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Christ has returned to reign over Planet Earth, which e has restored to a !aradise. The devil is "ound in the #ottomless Pit, "ut im!er$ect humans still create a $ew !ro"lems. The earth is !o!ulated "y "oth mortal humans and resurrected immortal saints, who serve as co-rulers with Christ. #i"lical standards o$ righteous "ehavior aren’t %ust a good idea, they’re actually en$orced "y law. & law hated "y re"ellious $ol's who want to live li$e "y their ()* rules. &mong them are certain mem"ers o$ +aul +avage’s $amily.
+aul, a rich "usinessman, was converted to Christ as a child. #ut over the years his devotion to ,od has cooled. Com!eting $or his a$$ections is his "eauti$ul, "ut un"elieving wi$e Lydia, who uses every tric' in the "oo' to !ersuade +aul to renounce his $aith. -$ Lydia had her way, li$e on earth would revert to what it was "e$ore the ,reat Tri"ulation, with !eo!le "eing allowed to voice their inner hostility toward ,od and is standards o$ holy living.
.oung, glamorous Lydia is thrilled a"out the !lans +aul is ma'ing $or her milestone hundredth "irthday !arty. #ut in that glorious /ingdom &ge, no un"eliever is !romised long li$e. )ill she even live to cele"rate that "irthday, or will she !ush the Lord too $ar0
Excerpt Chapter from Book 1
+aul’s son *a"al, a "oy o$ 12, has raised %ust raised enough hell to get his dad in trou"le with the law. #ut +aul, who su$$ers a "out o$ amnesia, can’t e3actly remem"er what ha!!ened to u!set him, and wily Lydia isn’t "eing very truth$ul a"out it. +aul doesn’t $eel li'e going out $or $un. )hile he sits home and meditates Lydia ta'es the 'ids, along with their country "um!'in nanny, to a $ancy restaurant to en%oy dinner and a concert. )herever lovely Lydia goes she draws attention. #ut she isn’t the only one who enlivens the atmos!here at Pic' o$ Paradise #istro.
FLIRTING ITH SIN
+eated in the choicest s!ot, Lydia’s !arty !ored over their menus. Lydia, in !articular, relished this evening away $rom a home thrown into chaos the wee' "e$ore. If Saul wants to sit home and mope, she thought, that’s fine with me . But I won’t let him drag me down with him.
Lydia wished he were here with her, as she dreamily eyed the intricate mosaics on the walls. +!ar'ling chandeliers dotted the !owder "lue ceiling. +!rays o$ gorgeous $lowers nestled in niches. (rnamental $ruit trees and mar"le scul!tures enhanced the #istro’s rustic elegance. 4rom an overhead gallery $loated the $inal strains o$ the har!ist’s closing num"er. *a"al thought only o$ the $ood and livelier entertainment to come. 5Too "ad Lot got grounded,6 he told Lydia. 5)hy, - can’t $igure out.6 +he leaned over to whis!er. 5*a"al, - thin' Micah’s %ust %ealous "ecause he’s too tight to treat his $amily to an evening out. )hat a 'ill%oy, !honing your $ather %ust to worry him. *o wonder he stayed home, the way that grum!y old mummy u!set him. Micah and Mildred, "oth on one day7 8gh76 5That guy can "e !retty weird,6 said *a"al. 5/now what 9ad said06 5-’m all ears, 'iddo. Tell me.6 5Lot’s dad is starvin’ on veggies and water $or two whole wee's to do !enance $or his sins.6 Lydia $ound that amusing. 5)hat sin0 Pigging out on Ma Cam!"ell’s a!!le dum!lings06 5&w, - can’t $igure out what a guy li'e him calls sin, unless he trac'ed mud into the house.6 5+o he’s going on a !enance $ast,6 Lydia laughed. 5- wonder i$ Eunice sewed him a hairshirt $or the occasion.6 +he turned to the nanny. 5 ey, +usanna, have you heard0 Lot wasn’t allowed to %oin us $or dinner "ecause he’s hel!ing his dad do !enance.6 +usanna "lin'ed, wondering what to say. +he si!!ed her soda and cogitated on the matter. 5)ell, Miss Lydia, in $arm $amilies, every"ody’s gotta !itch in. May"e there was such a "ig !ile o$ !enance to get done, Mr. Cam!"ell needed Lot’s hel!.6 5,irl,6 giggled Lydia, 5you’re a scream7 .ou should team u! with Micah and do a comedy act. &nd now we !resent: ;the $unny $lagellants’76 +usanna smiled shyly as Lydia, Lila and *a"al howled. 5 ey Mom,6 *a"al win'ed, 5- heard you yellin’ at &unt Mildred when - was outside the data room.6 5.elling06 Lydia smiled coyly. 5)hy, -’d never. +he’s %ust hard o$ hearing and - had to raise the volume a little.6 5(h, no, Mom, "ut you said she should "e loc'ed u! in a "ird cage.6 Lila s<uealed, getting a re!roo$: 5Lila7 .ou’re getting too loud7 Mind your manners now76 5Perha!s - was a "it a"ru!t with her, *a"al,6 Lydia said. 5#ut her nagging is worse than the !lagues o$ =o".6
5=ust wait’ll - see &untie Mildred again,6 Lila teased. 5.ou called her a !lague76 5/ee! that u!, 'iddo, and -’ll send you over $or a nice long visit.6 Lila hushed. *a"al made a $ace at her. 5Cut it out, *a"al76 Lydia sna!!ed. 59on’t wind her u! again.6 5#ut, Mom, - couldn’t hel! it7 &unt Mildred’s a !sycho76 5That’s "eside the !oint, *a"al. =ust act civil while you’re here, and don’t any o$ you dare mention her name again tonight. -t’ll ma'e the $ood curdle.6 #e$ore the laughter su"sided, a waiter in a tur<uoise uni$orm arrived. 5+usanna,6 whis!ered Lydia, 5order whatever you’d li'e. &nything on the menu.6 5Madam,6 said the young man, 5on "ehal$ o$ Pic' o$ Paradise #istro, -’d li'e to !resent you with this com!limentary "o3 o$ chocolate tru$$les. My name is *oel and -’m honored to serve you tonight.6 5(h my,6 said Lydia, ta'ing the $ancy "o3 $rom his tray, 5such a nice gesture, *oel. Than' you. #urchelli’s +wisse Pralines, too.6 5(nly the $inest $or you, Ma’am, and we 'now you’ll en%oy them. -s your !arty ready to order now06 5.es, we’re ready. -’d li'e the entrecote o$ veal tenderloin with wild tru$$le sauce, and the Chateau +alad with !e!!ercorn $eta cheese dressing. ave the "everage steward "ring me another eau du bosque, !lease, lighter on the lemon. (h, and one other thing. >ather than having our salads se!arately, we’d li'e them served with our dinner entree, i$ that would !ose no !ro"lem.6 5($ course, Madam. e re!layed her order on his audio!ad to veri$y its accuracy, then transmitted it to the 'itchen. e turned to +usanna. 5*ow what would "e your !leasure tonight, madam06 5+!aghetti and meat"alls, !lease, with *ea!olitan +alad. &nd another cherry soda. &nd !lease "ring the little girl a )onder #urger with Pinwheel (nions. The little "oy would li'e Chic'en Pu$$s with +now$la'e Potatoes. #oth o$ ;em want chocolate mil' to drin'. Than's.6 &s the waiter $inally turned to ta'e *a"al’s order, Lydia said o$$handedly: 5.ou have very sim!le tastes, +usanna. -t doesn’t ta'e much to !lease you. 5.our $ace is $lushed, +usanna. &re you all right06 5-’m $ine, Miss Lydia. -t’s too stu$$y in here. #ut then again, this !lace is !retty !ac'ed tonight.6 5.es it is, "ecause Chantilly #lue is so !o!ular. )e were very $ortunate to get reservations at all.6 Lila and *a"al entertained &aron while +usanna and Lydia chatted away. 5That *oel’s !retty nice-loo'in’, isn’t he, Miss Lydia06 said +usanna.
