Gratitude Journal For The Week of 8/21/2023
A Church I follow has an app (Crossroads Anywhere) where we journal together as a community, and one of the things we journal about are things we are thankful for. I wrote these for this week's prompts from the app....
"What are you looking forward to this week?"
- Facing my fears/stress/the unknown and growing/learning from the experience.
- Sports, gaming, podcasts, reading, writing, anime, and other hobbies.
- Time with family.
- Receiving renewal from God daily.
"What are you grateful for today?"
Thank You God for a productive in service day yesterday, for a little time to be with my writing group last night, for getting me up this morning and helping me and my wife to get done what needed to be done as our older kids and I start a new school year. Thank You for Your presence and walking with me as I prepare to get to know my new students and co-teacher for this new school year.
"How did someone help you this week?"
My new co-teacher has been a great source of information and help with our new class, and we are on the same page with a lot of things.
Affirmation: "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me."
"Is there anything you would like to thank God for this week?"
Thank You God for being with me through a challenging work week. Thank You for some downtime and sleep to enjoy. Thank You for the lessons You have given me from those You have called to teach. Thank You Lord for never giving up on me, and for always being there to root for me.
Chapter Twenty-Two: Drinks Shared and Traps Set
The pub that Gareth and his father found themselves in was small but crowded, with good-spirited drunks pressed together and swaying at the bar. Each open table, while there weren’t many to choose from, was filled with chatty men and women from all walks of life, and from a small stage on the left there came the faint sway of wordless, high-spirited music.
"So, Dad, how long have you known? About Olban and I, I mean." Gareth looked at his dad with a new sense of appreciation. All along, he'd thought his dad was spineless, merely going along with whatever nonsense his mother demanded. But this revelation had revealed a new side to him, a depth behind his stoic and hollow demeanor.
"Like I said, from the day we got you tested for it. It was as if this creature, whatever it was, wanted to keep up the illusion. Make you feel like you were crazy."
"And it almost worked," Gareth said. He wondered, briefly, if in another life he would have turned out like Eloise. If Olban hadn't shown him the truth, if he'd never learned about the other worlds... would he be in Eloise's place? Would he have fallen off the edge? Would he have gone crazy?
I'm not crazy, Eloise says quietly. And I can hear you, by the way.
"Shit, I'm sorry, Eloise. I didn't mean..." His dad cocked an eyebrow at his words, but said nothing.
No, I know what you meant. It's fine. I'm used to it.
Gareth did his best to stay quiet after that. If Eloise could hear his thoughts even when he wasn't talking to her, he'd have to be extra careful about what went through his brain. If she found out about what the wolf had told him and Olban, there'd be hell to pay.
"Gareth? You okay?"
Jolted back to the present, Gareth shrugged in response.
"Yeah, I'm good, Dad. Just thinking, I guess."
"Tell me everything, son. I want to hear about all the magic I missed out on."
Be careful, Gareth, Olban warned. If he's been dreaming of the Nameless One, then the Nameless One could have a link to his mind. Even if he doesn't mean to, he could show it our plans.
Gareth hadn't thought of that, and the idea scared him. What if his dad wasn't even his dad? What if this sudden change of heart was just the Nameless One playing games?
Wait, Eloise said. So the Nameless One could get into his head? Even just through a dream?
I mean, it makes sense, Olban said. He's a powerful being. If he's been manipulating your dad all this time, why would he just stop? Why would your dad admit the truth now? The danger hasn't lessened. If anything, it has only increased.
No, no, Eloise said. That can't be. He can't take over that easily, right? It's not that simple, right?
I don't get why you're so worried, Eloise. If we don't tell him anything, or we tell him only part of the truth, then we're still in the clear.
Yeah, Eloise conceded. Yeah, you're right. I'm sorry for the fuss.
"Gareth?" his dad prodded.
"Oh, uh, yeah. Well, you know, we've been chased by monsters and stuff. And, I've got a new person in my head. Her name is Eloise. Other than that, well... I dunno."
"I get it," Gareth's dad said. "It's not easy to explain. But I'm willing to listen. You could just try."
He gulps down his third glass. Gareth, meanwhile, still tentatively worked on his first. Especially after Olban's suspicions, he didn't want to risk getting inebriated and slipping up, revealing something he shouldn't.
