sinister, rebellious elements around the country–how each secret counter-culture had manufactured an America in their minds that was run either by Satan or greed.

Time and time again he stepped in to fill the need–a space which was fortunately unknown to most people because of his effectiveness.

Notably, the Christian Liberty Operation (the CLO) used him as an operative and because of his work there, he was able to expose an errant terrorist group within their own ranks, preventing disaster–thereby legitimizing what turned out to be a worthwhile organization.

Matthew fell in love with Joshua–a brotherly love he had never experienced before. He had never known anyone like Joshua. Joshua was candid. Joshua was self-effacing, without being frightened or imbalanced.

Joshua loved people.

After he was convinced that Matthew could be trusted, Joshua shared the story of Prophet Morgan. He did so quietly but defiantly. Joshua still questioned what happened to the young preacher. He believed that Arthur Harts had made a hasty decision because of his dislike of the Southern boy.

Joshua explained that there was no doubt that Morgan was a drug addict. He had started as a boy–to try to keep up with his father’s tent revivals, to stay alert and energetic, but then he was never able to get out from under the monkey on his back, which gradually turned into a gorilla, smashing him into the ground.

Joshua worked with him. Because Prophet Morgan did not know who Joshua was or why he was there, Joshua was able to take him on like a little brother. But the Prophet was determined to fulfill his own dark self-prophesy.

When it became obvious to Joshua that the boy needed help and rehabilitation–perhaps to be brought to the Haven on the Mount to heal–Harts refused.

He explained to Joshua, “To everything there’s a season. This is not a season for the young Prophet.”

Three days later, Morgan took his car out into the middle of the desert and found a way to kill himself. Even though many people in Vegas thought it was a murder, it was, in fact, a horrible suicide.

Joshua closed the story by saying to Matthew, “I do understand. And I do appreciate the importance of the decision. I just don’t agree.”

Matthew had six months of rich conversations and revelations in his mind as he sat down to dinner with Leonora.

He had requested all forms of baked and broiled seafood along with tropical fruits. She loved that mixture and so did he. They dined, they giggled a bit, and they both chilled with joy over being together in such a safe utopia.

Dinner came to an end and Leonora was growing a bit impatient from hanging around the restaurant. Matthew knew he needed to make his move.

What was stopping him? Why didn’t he just reach into his pocket and pull out the ring–a family heirloom provided by Billionaire Harts for the occasion–and place it on her finger?

There was one question–an unanswered, festering notion–that he needed her to explain. It was so awkward, perhaps petty. But still–he wanted to know.

Matthew geared up his courage, guzzled some mineral water, took her hands, looked into her eyes, and said, “I have a question.”

She nodded her head, maintaining her eye contact.

“When I was so sick,” he began, “and it was obvious I needed a liver transplant–but more importantly, I needed you–why did you choose that moment to go away?”

She surprised him. She bristled, stiffened and pulled her hands back.

“Why are we going into this now?” she asked. “I thought…”

Then she stopped.

“You thought what?” asked Matthew.

She shook her head. He leaned forward, drawing closer to her face.

“No, Leonora. Tell me. You thought what?”

Leonora stood to her feet, stepped behind her chair, pivoted and spoke. “I thought you were going to propose to me tonight.”

Matthew leaned back. “What gave you that idea?”

Leonora stepped a couple of feet away, and then turned and replied. “You know what gave me that idea. My grandfather said he gave you the family heirloom ring, and also permission to ask. I thought that’s what this dinner was about. Why are we talking about old silliness when we have our lives ahead of us?”

Matthew craned his neck to stare up at her.

“So which part of this is silly? Me being sick? Me being weak? Me needing you? Or you disappearing?”

“It’s all silly,” she said, moving back into her chair. She took his hands again. “Come on. The past is the past. Why are we ruining this moment, worrying about what’s already happened?”

Matthew took a deep breath and spoke words he had only whispered in his heart in the middle of the night.