5&s waiters go, he’ll do. .ou 'now, +usanna, =ose!h would ma'e a nice hus"and $or some luc'y young girl. as he ever shown any interest in you06 &gain +usanna "lushed. 5>eally, Miss Lydia7 - don’t thin' -’m his ty!e. e needs a good religious girl, one who’s serious all the time76 5 e needs some"ody who can "ring him down to earth,6 laughed Lydia. 5 is head is always in the clouds. e $orgets he’s %ust a mortal7 May"e you should remind him o$ that76 5(h, - don’t 'now, Miss Lydia. - wouldn’t have =ose!h any other way. e’s such a sweet, sensitive soul, always goin’ round the house hummin’ hymns and tal'in’ a"out how good ,od is76 5Enough already, +usanna. )e came here to have $un and $orget a"out religion, didn’t we0 (h, good7 - thin' the "and is ready to !er$orm. *a"al loo's e3cited. - love the way >oy crac's %o'es "etween num"ers. & $ew laughs will do us all good.6 The !er$ormers stood u!on a rain"ow-hued dais rimmed "y %ewel-tone lights. >oy #andera, the "and leader, lea!ed $orward to greet his dinner audience. Clad in a silver glitter %ac'et and se<uined red trousers, he was a s!ectacle to his cheering $ans, as was his grinning "and, res!lendent in $unny hats and cra?y costumes. 5Than' you, than' you,6 >oy said in his gravelly voice, ma'ing re!eated nods o$ his gold-tur"aned head. 5My, how - love this crowd. 4riends and neigh"ors, we are honored to a!!ear here tonight at Pic' o$ Paradise #istro. +tan Cannoli is a close "uddy o$ mine, and man, his $ood ma'es me sing76 More a!!lause. 5Than' you, $ol's,6 said >oy with a %aunty wave. 5#e$ore we "egin tonight, let me ma'e a s!ecial announcement. The Lord led me to search my soul lately, and - didn’t li'e what - $ound. - saw a man o"sessed with only one thing@money. 4ol's, - got to the !oint where - slac'ed u! real "ad on my Ta"ernacle attendance, - was on tour so much, and 'ee!ing such late nights. - %ust didn’t have much energy le$t over $or the Lord, hardly even !rayed. ,ot to $eeling so uneasy - $inally had a little tal' with my she!herd at the Ta"ernacle, and he hel!ed me get my !riorities straight with my +avior.6 5(h "rother76 Lydia mum"led. 5+he!herds, eh0 )hen they aren’t $leecing the $loc', they’re stic'ing their nose in every"ody’s "usiness7 &nd what’s wrong with ma'ing decent money anyway0 )hat are they going to ma'e a sin out o$ ne3t06 5-s something the matter, Miss Lydia06 in<uired +usanna. 5Everything’s the matter7 Those guys are !aid to sing, not !reach. -t ruins the atmos!here. =ust listen to that guy7 e’s nuts76
5.es, -’ve reca!tured my $irst Love $or im,6 said the !er$ormer, who seemed not to notice Lydia. 5-’ve made a deal with im, too. - told the Lord that i$ e would $ill my cu! to over$lowing with more o$ imsel$, then -’d s!end the entire Millennium testi$ying to is goodness in song. This "an%olin on my shoulder now "elts out the !raises o$ ,od as never "e$ore. &nd that goes $or the vi"rello, the harmoni!hone, and the screamin’ tam"orine. My three side'ic's ma'e melody $or the Messiah too@Curly, Cato, and Tur"o.6 +miling, his three "uddies nodded in ha!!y accord. =u"ilation rang out. Curly "owed and do$$ed his stove !i!e hat, which released a stream o$ soa! "u""les. Lydia rolled u! her eyes. 5(h no,6 moaned *a"al, 5Lot didn’t miss much a$ter all, did he06 5-sn’t that a sweet thought, Miss Lydia06 gushed +usanna. 5Cla!!in’ $or ,od06 5They really are a "i?arre "and,6 said Lydia. 5*ow let’s all get ready $or a ;hallelu%ah good time’,6 said >oy. 5&nd don’t $orget. The 4east o$ Ta"ernacles is %ust around the corner. &nd - would urge anyone who can go to worshi! the /ing in =erusalem, to go. Ta"ernacles is a very s!ecial time o$ remem"rance. The Lord li"erated the children o$ -srael $rom Egy!tian "ondage. Then they %ourneyed to the Promised Land "y way o$ the desert. The Lord told them to cam! out once a year in "ooths made o$ !alm leaves, tree "ranches, and whatever other greenery they could get hold o$. >emem"er that ,od’s +on came down $rom is glorious dwelling-!lace in heaven and ta"ernacled among mortal men in a tent o$ hum"le $lesh. *ow e has returned to dwell among us in this world. =ust thin' o$ that, $ol's. & world which the devil had turned into a great "ig "attle$ield, "ut which the Lord has trans$ormed into a "eauti$ul Paradise worthy o$ is a"iding Presence. Can you shout ;amen’, every"ody06 earty 5amen’s6 mingled with lively shouts o$ 5Praise the Lord76. 8nmoved, Lydia moaned, 5*o matter where - go, - run into religion7 - %ust can’t win7 Chantilly #lue struc' u! a $ol'sy num"er: The Glory Has Come own!. The e3cited diners "egan to cla!, swaying to the synco!ated "eat, many o$ them singing along: The ,lory has come down (h, ma'e a %oy$ul sound &ll nature’s singing songs o$ li"ertyA &ll !raise to im )ho’s come, The "ands o$ death undone, #ow down "e$ore our #lessed Prince o$ Peace7 More than a $ew rose to their $eet and li$ted their hands as they sang the chorus:
,lory to im )ho out o$ Bion reigns (ur &dversary languishes in chainsA Let’s li$t u! holy hands &nd %oin angelic "ands -n giving !raise and honor to our /ing7 +till seated, Lydia twisted her na!'in as the second verse was sung: The ,lory has come down is 'indnesses a"ound is and o$ #lessing e has o!ened wideA -’ve got a right to sing 4or - have "een redeemed My +avior is my Everlasting Light7 Listening <uietly to the third verse, +usanna loo'ed on with a wist$ul smile: The ,lory has come down (ur +overeign has "een crowned The earth $rom +atan’s "ondage has "een $reedA The +on has "een enthroned e dwells among is own &scri"e to im Eternal Ma%esty7 Lydia closed her eyes. +o much $or her $un night out. (ne o$ her moods was coming on. 5*ow ,6 said >oy, 5we’ll s!lash u! some good clean $un. This one’s $or all our little listeners: Bath Time on the "r#.$ Lila lea!ed u! out o$ her seat.6.&&.76 she yelled. 5+it down, Lila76 hissed her mother. 5.ou’re ma'ing a scene.6 >oy win'ed at her and said: 5 old u!, $ellers. )e $orgot something.6 e hurried to hel! an assistant un!ac' their travelling &r' and set it u! "y the edge o$ the stage. The "ig, "o3y wooden toy was a wor' o$ art, though cartoonish. &nimated scenes shone through the &r'’s wide !ortholes as it "egan to rotate on its stand. (ld *oah shouted and waved his she!herd’s croo'. & stam!ede o$ animals rushed !ast him. +<uaw'ing creatures !o!!ed their heads in and out o$ ga"le windows. The toy was overarched "y a "right rain"ow, s!angled with the glad tidings: God is %o&e. Children cheered. ,rownu!s laughed. Peo!le craned their nec's and aimed their videosco!es to ca!ture the moment. >oy "ec'oned to Lila.5 .oung lady, would you li'e to come u! here and sha'e hands with me06
#e$ore Lydia could comment, the s!rightly little girl was u! and onstage. >oy held out his hand. To her delight, a snowy dove $lew out his coat sleeve. +usanna laughed. Lydia snorted. 5)hat a nutcase,6 she whis!ered. 59oes he really get good money $or those tired old tric's0 Loo', Lila caught the "ird. - ho!e she doesn’t !lan to 'ee! it.6 >oy "ent over and whis!ered something to Lila. ,ently she !atted the "ird on its head. &t >oy’s command, it $lew out the o!en veranda door, then soared heavenward. 'ow what is he saying to her($ Lydia wondered. 5Lila, tell everyone why =esus is so s!ecial to you,6 said >oy, "eaming. +he said, to much good-natured laughter: 5#ecause e made so many wonder$ul animals@and you, too, >oy . )hat a !retty &r'. Could - !lease have it i$ Mama ma'es the right o$$er06 5My,6 he win'ed, 5'ids as' the most <ui??ical <uestions. &ctually, Lila, that &r' isn’t really mine, or -’d %ust give to you, - li'e you so much. My dad made it as a gi$t to all the children we sing $or.6 & "it a"ashed, Lila whis!ered, 5=ust sing as $unny as you can, >oy.6 e nodded and s<uee?ed her hand. 5- sure will, honey, $or you. &nd ,od "less you real good.6 If she really wants that old eyesore, thought Lydia, she )an ha&e it. How dare he humiliate her in front of the whole dining room. &$ter leading the children in three cheers $or =esus, Chantilly #lue s'i!!ed and sang, accom!anied "y the "an%olin, a 'a?oo and a 5one-man "and6, a whee?y contra!tion with a $oot !edal connected to a drum and cym"als. There’s a witty little ditty ;"out a grand old "oat Pac'ed with !onies, geese and goats. ,rand!a *oah $illed u! a tu" +aid: &ll right you guys, it’s time $or a scru". *oah said, +hem, go "ag the "at #ring him here, he needs a "ath. &nd while you’re at it go catch the cat e’s u! in the ra$ters with the rat. )e can’t wash the goat, e ate the soa! - chased the "at clear out o$ the "oat. The cat got scared, lea!t in the air e yowled so loud he scared the "ear.
The aardvar'’s runnin’ round the &r' am can’t catch him, he heard a "ar'. The shee!dog needs a good sham!oo am, go gra" that grimy goose. The ra""its are a-runnin’ loose - !ut one in and out %um!ed two. The !orcu!ine’s too rough to ru" The ele!hant won’t $it the tu". The 'angaroo 'ic'ed over the "ath &nd made a great "ig messy s!lash. 9uc's are sailin’ the $looded $loor - %ust can’t ta'e this "ath no more. (h, the hog and the $rog and the dirty dog They’re runnin’ round the "end. The cat hates the water, so we really oughter =ust hose ;em down and then Then we’ll hang ;em dry high on a line Till "ath time comes again. - thin' -’m runnin’ out o$ rhyme +o let the story end. (nly when the catering cart arrived did Lydia crac' a $aint smile. 5(h $inally, the $ood’s here.6 &n array o$ savory dishes and condiments were laid on the ta"le, "eauti$ully garnished. 5Than' you, that will "e all $or now,6 she told *oel, 5and it’s a"out time, we’re $amished.6 5My, "ut wasn’t >oy $unny, Mama06 as'ed Lila. Lydia shrugged.5-t’s a "it cruel, don’t you thin', hanging animals out on a line to dry06 5(h, Mama, you 'now he was only 'idding76 5+till, Lila, it’s im!ortant to watch what you teach im!ressiona"le youngsters.6 5&ll my $riends would love to see that &r' at +how and Tell, wouldn’t they, Mama06 5That stu!id !iece o$ %un'06 said *a"al. 5.our $riends would laugh at you.6 Lila stuc' out her tongue. 5)ell, at least -’ve got $riends76 5+hut u!, you two76 sna!!ed Lydia. 5*a"al, you 'now you’re on !ro"ationA and Lila, you sto! teasing your "rother, or - won’t "uy either o$ you a souvenir o$ this concert76 5Mom,6 whis!ered *a"al, 5it’s o'ay i$ you don’t get me one. Chantilly #lue stin' now, don’t they06