And there was another thing that was bothering him: his dad was never a heavy drinker. Most people could drink him under the table. Even Mum could. Three beers in, he should be sloshing his words, but he wasn't even looking ruddy.
Which means that Olban was right.
His dad wasn't his dad anymore.
Guys, he thought to himself, hoping that they could hear him. We have to get out of here. Now.
What? Why? Eloise asked. Is something wrong?
It's his dad, Olban guesses. Something gave him away. Which means...
The Nameless One has him, Eloise gasped. Oh God...
"Well, Dad, this was really nice," Gareth said, standing up so suddenly that his drink spilled, brown liquid sloshing onto the polished wood of the table. "But we've got to go."
"What's the rush, kiddo?"
Gareth laughed uneasily.
"Well, y'know... world saving stuff, right? We've got some, uh, traveling to do."
Gareth's dad stands up and laughs, stretching his arm around Gareth's shoulder.
"That right, son? Well, how're you gonna do it, huh? I'm your father, I should get to know, right?"
By now, some of the more aware patrons were staring, and it made Gareth uneasy.
"We've... really gotta go, Dad..."
"Nonsense. You're my kid, I've got years to make up for."
Guys, a little help? Gareth pleaded.
We've gotta do something, Eloise said.
Hey, Olban said. Do you think we could signal to Wren? He should be around here somewhere, right?
"That's right!" Gareth exclaimed, regretting it as soon as he did.
"What?" Gareth's dad narrowed his eyes. "What was that?"
"Uh, I said 'that's right.' We do have years to make up for. But not everything can be fixed here, Dad, right? You know... in public?"
Brilliant, Olban said. Once we leave, we minimize the risk of civilian intervention. We can find somewhere private and then...
Then we can figure out a way to signal to Wren! Eloise concluded.
"Ah," chuckled Gareth's dad. "I see. You're right." He clapped Gareth on the back and he stifled a flinch.
Together, they walked out of the bar. Several pairs of eyes followed them out, as did a confused looking Wren.
"Wait a minute," he said, slurring his words slightly. "Where're we going? And why do I feel so funny?"
"Oh boy," said Gareth. "Someone should have cut you off."
"I don't wanna be cut off! I like being in one piece!"
"Uh-huh, yeah. Not what I meant."
Gareth had assumed that he'd be going back to his house, but as they were approaching their neighborhood, his dad made an abrupt turn.
"Come on, son," he said. "You can't get much more private than this."
"Uh... than where?"
"My old fishin' hole, of course," he says. "Down by Saint George's Lake."
Oh God, Olban said.
What? Eloise asked. What's wrong with that?
I know this area like the back of my hand. There’s no such place as Saint George's Lake.
Well, if Gareth's dad says he’s taking us there, then... Eloise’s voice is thick with fear.
Then my suspicions were correct, Olban says. Either we tell him what we know and then he kills us, or we tell him nothing and he tortures it out of us, and then kills us.
Wait, tortured? Eloise squeaked.
The Nameless One doesn't care who he hurts. If he's found a way to do his bidding through humans, he doesn't need to create anything. He'll use people's natural strengths and he won't have to worry about his flawed creations. He has everything he needs right here.
Oh, no... Eloise said, the implications terrifying her.
For a moment, she debated: should she tell them about her dream?
But no. It'd cause too much tension. They had enough to deal with already. Better to wait, just one problem at a time.
So she stayed silent, and Gareth sighed, followed his dad into a certain trap. And Wren, clueless, followed behind them.
Man, I really hope this works, Gareth thought.
Me too, agreed both Eloise and Olban. Me too.
Il Eskrimci of Constantinople
The morning had been exceedingly fine, up until now. People of all descriptions hurried past my sidewalk breakfast table; beautiful women heading to market, merchants to the docks, sailors to the brothels, in a never ending cycle. And the wine was doing it’s work, clearing my head of it’s memories.
His tankard lay at my feet, it’s contents soaking my shirt. He was dressed roughly, wearing the rag-tag costume of a gypsy scoundrel, his movements those of a drunkard, yet I noticed that his eyes were bright, and knowing. Had the spill been an accident? Fool the man might be, but not a drunken fool... or so I surmised.
“You must answer for the shirt,” I scowled at the knave. “It is silk. You do not have the look of one who can afford silk.”
“I have no money, Sire. Only those spent coins which bought the spilt wine.” His English was good enough, the accent familiar. A Pole perhaps, or a Slovak?