“Because, Leonora…I don’t think you love me.”

He shocked himself when he heard the words. They were so lonesome as they hung in the air, without any support; abandoned, needing a place to find rest, but orphaned in the silence.

“You don’t think I love you?” Leonora said. “Haven’t I shown you I love you? I’ve never loved a man the way I love you.”

Matthew interrupted. “I believe that. I do. I just don’t know…Well, I just don’t know if that’s enough for me.”

Leonora stood to her feet again, repeating her pivot around her chair.

“Matthew Ransley, what is it you want? What do you want from me? Am I to be your devotee? Am I supposed to cheer your every move? Should I lessen myself so you feel better?”

Matthew jumped in. “So you think you have to lessen yourself to be my equal? Is that what you’re saying?”

Leonora walked across the room with all the appearances of departing, but stopped a few paces from the exit.

“What I’m saying,” she spit, “is that I don’t like complications. You see what I have to offer. You see who I am. You see how I function. You know my height, you know my depth–and if it isn’t enough, then fine. But don’t ask me to pretend to be your dream girl. I’m nobody’s girl. I am Leonora. I don’t plan on changing that. I am just like my instrument–the oboe. Yes. I’m just like the oboe. You put the right reed in me and you finger me correctly, and add the breath, and I will play you a beautiful tune. It may sound like a silly analogy and it probably is. But not nearly as ridiculous as this conversation. So do you love me? Are you going to give me the ring? Or are we going to sit and talk about this all night?”

Matthew sat and stared at the self-aware but also self-serving lady before him. She was perfect. That’s why he couldn’t be with her.

“Yes,” he said. “I will give you the ring so you can return it to your grandfather. You deserve better than me. Privately you know that. It’s just that sometimes your private thoughts get in my head.”

Leonora walked back to the table, took the ring, thought about speaking, but decided to just walk away.

Matthew sat and stared for a long time at the space once occupied by the woman he desired. He realized that desire is just not enough.

He took his phone out of his pocket, dialed a number and spoke.

“Plan Z.”

The owner of the restaurant, realizing that things had not turned out the way Matthew had anticipated, came over and gave him a tender, Christian hug, and said the meal was free. Matthew patted him on the shoulder, stepped out into the night air, climbed onto the golf cart which had been provided for his needs, and drove the one mile to the airport.

His jet was waiting for him.

Matthew realized that he could stand to live in the Haven if he and Leonora could have had a life together. But a sanctuary of safety was never what Matthew wanted in his life. He would much rather be in the chaos, and try to find a way to tie two ends together, to create some wholeness.

He did not belong at the Haven in the Mount. He was more of a Jubal, a Jasper, a Rolinda. He was going home.

But he was going home with a change in his heart–a belief that Jesus was not only popular, but brought a message and a lifestyle which was essential for Planet Earth.

Matthew was returning to his life–but this time as a believer.

Arriving at the airport, the pilot loaded his bags into the plane, and as he was about to climb up the steps and leave Paradise forever, he heard a voice.

“What’s your hurry?”

He turned around. It was Jo-Jay.

“You didn’t think you were gonna leave without me, did you? I want to tell you, Matthew. This place is so good it makes me feel bad.”

Matthew laughed and gave her a big hug.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Am I sure what?” inquired Jo-Jay.

“Are you sure about going back?”

“Well,” said Jo-Jay, “when I was coming here to the airport, thinking I was going to leave by myself, I felt pretty good about it. But now that I know I’m leaving with you–well–I still feel pretty good about it.”

She burst into laughter. He joined her.

They climbed into the airplane, and taxied down the runway, taking one final look at the Eden of the Hills.

“Maybe we’ll visit sometime,” said Matthew, looking over at Jo-Jay.

Jo-Jay chuckled. “Hell, Matthew. There’s no maybes in our world.”

The two leaned their heads back, feeling completely at peace.

It was time for them to go into the world and live the Gospel.

THE END

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