5To !ut it "luntly,6 Lydia muttered, "uttering a roll. &s the others <uietly "egan their meal, Lydia loo'ed dou"t$ully at her !late, as i$ loath to taste her $ood. +aul was not !resent, so no !er$unctory !rayer was said over the meal at the +avage ta"le. 5This s!aghetti is the "est ever, Miss Lydia,6 said +usanna. 5Than's $or "ringin’ me here.6 5.eah...- thought you’d li'e this !lace, +usanna. *ow let me see i$ the $ood !asses muster with my discriminating !alate. - notice that *a"al is !lowing into his ;+tea' Colossus’.6 #eing reminded o$ ,od wasn’t Lydia’s cu! o$ tea, and her day hadn’t "een to her li'ing either. +he needed to $ind an e3cuse to gri!e. +he loo'ed dou"t$ully at her salad. +he dun'ed a cucum"er slice into the creamy dressing, tasted it and shoo' her head. *o, it %ust wouldn’t do. *e3t, she sliced a !iece o$ veal and daintily di!!ed it into her sauce dish. &s the $ood a!!roached her mouth, her nose wrin'led. +he ni""led at it. ,rimacing, she removed the morsel with her na!'in. 5)hat’s wrong, Miss Lydia06 <ueried +usanna. 5.our $ood can’t "e that "ad76 5-t certainly is7 Too much nutmeg in the tru$$le sauce. &nd it’s all lum!y7 Those snea'y coo's su"stituted common mushrooms $or wild tru$$les7 )here’s *oah...ah..*oel76 *a"al too' her "reath away. e was dum!ing a whole tureen o$ 'etchu! into his !late. ,lee$ully he smothered his meat, !otatoes, vegeta"les, and even his her" "read with it. >avenously he wol$ed down the "ig mess, as i$ that would "e his last meal on earth. Lydia was !rovo'ed at the s!ectacle he was ma'ing o$ himsel$, and &aron wasn’t hel!ing much either. 5Tal' a"out the Tri"76 she moaned. 5Peo!le are staring at us76 -nstead o$ eating, &aron sat there shredding his $ood into tiny "its. 5)hat’s the matter with you06 Lila cried. 5Loo', silly, -’m eating my $ood76 5&aron =ose!h +avage, you "e a good "oy and eat u! those chic'en !u$$s76 +usanna scolded. +he !ic'ed one u!, and !laced it "etween &aron’s li!s. #ut instead o$ eating it, the tot "lew hard, $iring it into +usanna’s $ace. *+i#es!$ yel!ed the s'inny nanny, teetering "ac'wards. &aron s<uealed and laughed, along with Lila and *a"al. 5+to! it, &aron7 Eat u! or you don’t get !udding76 +usanna warned, wi!ing her $ace. 6&re you (/, +usanna06 Lydia as'ed, with a wis! o$ a smile. 5 e does have !ower$ul lungs, doesn’t he06 5-’ll say he does, Miss Lydia. e almost "lac'ed my eye with that chic'en !u$$. e’s got the lungs o$ a !reacher...uh...- mean...o!ry singer76
5That’s "etter,6 said Lydia !rimly. 59on’t $orget, +usanna. (ne day you’ll have to train him in the use o$ !ro!er ta"le eti<uette.6 5)ho0 Him($ cac'led *a"al. 5Mom, - thought you didn’t "elieve in miracles76 5 a ha, *a"al, very $unny. The miracle is - haven’t strangled you yet, you chee'y "rat76 &aron was en%oying this new game. e !ic'ed u! another chic'en !u$$ and "lew it at the ne3t ta"le. -t landed on the $oot o$ a lady who shoo' her head at him. E3as!erated, +usanna held his hands and said, 5*o no76 5+usanna, can’t you !aci$y him06 moaned Lydia. 5That’s what !ay you $or.6 5 e doesn’t act too hungry, Miss Lydia.6 5- 'now why76 Lila !i!ed u!. 5)hen +usanna wasn’t loo'ing, he "ro'e into a "ag o$ Corn Curls76 Lydia rolled u! her eyes. 5(h, +usanna.6 ow humiliating. This %ust hadn’t "een +usanna’s day. 5-’m sorry, Miss Lydia. &aron screamed "loody murder when - tried to ta'e ;em away76 5)ho’s in charge here anyway06 Lydia demanded. 5.ou, or a tiny child06 +he went over to &aron and touched something white on his $ace. 5 is $ace is all stic'y7 Marshmallows again...+usanna76 5(h, no, Miss Lydia, - swear - didn’t give him any76 Lila laughed and !roduced the "ag $rom her !urse. 5- snea'ed him a $ew Mini-mallows to 'ee! him <uiet so he wouldn’t sit there whining while they coo'ed his chic'en !u$$s.6 5Than's a lot,6 moaned Lydia. 5 ow can you soar li'e an eagle when you’re $lying with tur'eys06 &s Lydia di!!ed a na!'in into a $inger "owl and wi!ed &aron’s $ace, he "egged $or !udding. 5,o ahead and order him some,6 Lydia told +usanna. 5&t least he’ll eat that. =ust !ress the ;order’ "utton on that gadget and order the !udding when someone re!lies.6 )hen Lydia turned her head she got a shoc'. 5*a"al76 she cried. 5The very idea76 )hat a sight the "oy was, holding his !late u! with "oth hands and lic'ing it clean all the way to the rims. 5#ut it was good, Mom.6 e "ur!ed. Lila giggled. +usanna gas!ed. Lydia glared. 6*a"al,6 Lydia sni$$ed, 5you !ro"a"ly do that all the time at Lot’s house. #ut this is an e3clusive esta"lishment, even i$ the $ood is atrocious.6 *oel was "ac'. &aron got so e3cited he showered crum"s all around his high chair. Then he dum!ed his chocolate mil' onto the red car!et, cu! and all. The waiter’s mouth hung o!en, aghast. *ever had he served such a rowdy "unch. 5)ell, don’t %ust stand there waiting $or the snail to clim" a"oard, *oah,6 said Lydia. 5My "a"y’s hungry.6
,rimacing, *oel treaded the soggy car!et to serve &aron. &aron attac'ed the treat with his little s!oon "e$ore it could "e set on his tray. e too' a taste, then $li!!ed the "owl o$$ his tray "e$ore +usanna could sto! him. -t s!lattered against *oel’s %ac'et. 5*asty76 &aron shrie'ed. 5 ey, what’s wrong with it76 sna!!ed Lydia. +usanna lic'ed the little s!oon.5-t tastes o$ "randy, Miss Lydia.6 +he wi!ed &aron’s hands. 5My word,6 said Lydia. 5They must have sent &aron the )reme de )ho)olat )ointreau instead o$ !lain chocolate !udding.6 5#oth desserts loo' ali'e,6 said *oel 5-t was an honest mista'e, Ma’am.6 5-t was a mista'e ever coming here7 ,o $ind the $ool res!onsi"le so - can tell him too76 *oel was so $lustered he sli!!ed in &aron’s mess, lost his "alance and lurched $orward to gra" the "ac' o$ +usanna’s chair to steady himsel$, nearly 'noc'ing her over. 5(oo$7 +orry76 5#eing a "it $orward tonight, are we06 Lydia drawled. 5(h, no76 cried +usanna, $eeling $or him. 5&re you all right0 Cuic'ly she too' two ta"le linens and stoo!ed down on the $loor to "lot u! the !udding. 5+it down, +usanna76 sna!!ed Lydia. 5.ou’ll ruin your clothes7 Let 'oah swa" the dirty dec' i$ he e3!ects any ti! $rom me. e certainly won’t get one $or the slo! he served us76 )ithout another word the waiter hurried away, "rushing his suit. Chantilly #lue’s lovely !raise chorus ceased in mid-"ar as >oy ste!!ed $orward and raised his hand, silencing the "and. 54riends and neigh"ors,6 he said, 5- $eel the Lord guiding us in a di$$erent direction. #y now we’ve reached the !ea' o$ the dinner hour. &s you !arta'e o$ ,od’s "lessing at your ta"les, it’s an ideal time to !ause and re$lect on all the "ounti$ul goodness you receive daily $rom im, and to than' im $or the wonder$ul sta$$ who serve you so well at Pic' o$ Paradise #istro.6 Cheers and shouts o$ 5amen76 *oel turned to smile his than's at >oy $or "eing there when he needed him. 54or the ne3t $ew minutes,6 said >oy, 5we’ll sto! singing and !lay some so$t worshi! music $or your dining !leasure. #on a!etit.6 *a"al gagged. Lydia gritted her teeth. +ym!athetic smiles $or the musicians. +ome !eo!le could scarcely eat "ecause o$ the +avages. (ne outs!o'en lady said, 5*ow, i$ that were my child...6 Lydia sna!!ed: 5-’ll than' you to shut your tra! and mind your own "usiness7 *ow where did that stu!id waiter go0 =ust loo' at the aw$ul mess he le$t76 5Miss Lydia,6 said +usanna, 5he didn’t even o$$er to "ring &aron another !udding.6 5+uch rudeness,6 lamented Lydia. 5This !lace really is going to seed.6
+hortly the waiter returned, accom!anied "y the $lustered manager. 5Madam,6 he whis!ered hotly, 5we’ve received several com!laints a"out you. .ou’ve made such a distur"ance our other guests can’t en%oy the !er$ormance. &nd why didn’t you restrain your child, "e$ore he ruined our car!et and threw $ood at other guests who were trying to en%oy their dinner06 e shoo' his head, dismayed "y the "rown mil' stains and crum"led $ood soa'ing the car!et. 5(h, good grie$76 retorted Lydia. 5 e’s only a tiny "a"y7 &nd surely you turn enough !ro$it $rom this over!riced greasy s!oon to clean a million car!ets76 5Madam,6 he !ersisted, 5i$ you would !ro!erly train your childD6 5Training is $or !arrots and chim!an?ees, not $or humans76 said Lydia. 5-$ your cuisine were more e3!ertly !re!ared, he’d want to eat it. #ut how can he0 -t’s a gastronomic nightmare76 Calmly ignoring her cra""y crac's, he said: 5Madam, the +cri!tures are <uite clear on the necessity o$ cur"ing the conduct o$ one’s children. .ou cannot argue with the Lord76 Lydia s!rang to her $eet and stared him straight in the eye. 5Listen, "ud76 she sna!!ed. 5- don’t $or' over good money to come to your third-rate esta"lishment $or religious indoctrination, either $rom the music or $rom your "ig $at mouth7 )ho !re!ared this horri"le tru$$le sauce06 The manager mustered every morsel o$ his sel$-control. 5(ur head che$, ,eorge +tevens. )e’re very !roud to have him on our sta$$.6 5*ow you see here, "uster,6 Lydia "ristled. 5- ha!!en to have an educated !alate, and you can’t $ool me. Those were not wild tru$$les in that sauce, %ust moldy mushrooms7 &nd you used chea! cheese in that soggy salad7 ow chint?y o$ you !eo!le to ma'e haute cuisine out o$ livestoc' $eed76 +tung, the manager said: 5Madam, we did no such thing7 &ll !ersonnel at this esta"lishment, mysel$ included, are servants o$ the ,reat /ing. )e would never dishonor im, either "y o$$ering a misleading menu, or "y using in$erior ingredients.6 5.our religion is no concern o$ mine,6 said Lydia. Eager to de$use the situation, the manager said: 5Madam, where e3actly is the entree which $ell short o$ your e3!ectations06 5.eah, where is it06 Lydia demanded. -t was then she noticed her meatless !late. 5*a"al s!eared it when you stood u! to yell at the man,6 chir!ed Lila. 5+ee him go""ling it u!06 5,ood grie$, you "ottomless !it76 cried Lydia, dismayed "y his "ig "ites. 5That’s my evidence you’re eating, "oy76