“Well, you must answer for it, anyways. How do you propose to?”
“I’ve naught but this sword, Sire.” He drew it from a dangling scabbard as he spoke. It was a fine blade, a blade made for a king or prince, certainly not for one such as this man. The blade itself was layered Damascus, the cross-guard polished silver, the handle leather, and the pommel inlayed with sapphires. It was easily the equal to the one in my own scabbard, if not it’s better. It was obvious that this man could not afford such a sword, so it stood to reason that he had taken it, but from whose dead hand?
But his intent confused me. “Here now!” I exclaimed. “That sword is too high a price for this shirt.”
“Ah, Sire. You misunderstand. It is not a trade I propose, but a contest.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“I do. And I’ve come many miles looking for you, too. Yours is a long reaching, if surly reputation. I’ve come to take it from you.”
I stood then, pulling the wine-stained blouse over my head as I did so. My upper arms and forearms bulged from years of rigorous practice and training. A breeze from the sea tickled the sweat on my naked torso. There was an audible ring from my blade as it was unsheathed, sending those nearby scurrying from the sidewalk. But they ventured none too far, for here was their chance to see the one whom the Turks called Il Eskrimci, or, “The Swordsman” at work. It would be a story those gathered around could tell their grandchildren someday, that they were here to witness greatness. I carved the air with my blade’s tip, the steel singing as it expertly swept and sliced, a show before the show for the benefit of those lucky enough to see, and to hear.
I took a long pull at my own tankard before turning to face my adversary. I was a head taller, standing. “You’ve a powerful Jen,” I commented to him. “He has granted your wish to die. En guarde, my foolish friend. Why waste more time?”
“I am not your friend, but I can also be courteous, on occasion. “En garde.”
The gypsy - if that is what he was - while smaller moved exceedingly well, displaying speed and balance. He held his sword strangely, in a different style. Wary, but confident, I assumed the offensive slowly, purposefully testing his skill, my attack deliberate, yet always pressing.
He parried easily, and again. There was strength in his grip, and in his wrist. I pressed harder while still maintaining a safe defensive posture, wary of a trick, but he also seemed satisfied to wait, so I pressed harder yet, wanting a feel for his reposte. I advanced with a quick succession of jabs and slices that took him aback. Surprise sprung into his eyes, but not yet fear, although that would come soon enough. His parry was successful, almost. As my attack relented he relaxed. In that anticipated moment I allowed my blade’s tip to drop down where it ever-so gently touched the inside of his sword wrist; a light touch only, feathery, probably not even felt, yet the trickle of bright red blood it left behind was unmistakable. There was an audible gasp from those looking on. Feeling the bite, he stole a glance and was visibly shaken by the red spots that were already accumulating on the grimy granite beneath his feet.
His face held a new caste now. Gone was his braggadocio. In came the fear, and the fury. He lunged. I was pressed to hold him off, our nearly invisible blades clattering like ceramic china in a bustling kitchen as the crowd fell silent around us, everyone sensing the end of the drama, and impatient for it.
I suddenly felt very good. The exercise was awakening sleeping muscles, while the nearness of death awakened intoxicated senses. The late-morning sun was warm on my skin, the breeze soft with the fresh odors of the sea and the stink of mankind mixing nicely together upon it. It was a good day to be alive! As the gypsy’s attack ebbed, it’s strength dispersing laterally like a wave on a beach, my riposte sliced into the nipple over his heart; not deep mind you, but deep enough. Through his torn shirt the crowd saw it, and sensed that I was toying with him. A great cheer for my skill and aim rent the air. I smiled at the adoration, despite myself. “You have come a long way to die. What is your name? I do not like to kill a man I do not know.”
“My name is Korlov.”
Well, worry not, Korlov. It is a beautiful day to die.” A distant memory surfaced, the memory of a peasant girl named Korlov. Maria Korlov. The riddle was solved. “You came here to avenge your sister? So easy to seduce, that one. She must keep you very busy, if that is your duty?”
“She has a bastard child because of you, and no man wants her because of it. You ruined her, and I will ruin you.”
“Come then. I am bored with talking.”
Blood saturated his shirt front, and oozed from his wrist. Soon he would weaken. I could already feel a looseness in his blade from the injured wrist. It would not be long now. The moment called for patience, but I had little. After all, I was a showman!