The manager chuc'led. 5The young man seems to "e en%oying his meal, Madam, and yours. &n em!ty !late is the sincerest com!liment our "istro can receive.6 Lydia gave *a"al a crest$allen, tight-mouthed loo', an evil omen. e had already gotten into the doghouse with his moody mother. 5.oung man,6 in<uired the manager, 5would you care to comment on your dining e3!erience06 5.eah7 #est shoe leather - ever ate76 al$-smiling, Lydia said: 5Mind your manners, *a"al. &ll that matters is what I thought o$ my meal7 &nd you,6 she addressed the manager, 5relay a message to that culinary wash-out $or me. Tell him - $eed my dog "etter $ood than this. &s' him i$ he bribed his way through che$’s academy76 The manager was "y now visi"ly steamed. 5-’ll do no such thing7 Madam, "eware. -t’s <uite evident to me that your <uarrel is with the Creator o$ this $ood, rather than with the che$ who !re!ared it.6 That only $ueled the $ire. Many mouths sto!!ed chewing and hung aga!e as Lydia let him have it out "oth "arrels: 5.ou have no "usiness serving the !u"lic, with your surly attitude7 )ho’s the owner o$ this hole-in-the-wall0 &$ter - get you written u!, you’ll "e "usted down to "us"oy76 *a"al duc'ed under the ta"le and laughed. *ow he was glad he’d come. e tic'led &aron until he went into !aro3ysms o$ shrie'ing and tray "anging. Lila, s!urred on "y +usanna’s aw'ward !rotests, giggled all the more@until >oy #andera caught her eye $rom the stage, and his harmoni!hone hit a clin'er in the middle o$ his num"er@Sweet is His ,resen)e. Lila clammed u!, whis!ered something to +usanna, then rushed o$$, $ace averted. The manager trem"led with $ury, "ut silently !rayed $or ,od’s !eace. -t was all he could do to 'ee! $rom shouting "ac'. #ut whatever Lydia’s !rovocations, he would not resort to such undigni$ied "ehavior. )hy should he !lay into her hands "y airing anger in $ull view o$ the whole dining room0 e would have ordered her to leave immediately, had she not a!!eared to "e getting ready to do so. e sim!ly said: 5My $ather, +tan Cannoli, is the owner. &nd he has instructed me to u!hold order in our restaurant, to hel! maintain a %oyous atmos!here $or the "lessing o$ our !atrons.6 5(h, $orget it76 Lydia hu$$ed. 5-’ll settle the "ill now.6 5Eery well, Madam,6 said the manager. 5-’ll have it sent to your ta"le immediately. - !resume there will "e no $urther di$$iculties.6 5*o, not at all,6 said Lydia, dismissing him with a wave. 5(ur meal is $inished. =ust get "ac' to what you were doing.6 The manager retreated to the 'itchen, $eeling li'e a !u!!y who’d "een swatted with a news!a!er. Lydia noticed Lila’s em!ty chair. 5)here’s Lila, +usanna06
5+he had to "e e3cused, Miss Lydia. +he’ll "e "ac' in a %i$$y.6 Lila returned, sur!rised they were ready to leave. 59on’t we get dessert $irst, Mama06 5*o, not here,6 said Lydia, glancing toward the rece!tion area. +omething caught her eye. +he "rightened. & $amiliar $ace returned her smile. e waved, then turned his "ac', "lending into a cluster o$ new arrivals "ehind a $loral archway. 5+usanna,6 said Lydia, glancing at her watch. 5- %ust remem"ered. -’ve arranged to meet some girl $riends here $or co$$ee and dessert in a"out $i$teen minutes. Ta'e the 'ids home in a "u""le-ca". ere’s money $or your $are. -$ you see +aul, tell him -’ll "e "ac', say, in a"out two hours.6 5Can - ta'e the candy home, Mom06 as'ed *a"al. 5.es, *a"al, i$ you share it with your sister, "ut don’t eat the whole "o3 all at once. ere’s more money, +usanna. +to! o$$ at the -ce Cream Castle or wherever. ave a "it o$ $un, then go straight home and tell +aul - won’t "e too long.6 5+ure thing, Miss Lydia,6 said +usanna with a cheery smile. 5&nd you all have a great time76 +eated in a co?y corner "ooth, #ruce and Lydia chatted over ca$e mochas and !ecan !ie. 8!on meeting over "y the archway and discussing her s'irmish with the manager, the cou!le had decided to retreat u!stairs to the #istro’s Lingering Lounge, rather than going elsewhere to sociali?e. 5- can’t com!lain a"out their !ie, and it’s great - can en%oy it without guilt,6 said Lydia. 5#e$ore human genes evolved to ada!t to a"undance, women had to starve on diets to loo' li'e me.6 5&ctually,6 said #ruce dryly, 5the (ld )orld had its advantages...although - do agree that having to count calories wasn’t one o$ them.6 5 ow was tonight’s session, #ruce0 -’m sur!rised you came here %ust to $ill me in on the class.6 5(h, it was !retty dull without you. The others couldn’t concentrate on their wor'. They all wanted to go catch the tail end o$ that game at the +!orts!le3, so we ad%ourned early. =ust as well. +ome o$ them "arely 'now which end o$ a "rush to use. They’re so unimaginative in their techni<ue that they stic' with !rimary colors in their com!ositions.6 5(r, they’re %ust too la?y to mi3 their colors76 laughed Lydia. 5.our eyes are a uni<ue hue,6 said #ruce, !ensively. 5Pools o$ "urnished chocolate 'issed with star $ire, "lending with the !orcelain "lush o$ your delicately scul!ted !ro$ile.6 Lydia $elt as i$ her very soul were "eing invaded "y his ga?e. +he was at a loss $or words.
-$ her eye color was remar'a"le, #ruce’s voice was even more so. -t was li'e a languid !ool o$ oil, with su"tly seductive undertones. The dreamy-eyed artist "rie$ly !aused to admire her girlish "lushes, then said: 5( goddess o$ $ire and mystery, your eyes are the color o$ love itsel$. They sing o$ Mother Earth arrayed in ru"ies and scarlet. .our golden tresses outshine the sun in all its glory.6 8nused to such $lowery accolades, even $rom +aul, Lydia loo'ed at #ruce wonderingly. 5+orry, Lydia,6 he said. 5-’m $irst and $oremost an artist. My "usiness is to e3!ress what - see.6 5-’m really $lattered, #ruce...so you’re a !oet as well as an artist. .ou’re the mysterious oneA not -, ( trou"adour o$ hidden talents.6 5 My, "ut we’re loo'ing sad tonight. Perha!s - should !lay the agony aunt, not the !oet.6 er eyes rolled u!. 5 ow’d you 'now that0 -t’s my hus"and’s aunt. She’s the agony76 5*ow, what has that wic'ed witch done to cast a !all o$ gloom over such a $air $ace06 5+he’s $orever telling me what a sinner - am, how -’m not good enough $or her !ri?e ne!hew.6 5#e$ore we e3!lore that thesis, %ust answer me this: -s she !retty, Lydia06 Lydia scrunched her nose. 5My dog’s "etter loo'ing than she is. onest.6 5That e3!lains it, then. +he’s %ust %ealous , that’s all. #ut sense it’s something dee!er than that.6 5-t hasn’t "een the "est o$ wee's $or me, #ruce,6 Lydia sighed. 5)hatever it is, you can con$ide in me, Lydia. & "urden shared is a "urden halved.6 +he "ec'oned him closer and whis!ered, 5+wear you won’t tell a soul06 e raised his right hand. 5(n my sacred honor.6 +he too' a dee! "reath. 5My son *a"al got caned "y the rulers.6 #ruce’s $ace $ell. 5(h, no, Lydia, was he get arrested and ta'en to the =udgment all06 5*o, #ruce, they came to the house to !unish *a"al. They accused him o$ "urning down an old shac' on some $armer’s !ro!erty. &nd +aul got a worse whi!!ing %ust $or yelling at him in $ront o$ Lord +te!hen. -’m %ust glad they weren’t ta'en to the =udgment all. +aul has a horror o$ the !lace.6 5 ow terri"le7 -’m so sorry, Lydia7 The rulers are so heavyhanded76 5-’ll say they are, #ruce. 9ownright draconian.6 5+urely the $ire must have "een accidental, Lydia.6
5-t had to have "een, #ruce, even i$ *a"al was !artly res!onsi"le. e can "e a !ain, "ut he’d never deli"erately destroy anyone’s !ro!erty.6 5 ow did Lord +te!hen $ind out a"out the arson, anyway06 whis!ered #ruce, lest anyone else hear him utter a name dreaded "y evil men. 59o you thin' the $armer contacted him06 5+aul swears u! and down that Micah Cam!"ell wouldn’t have gotten *a"al in trou"le,6 Lydia whis!ered "ac'. 5.et he denies 'nowing who "rought the rulers down on us. +aul’s a wrec', #ruce. e’s hardly "een a"le to thin' straight since those rulers !aid him a visit. e’s "arely there, i$ you 'now what - mean.6 +he ta!!ed her $orehead. #ruce shoo' his head. 5My heart goes out to +aul and *a"al. &re they still sore06 5&h...they weren’t hurt too "ad, #ruce. -t scared them more than anything. #ut the emotional damage remains. - %ust had to get those 'ids out o$ that house tonight to cheer them u!, even i$ +aul wasn’t in the mood $or $un.6 5- understand, Lydia. #ut what a mystery. )hy would the rulers "other themselves over some old "arn "urning down06 5 eaven 'nows, #ruce. #ut i$ it was Micah who called them, it seems li'e he would have called +aul $irst to determine *a"al’s degree o$ guilt, and as' $or com!ensation. +aul says he even o$$ered to !ay $or the $ire damage, "ut Micah re$used to ta'e it. %ust can’t "elieve he turned down so much money, %ust "ecause he’d rather ta'e mean revenge on *a"al.6 5>evenge06 #ruce $rowned. 5+aul got whi!!ed too, you say. &re you sure +aul has no enemies or "usiness rivals who would love to ruin his good name0 May"e some com!etitors lied on +aul, and that $inal com!laint $iled on *a"al was enough to "ring the authorities to your house.6 5)ell, +aul did "eat out $ive ma%or com!etitors on an im!ortant contract $or su!!lying *erve-!le3 !roducts to all the *ova *e"ula outlets.6 #ruce nodded. 5+o they do have a "one to !ic' with +aul. (ne o$ the oldest means o$ revenge in the "oo'. Cut trou"lesome com!etitors down to si?e "y "ringing the heat down on them.6 Lydia smiled and shoo' her head. 5.ou 'now, +aul has this s'eleton in his $amily closet he 'ee!s dragging out. Clint was his name. )hat a shady shyster that guy was. Lived 1FF years ago and did a "ris' "usiness in !harmaceuticals, i$ you get my dri$t. 5 5(h, - get the idea,6 said #ruce. 5)ell, anyway, this guy wasn’t too "right, "ut was smart enough to 'now that the co!s couldn’t "e everywhere at once. +o he $igured that i$ he 'e!t them "usy "usting his com!etitors’ o!erations, he’d "ene$it in two ways: 4irst, he’d gain his com!etitors’ customers. +econdly, the co!s would s!end all their
time and resources elsewhere and leave him alone. +o Clint was always dro!!ing o$$ anonymous ti!s to the !olice on the o!erations o$ rival ganglords, gleaned "y his s!y networ's which crisscrossed the city. &nd i$ the heat got too close to Clint, he’d always leave some !oor !atsy holding the "ag, while he laid low until the latest community drug swee! was $inished.6 5&lways !laying ;$ootsie’ with the co!s, and yet he survived the Tri"06 laughed #ruce. 5)hat a wily weasel that guy must have "een76 5 ow did your illustrious $ore"ears survive the Tri", #ruce06 5=ust luc'y, - guess. My old man tells me -’d "etter get religion and swear allegiance to the $lag, or it’s the "ar"ecue !it $or #rucie-"a"y7 #ut there’s only one thing that could ever torment me!$ 5)hat, silly06 Lydia giggled. #ruce’s leering, moc'ing $ace re$lected his contem!t $or godliness. & cold chill swe!t through Lydia’s heart as he said, 5*ot having you there to share it with me76 5(h, #ruce, you’re "eing mor"id76 5-’m %ust a $ree s!irit who is...6 #ruce grinned...5teaching you to view li$e $rom a lighter !ers!ective, %ust so you’ll "e ha!!y again.6 5Er...how’s Lorena06 as'ed Lydia. 5- $orgot to mention her, and so did you. #een to +ilver City lately to see your $air $iancee, ;she o$ the raven tresses’06 5*ot lately, "ut -’m en%oying a $ew golden moments with you.6 & "it chagrined, she was hal$-minded to get u! and leave, "ut $ound this rogue too disarming. 5#etter not tell her, then, #ruce. -n your case, silen)e is golden.6 #ruce gave her a sly loo'. 5#ut the nature o$ an artist is $reedom o$ e3!ression. -n his wor' and in his play! 9id Clint ever !lay $ootsie li'e this06 e slid his $oot out o$ his shoe and ru""ed it against Lydia’s an'le, $ondling her sha!ely leg all the way u! to her tic'lish 'nee. 5+to! it, you +-LL. 9EE-L76 she shrilly s<uealed. 5-’m a married woman with $our 'ids76 )ith a dramatic u!swee! o$ his voice #ruce cried: 5)ell, this old devil is on the !rowl hunting $or a lovely lady with $our 'ids76 The other three cou!les in the lounge sto!!ed tal'ing and $rowned at the silhouettes cavorting "ehind the stained glass "ooth !artition. -ndecent conduct which had once "een !romoted "y the entertainment industry as 5the wave o$ the $uture6 was now widely a"horred as an a"omination. 5#ut wouldn’t you !re$er a demure young maiden, #ruce, li'e Lorena06 Lydia as'ed, when she could sto! laughing. 59emure0 laughed #ruce. 5&s demure as unri!e $ruit7 Lorena can’t 'iss worth a darn and her $igure isn’t even worth !ainting7
+he’s all out o$ !ro!ortion, and $rom what little -’ve seen o$ her legs, they loo' li'e cho! stic's.6 5That’s a mean thing to say a"out your true love, #ruce. &re you two...very close...- mean, do you...ah... nec'06 5- can’t even hold her hand7 er daddy’s watching her li'e a haw' till we cut the wedding ca'e.6 5)ell, no wonder, you’re such a $ast o!erator. #ut don’t you thin' she’s even a little !retty06 5(h, - !re$er more e3!erienced women. The more wellrounded the $ruit, the sweeter.6 5+o you’re saying -’m well-rounded, silly "oy, %ust "ecause - had my $our 'ids06 5)hatever the reason, you’ve got 'iller curves and +aul had "etter slee! with one eye o!en76 Lydia ru$$led his hair and taunted him $or "eing too naughty $or sweet Lorena. is re!ly tic'led her so much she 'eeled over in the circular "ooth and her head landed in his la!, e3!osing her nec' to another tic'le attac'. er $eet $lew u!, and her $loaty s'irt did too. They were laughing so hard they didn’t notice anyone leaving the lounge. 5There,6 said #ruce, tugging at her hem and hel!ing her sit "ac' u!. 5)e $i3ed that $lyaway s'irt. Man, you’ve got some legs on you7 Lorena needs to !um! iron to !ut curves on her thin !ins.6 (ut o$ the "lue Lydia made a color$ul comment a"out #ruce’s cologne that le$t him "reathless. -n turn he said, 5&nd your $ragrance is the am"rosia o$ !rimeval !aradise. )hat e3actly is it called06 5Lilac Liaison, silly.6 54or this !articular liaison, may"e06 +he giggled. 5&re you trying to get $resh, teacher06 5)ell...no, "ut - would li'e to get a closer loo' at that unusual "racelet you’re wearing. May -06 +he nodded. #ruce "eamed "roadly. e san' "ac' in the velvety u!holstery and "oldly encircled her with his arm. 5 ey, let’s see it now.6 +he laid her arm on the ta"le. 5-t’s %ust !olished %ade, #ruce, inlaid with gold and garnets. =ust a casual "au"le to suit a casual occasion.6 5Casual06 he grinned, his hand "rushing her $orearm as he studied the tiny gems more closely. 5- 'now this <uali$ies as a casual eatery, "ut is "eing here with me such a casual occasion06 5My,6 she giggled, 5you never <uit, do you0 +aul would get %ealous i$ he heard you say that.6 5Let him, i$ he can’t a!!reciate how my uni<ue teaching system has hel!ed you master the use o$ color. Those stones are $ar more eye-catching in their su"tle color gradations than any dull diamond.
&nd on you, even a hum"le "each !e""le would outshine a crown %ewel worn "y another woman.6 +he tittered. 5My husband could learn $rom you...a"out the mysteries o$ art, that is.6 >ec'lessly #ruce said: 5&nd the mysteries o$ the heart as well.6 -t was then they noticed the annoyed manager standing over them. 5Madam,6 he said , 5- thought you had le$t. ("viously, this is no !lace $or you. This is a $amily restaurant dedicated to the glory o$ ,od. #oth o$ you vacate the !remises now or -’ll contact the authorities.6 4uming, #ruce rose to his $eet and s!uttered, 5)hat is this0 & raid "y the vice s<uad0 Listen you !om!ous !inhead, my social li$e my own "usiness. &nd - !lay "y my own rules, not "y yours76 5Can it, #ruce,6 sighed Lydia . 5Let’s %ust !ay u! and go76 )ith a %er'y motion #ruce withdrew a money note and thrust it at the manager. 5 ere7’ he hu$$ed. 5-t’s more than enough7 /ee! the change $or your trou"le7 )e’re out o$ here, Lydia76 #ruce’s !arting !roclamation resounded through the ram"ling #istro: 5+omeday the PE(PLE will ta'e "ac' the !ower76
Excerpt Chapter from Book !
#rother )hite, !astor o$ ,lory Light Ta"ernacle, convenes with his elders a"out how to reach out in love to +aul, who has re"elled against the Lord and is in s!iritual grave danger "ecause o$ it. Meanwhile, *a"al $eels $ed u! with living in a !eace$ul, ,od$earing society. e wants to "e $eared and res!ected %ust li'e his notorious ancestor Clint. *a"al tries to get his "uddy Lot to !artici!ate in an armed ro""ery "ut ends u! in the doghouse with his guardian angel. Could this "e the end o$ the road $or *a"al0
AN AR# $F RESTRAINT ,lory Light Ta"ernacle, a house o$ singing and %oy, wore a som"er mood this morning as the !astor convened with his $ive elders. The men sat round a ta"le in a cheery room overloo'ing a <uiet wooded area where wild deer $rolic'ed and children ran and !layed. Their "oisterous shouts were heard "y men who en%oyed watching their $un "ut were themselves heavy o$ heart. ,od would "e glori$ied in today’s meeting, "ut this was hardly an occasion $or re%oicing. 5#rethren,6 said #rother )hite solemnly, 5never has anything li'e this trou"led our congregation.6