So I sprung. My lunge caught Korlov by surprise. His parry was slow. My jab intended for his cheek was knocked upward, glancing along his forehead and scalp, opening a great slit at his hairline. The blood flowed into Korlov’s eyes, blinding him. He swept up his arm, wiping them clear with his sleeve. When they reopened my blade was at his throat, waiting. “Checkmate. Go home, Korlov. Here is your chance. Go take care of your sister, and your nephew. Your heart is good. Too good to die like this, bleeding in the street.”
But one last time he came, and with a yell of fury this time. His left sleeve raised to clear his sight he attacked furiously, his desperation driving me back to my table where I stepped on Korlov’s dropped tankard, which rolled beneath my boot. Down I went, the marble walkway catching my head and stunning me, but not so much that I couldn’t feel the blade slip easily between my ribs as if lubricated. And not so much that I couldn’t feel it removed, or hear the gurgle of air that escaped behind it. And not so much that I couldn’t feel the slowing of my pulse, or realize that the career of Il Eskrimci, the world’s greatest swordsman, had prematurely ended, for had I not bested my man?
And the final thought as I lay dying was not of a far away Mother, or of a peasant girl named Korlov. No, my final thought as I drifted away was that those gathered to watch had gotten their show, they had a story for their grandchildren...
... and that was enough for me.
When you smile I smile.
Your laughter is infectious.
Your hugs let me know I’m safe.
Sleeping next to you is like a comfort blanket.
Like horny teenagers we make love daily.
When I’m down you pick me up.
Our love is washed over by something more sinister.
In the cupboard I hide from you.
Our love had turned to hate.
Your anger is like an erupting volcano.
We play a game of hide and seek but if you find me I will become your punching bag.
No one is safe from the red demon that lives within you.
Our new puppy lies dead on the floor, a victim of your rage.
Strangled for peeing on the floor.
I tried to stand up for myself, threatened to call the police.
This was a mistake.
This fuelled your anger more.
I sit as still as I can in the cupboard with my hand over my mouth to muffle my breathing.
For hours you trash the place then grab a crate of beers and sit in front of the tv.
I will not move until you fall asleep.
Luke 13:14-15 - Honoring The Sabbath (Bible Journal)
"But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. 'There are six days of the week for working,' he said to the crowd. 'Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath (Luke 13:14 NLT).'"
"But the Lord replied, 'You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water (Luke 13:15 NLT)?'"
I love Jesus' rebuttal to the synagogue leader's response to healing the woman on the Sabbath day. I believe there is a difference between resting from work and taking care of a need, and like caring for your animal (the donkey) is an acceptable form of work on the Sabbath, Jesus releasing a woman that suffered for years from torment on the Sabbath is also answering a need. When God gave the Sabbath commandment I think He intended for us to rest from our daily duties that can be put off for a day to give us more time to focus on Him, not to turn a blind eye to needs that happen to come up on the Sabbath day. After all, what better way to recognize Him on the Sabbath than helping someone, from a pet to a long suffering brother or sister that could use the help?
Thank You Lord for the food for thought today in Scripture. Please help me to observe the next Sabbath day by resting in the way You intend for me, and please help me to answer any form of service that You wish of me on that coming day as well. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
The delivery notification said the box was on the front porch, and it was there as expected. I placed the box on the kitchen table and cut it open, a bundle of new socks. What a glorious time to be alive: we click a computer button and socks just appear on the porch. But suddenly a silver colored beetle scurried out of the box and ran across the table. Then a second one. I grabbed a magazine to swat it but missed. Some sort of roach? I tossed the package outside in a panic then grabbed a can of insect spray, but no luck. I sprayed the kitchen baseboards and hoped for the best.
At 3:00 AM I was jolted awake by a sharp sting on my arm. I switched on the light and shrieked. One of the silver beetles was on my hand and the room was alive with a steady buzzing sound. All at once a flurry of stings hit my legs and feet. I tried to throw off the bedsheet but it was wet with blood. Scores of insects were attached to my legs, biting, suckling on my blood. I screamed in horror and tried to brush them off but they were too strong. I scrambled out of bed to run to the bathroom but tripped on something. It was the box that was delivered earlier. The package of socks lay shredded and chewed.
Then everything went black.