5Eery unorthodo3,6 said #rother Cyrus, a scholar who o$ten received divine revelations a"out tragic #i"le characters and how their lives a$$ected others. 5+trange, how he invited all $ive o$ us elders to his !arty, though he’s never included us on his social calendar "e$ore. .ou’d thin' +aul was waving his "ac'sliding in our $aces.6 #rother )hite loo'ed grim.5Than' ,od - wasn’t invited, and don’t $eel hurt a"out it. &nd i$ $launting his sin "e$ore his Ta"ernacle elders was +aul’s real motive, it is a $ear$ul sin he committed. -n very truth, that would ma'e him guilty o$ also $launting it "e$ore ,od. & sin worthy o$ death.6 5+aul cannot !lead ignorance o$ right and wrong,6 said #rother &nthony, who 'new +aul "est and was dee!ly sorry he was in such trou"le. 5The man is no sim!leton. e 'nows his #i"le inside out.6 5#ut does he a!!ly it06 mused Micah Cam!"ell, the most recently ordained elder. #rother >ay, 'nown $or his homes!un candor, said: 5#rethren, you can !lay daredevil with ,od and go out on a lim" as $ar as you li'e, "ut in the end you lose control o$ your stunt and you can’t control where or how hard you’ll $all, or what !art o$ you will get "ro'en.6 5 ow true,6 said #rother Cyrus. 5#ac' in the (ld )orld some o$ the most de!raved 'illers le$t clues "ehind $or the !olice as i$ to say: ;Catch me i$ you can.’ -t’s as i$ it was !art o$ some twisted scheme and +aul was daring us to $igure out what his hidden agenda was.6 5That e3!lains why he didn’t hesitate to invite us,6 said #rother >ay. 5-$ the log in my eye is as "ig as the one in yours, -’m hardly in a !osition to re"u'e you. ,et the idea06 5*ow it’s "eginning to ma'e more sense,6 said #rother -saac, a mild-mannered man o$ 2GH. 5+aul didn’t !ersonally !ush the drin' on us elders "ut one o$ his caterers came over to me and my wi$e several times with a $ancy wine cart covered in $lowers and $ruit. +he tried real hard to sell us on the wine "ut we as'ed mostly $or so$t drin's. That seemed to annoy her $or some reason.6 5Could "e,6 said #rother )hite, 5+aul wanted you to get drun' enough to go with the $low and !lay his !erverse game along with his less s!iritual guests. Then when his ego$est was over, who could !oint $ingers0 &$ter all, +aul didn’t !hysically $orce drin' down anyone’s throat, did he06 5&nd i$ +aul had a !ersonal vendetta with the Lord, heaven $or"id, what worse way to show it than to undercut the moral authority o$ his re!resentatives06 ventured #rother >ay. 5)hat a devilish motive,6 murmured Micah. 5,lad Eunice and le$t early.6 5Let him who is without sin cast the $irst stone, that ty!e o$ thing,6 said #rother Cyrus. 5Ta'e /ing 9avid. e must have "een
lenient with &mnon and &"salom "ecause he was ho""led "y his own moral down$all.6 5&mnon was 9avid’s $irst"orn,6 said #rother )hite, 5and &"salom his $avorite. ad 9avid dealt harshly with them, it would have hurt him too, %ust li'e it did when &"salom died in his re"ellion.6 5That’s %ust it, "rethren,6 said #rother >ay. 5-$ anything ha!!ens to +aul "ecause o$ this, - $ear - would also $eel the !ain o$ it "ecause he’s "een among us $or so long.6 5- truly $ear $or +aul’s li$e,6 said Micah. 5)ord has it that $our !eo!le !erished "ecause they wouldn’t re!ent.6 5+aul !rovided the scenario $or their deadly sin,6 said #rother )hite, in a voice thic' with emotion. 5#ut who can say "ut his sin served the dar' !ur!ose o$ revealing re"ellion that was already !resent in the hearts o$ those who !erished0 -t ha!!ened numerous times in the #i"le. ,od would allow sin to run its course in order that the dar'ness o$ many hearts might "e made mani$est.6 5&men, #rother )hite,6 said #rother Cyrus. 5)e who "elieve should as!ire to "e Eessels o$ onor in the hand o$ the Lord. #ut those who resist ,od’s will are instead a!!ointed to wrath. Ta'e #alaam, who turned out to "e a Eessel o$ )rath. e tem!ted the Children o$ -srael to commit idolatry, so that it was made mani$est that ,od’s Chosen Peo!le were as ca!a"le o$ that sin as any other.6 5)hat sorrow it "rings to my heart,6 sighed #rother &nthony. 5+aul, a Eessel o$ )rath. Lord, let it not "e said that .ou are !owerless to redeem +aul $rom "eing doomed to such a wretched role.6 5&men,6 said #rother )hite. 5Those $our sinners who died must have "een hardened souls who were living on "orrowed time. +aul’s sin was the catalyst that hastened their day o$ doom. -n his madness +aul !layed the tem!ter "ut they e3!osed themselves to the wrath o$ &lmighty ,od "y re%ecting the #lood o$ the Lam".6 5,od hel! +aul’s !oor $amily now,6 muttered Micah. 5#rethren, we don’t really have to dis$ellowshi! +aul yet, do we06 5The )ord o$ ,od does ma'e it clear that that is sometimes necessary,6 said #rother )hite, 5"ut $irst we should !ray and see' ,od’s s!eci$ic will. .ou don’t have to cross a "ridge till you get to it, and we have time to !onder this drastic measure "e$ore the ne3t service.6 #rother &nthony’s 'ind "rown eyes 'nit together. 5,od grant we won’t "e $orced to cut +aul adri$t $rom the saints when he needs our hel! the most.6 5(ur $irst concern,6 said #rother Cyrus, 5is to 'ee! +aul’s sin $rom in$ecting the rest o$ the $loc'. (ur other main !riority should "e to see' +aul’s restoration i$ it "e!ossi"le.6 5&men, said #rother )hite. 5>egardless o$ the si?e o$ +aul’s sin we must deal with him in humility. - also have "een guilty o$ diso"edience toward ,od, or !utting o$$ things - might have done
earlier. #rother Micah, how was it that you instinctively le$t the !arty "e$ore the others0 9o you $eel ,od gave you some s!ecial warning o$ where the !arty would lead06 Micah’s craggy $ace so"ered. 5Every seasoned $armer has a 'nac' $or reading nature’s signs to tell what the weather will "e. .ou can %ust a"out smell the rain coming and $eel it in the air. &s soon as - wal'ed in their door, - sensed something wasn’t <uite right. +aul’s wi$e acted mighty !eculiar.6 5 ow, #rother Micah06 54irst thing, she stuc' her nose u! to my wi$e and "ragged a"out how she was rich enough to donate her $ancy duds to !oorer $ol's while they’re still in mint condition.6 #rother )hite ru""ed his chin, dee! in thought. 5Micah, -’ve always 'nown Lydia is no "eliever. +he’s a ruthless de"ater who too' me on once when - visited their home. +he’s tenacious too. +he gave me a lot o$ runaround rhetoric, trying to con$use me while - ministered to +aul.6 5-’m not sur!rised,6 said Micah. 5#ut you mean to say +aul %ust stood "y and let her interru!t06 5&$raid so, Micah. +trange thing a"out Lydia, though. +he’ll still !lay the cordial hostess even i$ she doesn’t !articularly li'e you. -’m truly sur!rised she went out o$ her way to "e so mean to Eunice.6 5My wi$e and - haven’t seen much o$ her,6 said Micah,6"ecause what $ew times she does come to ta"ernacle she always rushes out right a$ter the "enediction. )e’ve always wanted to get to 'now the +avages "etter, !articularly since our sons are "est "uddies. +aul and Lydia 'now they have a standing invite to our !lace $or su!!er, "ut they always $ind e3cuses to !ut it o$$.6 5Could "e !lain old sno""ishness,6 #rother >ay drawled. 5Though it’s mighty rare in these !arts.6 5#rethren,6 said Micah, 5Lydia might have avoided us "e$ore, "ut she never treated us with in-your-$ace snootiness till we showed u! at their !arty.6 #rother )hite $rowned. 54or some reason, Micah, your new !osition as elder 'ee!s s!ringing to mind. )hen you met Lydia at the !arty, was that the $irst time you’d seen her since your ordination06 Micah’s eyes lit u!. 5)hy yes, #rother )hite, -’m sure it was76 5+o - assume she must have $ound out a"out your new status as elder either $rom +aul or Lot telling *a"al06 5+eems logical to me,6 said Micah. 5Could that have something to do with the way she acted06 5-t may indeed, Micah. - say this in $ear and trem"ling: - ho!e with all my heart she didn’t reali?e that she wasn’t really des!ising you, "ut the Christ within you.6
5That alone would ma'e her and +aul guilty o$ the very same sin,6 said Micah, 5though it hurts me to have to say that a"out them.6 5&men,6 said #rother -saac, 5>emem"er our +avior and is e3em!lary li$e, how the scri"es and the Pharisees were continually at odds with the sweet +!irit within im.6 5.es,6 said #rother &nthony. 5The 'ey issue was this: Those cra$ty enemies o$ Christ #new e was the Promised (ne. #ut out o$ a s!irit o$ %ealousy and com!etition, !erha!s even s!ite "ecause o$ is hum"le "irth, they insulted the +!irit o$ ,race within im, though e healed the multitudes and cast demons out o$ them. >emem"er that the &!ostle Paul said he !ersecuted Christ out o$ ignorance, thin'ing he was doing ,od a "ig $avor. &nd "ecause he did it in ignorance and un"elie$ ,od could $orgive him.6 5#ut, going "ac' to #rother &nthony’s !oint,6 said #rother Cyrus. 5Can anyone truly say +aul committed his sin out o$ ignorance0 e deli"erately staged a $arce o$ a coronation which he !ut on only a$ter he !ersonally circulated around the room to get every"ody drun'. e 'new his elders were watching him "ut he seemed not to care. - %ust than' ,od all o$ us here were wise enough not to $ill u! on +aul’s wine and lose control o$ our $aculties.6 5&men,6 said #rother &nthony. 5)hich introduces yet another !ivotal !oint: )as +aul +avage 2FFI in control o$ his own $aculties that night06 54rom what Lot has told me,6 said Micah, 5+aul’s mind is li'e a !oor !ower connection. is short-term memory comes and goes. (n his good days he’s all right, "ut when he has one o$ his s!ells he gives you a vacant loo' and can "arely remem"er what you’ve %ust said to him. is son *a"al su$$ers the same a$$liction, "ut to a lesser degree.6 5+aul’s "een li'e that several months now,6 #rother &nthony ventured. 5Ever since that old house "urnt down on my !ro!erty,6 said Micah. 5#rethren,6 said #rother )hite, 5nowadays sic'ness and a$$liction come only as a direct !enalty o$ sin. Many are the hereditary in$irmities we all would su$$er i$ nature itsel$ hadn’t "een granted this "lessed re!rieve $rom ,od’s curse on a $allen world. +ome o$ us would have heart !ro"lems, others would get cancer, stro'e, leu'emia, dia"etes, tooth decay or "lindness. Physical maladies would come as a matter o$ course, regardless o$ diligently caring $or our "odies.6 5=ust "ecause we’re all descended $rom &dam,6 said #rother -saac. 5>ight,6 said Micah.
5+o what are you driving at, #rother )hite06 in<uired #rother >ay. 5/ee!ing =o" in mind as an e3am!le, gentlemen, - could never have said this "ac' in the (ld )orld when so many righteous saints endured trial and a$$liction o$ all 'inds, including sic'ness. #ut in this #lessed &ge - am $orced to conclude that !ersonal sin must "e the root cause o$ +aul’s and *a"al’s mental in$irmity. -t seems reasona"le that had they lived in the (ld )orld, they might have "een !redis!osed to this wea'ness. -t was o$ten said: ;There’s a $ine line "etween genius and madness. +aul is a genius -.C., and even i$ *a"al isn’t his intellectual e<ual, he still would have "een at ris' $rom +aul’s genetic $laws. The two o$ them were, until recently, s!ared the illnesses o$ the (ld )orld. #ut when sin overcame them, in$irmity did too.6 5-$ +aul’s mind has degenerated to such a low !oint he no longer cares who witnesses his re"ellion, then he truly is a sic' man,6 said Micah. 5<hough it does ta'e a certain degree o$ devilish cunning to coo' u! the mess +aul made, which he’ll have to answer to ,od $or.6 5#ut,6 said #rother -saac mildly, 5=esus did tell the sel$-righteous Pharisees: Those who are well need not a physi)ian, but those who are si)#. My gut $eeling is that i$ ,od is a"le to $orgive +aul $or this terri"le thing, +aul will only end u! loving Christ more than those o$ us who didn’t $all so $ar.6 5&men,6 said Micah. 5 o!e$ully ,od will s!are +aul the worst case scenario !unishment "ecause his mind isn’t in the "est sha!e anymore.6 5May ,od have mercy on his soul,6 murmured #rother &nthony. 5The Psalmist said something li'e this: ;-$ you tallied u! our ini<uities, Lord, who would "e a"le to stand "e$ore you’06 5#ut there is $orgiveness with you, ( Lord, that .ou might "e $eared,6 Micah concluded. 5-$ there "e any s!ar' o$ ho!e remaining $or +aul,6 said #rother &nthony, 5we should see' ,od’s intervention. #rother )hite, we’ve had some di$$iculty reaching +aul. is communications are down.6 5Could "e "ecause o$ the earth tremors that struc' his estate a$ter we le$t,6 said #rother -saac. 5Eery !ossi"le,6 said #rother )hite. 5& cou!le o$ us have driven out to see him, "ut couldn’t get in,6 said #rother Cyrus. =ose!h is very gracious and sym!athetic "ut has orders not to admit guests. #ut somehow - did $inally manage to get +aul on the !hone yesterday.6 5&nd how was he, #rother &nthony06 5-n a word, vague. e loo'ed haggard and ill, though he did his "est to loo' chi!!er. e couldn’t "ear to "e <uestioned. &ll he did was mum"le that he was shutting himsel$ away $or a $ew days to
!ray, and he didn’t want any"ody to see him %ust yet. #ut - really would li'e to drive out there again and see i$ he’ll $inally let one o$ us in. +ince -’m the one he’s most at ease with, it should "e me, don’t you agree, #rother )hite06 5Perha!s. -$ you can get !ast the "utler hal$ the "attle’s won. =ose!h’s %o" is to !rotect +aul’s !rivacy "ut he mustn’t !rotect him $rom our e$$orts to !rotect +aul $rom hell.6 5#ut a gung-ho assault on +aul’s door might only ma'e him "uild higher walls,6 said #rother >ay. 5Perha!s "oldness can "e di!lomatic,6 said #rother &nthony. 5-$ - a!!eal to =ose!h’s higher duty to ,od chances are he’d at least let me in the $oyer, then go in and !lead with +aul to let me come in to see him. +aul doesn’t need to "e le$t to his own devices at a time li'e this. e needs the su!!ort o$ his she!herds. )e need not "e harsh, "ut we can admonish him in mee'ness.6 5&men,6 agreed #rother )hite. 5)e’ll !ray a"out that today. #ut when we all leave here let’s "e circums!ect and leave all this tal' "ehind in this "uilding. Let us all learn $rom this terri"le thing, "ut let’s not s!read any tal' around in the community. -t doesn’t hel! matters to ruminate on the sins that were committed at that !arty, or what sad sha!e +aul’s soul must "e in now.6 5>ight,6 said Micah. 5& cow ruminates all day, "ut a saint should !ray. Eunice and - have 'e!t it "etween ourselves, "ut the halls o$ Lot’s school are already "u??ing. Poor *a"al. +ure he’s no saint, "ut - can’t hold him res!onsi"le $or what his dad did. +o -’ll let him stay $riends with Lot until he gives me reason to "ar him $rom coming over to the house.6 5=ust use godly common sense and su!ervise his visits,6 #rother )hite cautioned him. 5May"e your 'indness and concern will even "e a li$eline at this di$$icult time to hel! reach *a"al $or Christ. (h, #rother &nthony, - $orgot to as'. >emem"er we a!!ointed you to contact Lord +te!hen and tell him a"out today’s meeting so you could get his advice on how to deal with #rother +avage0 9id you manage to get through to him06 #rother &nthony loo'ed a"ashed. 5)ell, uh... - thought a"out calling him, #rother )hite.6 5#ut you didn’t06 5*ot e3actly.6 5&nd why not06 5)ell, our ruler might "e very "usy and - didn’t want to over"urden him. - $elt that i$ we did enough "rainstorming today we could come u! with our own !lan...with ,od’s hel!, o$ course.6 5-t isn’t a matter o$ "rainstorming,6 #rother Cyrus inter!osed, 5"ut a matter o$ o"edience. .ou are in training $or that glorious day when you yoursel$ will "ecome immortal and <uali$ied to reign over some !art o$ ,od’s universe. 9o you remem"er the original +aul in the #i"le and how he $ailed to carry out +amuel’s e3!licit orders0
ow, instead o$ destroying all the &male'ite shee! and cattle li'e ,od commanded, +aul 'e!t the "est o$ their livestoc' %ust "ecause it seemed li'e a good idea0 .ou must heed the will o$ Christ who has set you under authority, not the voice o$ human reason.6 5- am truly sorry, "rethren,6 said #rother &nthony. 5- as' your $orgiveness, #rother )hite. +aul sort o$ loo's u! to me and - let him down. +till thin' it’s a good idea $or me to try to see him, or should one o$ you go06 5Tell you what, #rother &nthony,6 said the !astor. 5Let’s all 'neel and s!end an hour or so !raying $or #rother +aul. +ince he trusts you more than the rest o$ us, it still might "e ,od’s will $or you to go. #ut it’s "est to "e sure. )hatever the case, a$ter we "rea' u! this meeting, - want you to contact Lord +te!hen’s =udgment all immediately, and then get "ac' with me to tell me what he said. Promise06 5- won’t $ail you this time, #rother )hite.6 5,ood. *ow we’ll all as' ,od $or an anointing o$ wisdom, that e might clearly show which o$ us is to go see +aul today. )e may "e eager to !lunge into a !ro"lem and $i3 it our own way "ut we must never get ahead o$ ,od.6 J J J J J & chorus o$ gaily-!lumed song"irds $luttered in the trees, war"ling sweet !raises to their Creator. #eds o$ "eauti$ul "lossoms dotted the emerald green cam!us o$ a!!y +ouls &dvanced Middle +chool. There was one incongruity in that a$ter-school scene: the sour loo' on *a"al +avage’s $ace. e seemed unmoved "y the serene glory o$ the $ragrant $loral landsca!e. Lot Cam!"ell, his "est "uddy, !aused to admire a "ed o$ variegated violets, each one lovingly !ainted "y the Master &rtist. 5Loo' at those $lowers, *a"al76 cried Lot. 5(nly our ,od could have created colors li'e that. &nd to thin' that so many !eo!le who lived in the (ld )orld dou"ted is very e3istence, when all around us you can see what a great 9ecorator ,od is. +ee that little yellow !ansy trimmed in !ur!le and red06 e !ointed to one in the center o$ the !lot. 9isgusted, *a"al snorted. &ngrily he stom!ed on the tiny "loom which Lot had "een admiring. e 'ic'ed at the !olished !e""les "ordering the $lower "ed. 5 ey, *a"al76 cried Lot. 5)hat’s the matter with you0 That $lower did nothing to you76 5Pansies are sissy76 grum"led *a"al. 5&nd so is all that +!iritual Ed we have to ta'e every day7 - was "orn 1FF years too late!$ 5)hy do you say that06 5 ere - am, wal'in’ home $rom school. & school where -’m %ust another $ace in the crowd7 - wish -’d lived in my ancestor Clint’s day. Man, that dude was )ool! +chool stin's.6
Lot 'new what was "othering him. 5Loo', *a"al. - 'now what the guys said, "ut don’t let it "other you. .our dad’s not the only guy who carried away at a !arty. -t’ll "low over.6 5(ur school’s $ull o$ wim!s76 growled *a"al. - hate goin’ to cha!el to hear !rayers no"ody means76 5- never said those 'ids were !er$ect, *a"al. 9on’t let them get to you.6 5)hat a "unch o$ "aloney religion is,6 *a"al glowered. 5+ome !aradise.6 Lot 'new *a"al was so re"ellious he shouldn’t even associate with him, e3ce!t to try to lead him to salvation. &s they sauntered across the vast, manicured cam!us, Lot grew increasingly uneasy. e wondered what *a"al’s idea o$ Paradise really was. 5Mom’s run o$$ on 9ad $or a $ew days,6 said *a"al, as i$ it were an everyday occurrence. 5>un o$$0 9id she really leave him, *a"al0 )hat ha!!ened06 5(h, the usual %un', only this time it was worse. Mom gave 9ad the "usiness a"out religion. Man, did they ever have one hell o$ a $ight. +he ran o$$ to her girl $riend’s till it "lows over. &t least, that’s what +usanna said.6 5*a"al, -’m sorry. .ou 'now, you can stay at my !lace till they !atch things u!.6 5.ou’re some "uddy, Lot. ey, since - li'e you so much, -’ll let you in on somethin’.6 5)hat, *a"al06 5*o matter what any"ody says -’ve got a really great dad76 5+o do -, *a"al. )hat’s so s!ecial a"out yours06 5 e !ays (ld Man Croo'e not to !addle me when - get in trou"le, tee hee. *ow, don’t - have it made06 5)hat76 5.eah7 &ll Croo'e ever does is give me an hour’s detention and swa! %o'es with me a$ter school. #ut he never gri!es a"out it. My old man shells out !lenty to !ay $or his e3tra time at school.6 5&s wild as you are, you get o$$ with detention0 &nd he’s ta'ing "ri"es $rom your dad06 5*o, man,6 *a"al snic'ered. 5 ush money76 (ld Man Croo'e told me to 'ee! our deal under wra!s. )e were sittin’ in his o$$ice last wee' !layin’ !o'er when he says to me: ;*a"al, don’t you ever tell a soul a"out my little arrangement with your $ather. e doesn’t "elieve in cor!oral !unishment, and he’s !ayin’ me to su!ervise your detention. -$ word o$ this was ever to reach our rulers, - might lose my !osition here. &nd "esides, *a"al, isn’t it !unishment enough, "ein’ stuc' with a stu$$y old "ore li'e me $or an hour or two each day0’5 5)ow, *a"al7 -$ -$ - did li'e you, my dad sure wouldn’t "ail me out li'e that, he’d bawl me out, and worse776 5)ell, it !ays to "e rich,6 *a"al shrugged.