Rain or Death
Rain pattered against the window, the day outside bleak and gray, and the girl sat in the window, a book in her lap and air pods in her ears. Blocking out the pouring rain; And the screams of her mother upstairs. The thump of something fell down the stairs, and the screams went silent, replaced by the girl’s shriek instead.
A set of dark, soulless eyes stared up at her. Her mother’s once lively eyes.
John, Chris, and I had talked about it, we knew what we were doing. First, though, we wanted to make sure that our sister agreed too. And we knew we had to act quickly, if we were to dissuade our father. Much as we loved him, and admired him, we knew that once he had decided upon a particular course of action, persuading him to change his mind would be difficult.
Chris’ support was invaluable. Already, we knew that our father had appointed him as the principal overseer and custodian of his literary legacy. John’s moral stature, as the priest of the family, was something Father would respect too. I knew that my influence would be much more limited: whereas my sister possessed an empathetic connection, to both my father and my later mother, that would be invaluable.
It was a bad decision, my father’s sentimentality at its very worst. He could be excessive in this regard at times. He was never embarrassed to shed a tear, or to embrace his sons, even in public. This familial affection was in strong contrast to the prevalent portrait of him as a curmudgeonly writer, an outmoded academic content to dwell in his ivory tower, standing aloof from a world in which every sign of ‘progress’ or ‘innovation’ was greeted with suspicion, even derision.
I could imagine the defence he would mount, when we voiced our sincere objections to him; reservations that we would express only out of an earnest desire to protect him from ridicule. He had so many detractors, after all, in the world, jealous of his genius; and in some respect his devotees - the ones increasingly-known these days as ‘fans’, a word I suspect my father detested - were even worse. They would certainly spot the meaning of that curious name engraved on Mother’s gravestone, straight away.
I could picture him shaking his head, and waving his pipe in our direction. ‘No, Michael, I will not listen. Your mother knew the stories of my legendarium, long before anyone else had heard them. She may have been less familiar with their later iterations. She certainly never understood the attention I was later afforded by so many of those who seem to regard me as an author of something tantamount to holy writ, at least in their own eyes; I don’t pretend to understand it myself. But she knew the love which I bore for her, and the sacrifices we made for one another, not least in the days of our youth; and she knew the person with whom she was identified, in terms of the greater story. She also knew which character within the tale represented me. But the story has gone crooked, and I am left, and I cannot plead before the inexorable Mandos.’
Thus, I imagined, he would respond to our entreaties. Our sister might hold the key to persuading him to our position. But to my surprise, when we spoke to Priscilla, she firmly took the side of my father.
‘John, Michael, Christopher,’ she said, addressing us from eldest to youngest brother, as always she did when speaking to us as a group. ‘Father is right. I know you show these concerns out of love for him. You do not want the memory of our mother tarnished, either. But his mind is quite made up. And when his time comes, he has told me what name he wants carved on the headstone, beneath hers. This isn’t for the fans, for anyone who might come afterwards. It isn’t for us. It’s for her - the girl he remembers who danced for him amongst the hemlocks, long ago. So let him have his way.’
And so we did. Nothing more was said. And when not so many months later we gathered at his graveside, we read together the inscription, suitably updated, in an Oxfordshire cemetery where one of the greatest writers of the 20th century now lay at rest with his beloved wife, our mother. Upon the headstone, besides the roses, were these simple words:
Edith Mary Tolkien, Lúthien, 1889-1971
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Beren, 1892-1973
I didn’t choose the names for this challenge: but as soon as I saw the opening sentence with which we had been charged to begin, I knew exactly what my story would be. My imagined ‘discussions’ between the children of J.R.R. Tolkien are entirely fictitious; but their names and relationships within the Tolkien family are not. The line beginning ‘But the story has gone crooked...’ is a direct quote from a letter of Tolkien to his son Christopher, written in July 1972. And at Tolkien’s behest, the names of the protagonists of his great love story, the Elf-maiden Lúthien, and the man Beren, were indeed added to the headstone that still stands on their grave in Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford. Requiescant in Pace.
John, Chris, and I had talked about it. We knew what we were doing. We didn't have the chance for questions. We just knew it had to be done. I saw the fear in their eyes, but I was strangely calm. Hoping the outcome to all of this would be what we want. He took a breath and held my hand. Smiled at me before saying, "I hope we dont land." I took my breath before I gave it to grace. And Chris just stood there saying his prayers. We were three people with a death sentence...and off that bridge we jumped, hooked like fishes.