Lot $ound *a"al very e3citing to "e around, des!ite his draw"ac's. *a"al +avage was one daredevil noncon$ormist who lived li$e his own way. Lot also 'new that *a"al’s attitude was dis!leasing to the Lord. Moreover, he sensed ,od’s disa!!roval o$ the way he loo'ed u! to the school !ran'ster. #ut Lot did not yet have enough strength o$ character to "rea' o$$ the association. +uddenly *a"al sto!!ed on the !athway. is devious grin made Lot wonder what was coo'ing in his "rain. -t a!!eared to Lot that every "ird in the vicinity was $leeing. (verhead he saw great $ormations o$ them soaring away $rom the cam!us. They were $lying toward the ill o$ the Prince, the location o$ the ,reat all o$ =udgment. *a"al interru!ted Lot’s reverie. 5 ey, you7 .ou gonna stand there li'e a dummy, or are you gonna listen0 - %ust made u! my mind. -’ve gotta go through with it. My li$e’s not gonna "e dull no more7 - can live %ust li'e old Clint i$ - want to. &nyhow, - don’t see no angels hangin’ around to sto! me76 5)ell, all the birds are gone, *a"al. -t sure is weird,6 mum"led Lot. 5#irds and $lowers76 moc'ed *a"al. 5They’re $or girls7 &nd s!ea'in’ o$ angels, they’re all over my house lately. My dad draws ;em li'e "ees go $or honey. - swear, Lot, my old man’s crac'in’ u! real "ad ever since that !arty7 /now what his latest game is06 5)hat06 Lot’s mouth hung o!en. 5*ow, get this7 5 *a"al chuc'led. e’s goin’ on an old $ashioned hunger stri'e to try and straighten me out. e’s "een starvin’ himsel$ $or a wee' now, "elieve it or not76 5- thin' he must "e on a $ast,6 said Lot. 5,od’s !eo!le once did that as an aid to their !rayer lives, or to e3!ress sorrow $or sin. -t could "e "ecause your $ather’s sorry a"out the !arty. +o $ar as 'now, $asting has "een out o$ style since the >eturn o$ the /ing.6 5 a ha ha76 gu$$awed *a"al. *I sure as hec' don’t $ast7 Every night -’ve chowed down on Me3ican or Cantonese gru", hero su"s, !e!!eroni !i??as...all delivered to my house through the &utosho! Tunnel. -t’s great to "e a rich 'id with a $at "an' account76 Lot could "oast neither unlimited $unds nor access to the &utosho! Tunnel. e was always irritated when *a"al gloated a"out his $amily’s wealth. #ut now it was *a"al’s cold-hearted ridicule o$ his $ather’s $asting which ir'ed Lot the most. 5*a"al,6 he as'ed, 5don’t you thin' you’re "eing un$air to your !oor hungry $ather06 5)hat do - care06 laughed *a"al. 5-’d even wave my goodies under my dad’s nose, i$ - didn’t get chased outa the data room $irst76 5Man, you scare me sometimes,6 muttered Lot. 5,ood76 *a"al grinned. 5-t’s great to get a little res!ect76 That’s why - e3ist76
5Lot, 5 he added dreamily, 5- wanna "e 'ing o$ my school, %ust li'e Clint was. *ow that would "e cool76 5)hat do you mean "y ;'ing o$ the school’06 5& real 'ing gets !eo!le s)ared, Lot7 Clint used to "eat u! any 'id who didn’t cough u! his lunch money $ast enough. Even the teachers were scared to death o$ him76 59idn’t teachers !unish unruly 'ids "ac' then, *a"al06 5*o way7 Teachers could get sued $or crac'in’ down on 'ids who made trou"le. The 'ids’ !arents always stuc' u! $or their 'ids, no matter what. &ll they ever did to Clint was to threaten to send him to the !rinci!al’s o$$ice i$ he "eat any"ody else u!. e laughed in the !rinci!al’s $ace, too. &$ter they e3!elled Clint, he terrori?ed the whole city with a massive networ' o$ drug syndicates he ran76 Lot was almost !ersuaded to leave *a"al right then and there. ow could any"ody "rag a"out the wor's o$ the devil, $ought against $or so long "y Christ’s war-weary saints0 Lot tried to humor *a"al. 5Loo', *a"al. Clint must have seen how rotten his li$e had gotten to "e. &$ter all, he did get saved during the Tri"76 5 is "ac' was u! against the wall, Lot76 argued *a"al, as i$ a!ologi?ing $or Clint’s conversion. 5#ac' then, you could go to hell %ust $or ta'in’ the Mar' o$ the #east. Clint got "arred $rom the su!ermar'ets when he wouldn’t get an -. 9. chi! !lanted in his s'in. +o he said, ; ec', don’t need ;em anyway.’ e caught his own $ish and ra""its to eat. e shot s<uirrels and deer. e even roasted rattlesna'es. e wore rawhide clothes. Man, that was one tough dude76 5*a"al,6 o"%ected Lot, 5going through the ,reat Tri"ulation was uns!ea'a"le hell. My ancestors were always on the run. ungry, scared, and e3hausted. ,od did !rovide $or them, "ut there were times they $oraged $ood $rom dum!sters to get enough to eat. #ut they wouldn’t ta'e the Mar'.6 5)ell, as - said,6 s!uttered *a"al, 5Clint didn’t wanna go to hell.6K 5-$ he had ta'en the Mar', *a"al, you wouldn’t "e here today. Thin' a"out that.6 esitantly Lot "reathed: 5*a"al...i$ you had "een in Clint’s !lace, would you have ta'en the Mar'06 5 ec', no76 re!lied *a"al %auntily. 5*o"ody sla!s a !roduct code on me! )hat do - loo' li'e0 & "ag o$ !otato chi!s or somethin’06 )hat relie$ Lot $elt. May"e a s!ar' o$ ho!e remained $or his $riend a$ter all. is o!timism $aded when *a"al added, nose u!turned: 5#esides, 'obody tells *a"al +avage what to do7 *ot Mom, not 9ad, not even the Prince7 I’m the "ig cheese around here76
Lot loo'ed all around to see i$ anyone might "e listening. 5Cool it, *a"al76 he !leaded. .ou could get into "ig trou"le saying those things out loud7 9on’t you 'now ,od owns this whole world, and e sent is +on "ac' to claim it06 5+o06 shrugged *a"al. 5+o ,od’s got a right to tell us how to live. )e’re on is tur$. )hat do you say to that, now06 *a"al grinned deviously. 5)ell, -’ve got s<uatter’s rights, don’t -, and i$ ,od was so worried a"out !eo!le wrec'in’’ is world, how come e waited so long to come $i3 it0 That’s what mom always says.6 5.our mom said that0 ow aw$ul76 5My mom’s the smartest thing in a s'irt,6 said *a"al,6 and that’s a very smart <uestion, ain’t it06 5,od has is times and seasons $or all things,6 said Lot. 5#rother )hite said something li'e this: ;,od, )ho is !er$ectly righteous, decided not to clear away $allen man’s gar"age until it had rotted so "ad its stench would testi$y to the whole universe how utterly sin$ul man'ind’s sin is, and that was so every"ody might 'now that a loving ,od had no choice "ut to get tough with !olluters o$ this !lanet. (therwise, *a"al, this whole gala3y might have caught the sin "ug.6 ,lumly *a"al 'ic'ed a stone. 5)ell, - thin' the Lord’s ma'in’ a mountain out o$ a molehill.6 5*a"al76 cried Lot. 59idn’t you learn anything a$ter we "ro'e into that old house and !aid in !ain $or it0 (r, at least I !aid in !ain7 )here do you get your screwy ideas, anyway0 .ou can’t "e !ossessed. ey, man, -’m worried a"out you76 *a"al let out a lusty laugh. e didn’t remem"er a thing a"out his near "rush with death, or his su"se<uent !unishment "y Lord +te!hen $or telling lies a"out Lot’s strict $ather. )henever *a"al visited Lot’s $arm, he could see "lac'ened clearing where the cottage had stood. #ut he could not recall his own !art in its destruction. Lot’s $amily thought *a"al was in a state o$ mental denial, and his "rain was merely shutting out the trauma o$ the $ire@though it seemed to cause the "oy no alarm. Lot cringed at *a"al’s lunatic ravings: 5That Prince won’t do nothin’ to me7 e’s too "usy to s!y on me7 &nd to !rove it, -’m gonna say: ; ey, Prince, you can’t scare me7 I’m the 'ing o$ ,an *esherim7 =ust try and sto! me7 Ma'e my day’76 5)hat are you going to do now, *a"al06 gas!ed Lot. 5- can’t "elieve you %ust said that76 5Listen, "uddy. -6m gonna do a lot more than %ust tal'. -’m gonna 'ic' u! some dust around here, ma'e a "ig name $or mysel$. May"e start u! my own gang. - dare you...6 5Lot7 Lot7 Come here76 called an urgent voice $rom a$ar.
The "oy loo'ed stunned. 5+orry, *a"al,6 he whis!ered, 5staring into the distance. 5My guardian angel Boltar is calling me $rom over there. )hatever it is must "e im!ortant.6 *a"al loo'ed !eeved as Lot ran toward Boltar, who was waiting u!on a grassy hilloc' to!!ed with a strand o$ cy!ress trees. 5.ou still gettin’ !estered "y angels06 yelled *a"al shrilly. 5told my angel to get lost this mornin’, on my way to school. &nd told him to 'ee! his nose outa my "usiness, too76 -gnoring *a"al’s crude taunts, the "oy 'e!t running 5 ey, Man76 *a"al called a$ter him. .ou runnin’ o$$ to the Prince to rat on (ld man Croo'e0 aw7 aw7 aw76 +oon Lot was a good distance $rom $rom his "rash "uddy. e a!!roached the angel Boltar, a towering $igure o$ light whose "enign $ace was clouded with sorrow. #reathlessly Lot said, 5Boltar, what’s the matter0 - ran as $ast as - could76 5.ou #now what the !ro"lem is,6 the angel hal$-scolded. 5.ou have "een warned time and again a"out consorting with re"els. Light cannot co-e3ist with dar'ness. *either can you !ersuade *a"al to re!ent. There is now no $urther ho!e $or that "oy.6 5*a"al really is a"solutely ho!eless, Boltar0 e didn’t learn anything $rom that $ire06 5&"solutely not. *a"al was telling the truth when he said that he couldn’t remem"er "eing in it. #ecause o$ the degenerative e$$ects o$ sin in his home, the e3!erience !ro$ited him a"solutely nothing. *a"al des!ises the righteous. &nd you heard him de$y ,od’s Prince. -$ you were more outs!o'en a"out your love $or our /ing, this incorrigi"le "oy would want nothing more to do with you. Even now he is hatching a vicious !lot against Timmy Mee's, a devout student who attends a$ter-school !raise meetings. *a"al is, at this moment, o"serving the sanctuary with his telesco!e. e is !atiently waiting $or Timmy to e3it the "uilding.6 Lot was horri$ied. 5 ow could anyone want to hurt Timmy0 e’s a great guy7 Every"ody li'es him76 5-n a $ew minutes,6 said Boltar, 5Timmy will wal' down that lane where *a"al is concealing himsel$ "ehind shru""ery. )hen Timmy !asses "y, *a"al will lea! out $rom "ehind those "ushes and demand that Timmy surrender his !ossessions. *a"al doesn’t !articularly want his things, %ust to "ully the other "oy into su"mission76 5- didn’t reali?e that *a"al would stoo! so low, Boltar76 5-sn’t de$ying our Prince also uns!ea'a"ly evil06 re!lied Boltar gravely. 54urthermore, *a"al will threaten to 'ill Timmy i$ he does not com!ly with his demands.6 5(h, Boltar76 wailed Lot. 5.ou’ve got to do something76
5The Lord has already made !rovision $or Timmy’s sa$ety, Lot. &nd, very un$ortunately, the angel Clarion and Prince 9aniel shall $ace a heartrending tas'.6 5)ho is Clarion, Boltar06 5 e is *a"al’s $ormer guardian angel. - s!o'e with him this morning. *a"al has ordered Clarion to de!art $rom him $orever. )e angels must $orsa'e those who are so utterly hardened in sin that their enmity with ,od is "eyond remedy. Clarion was $orced out o$ *a"al’s li$e "ecause *a"al has made a $inal re%ection o$ the Lord Christ and em"raced the things o$ dar'ness. Lot, *a"al is even now $ollowing in the ste!s o$ the original re"el Luci$er.6 Lot gas!ed. 5.ou mean it, Boltar06 5-t is the truth, Lot. >emem"er that Luci$er re"elled "ecause he was dissatis$ied with his highly e3alted !osition in the courts o$ heaven. is all-consuming lust was to to!!le our loving Creator $rom is very Throne and to wrest control o$ the entire universe $rom is hands. Luci$er !ossessed neither than'$ulness nor sense o$ duty toward the ,od )ho had shown him loving $avor in "estowing u!on him the o$$ice o$ Chie$ &nointed Cheru".6 5=ust li'e *a"al isn’t satis$ied with li$e in our world,6 said Lot. 5 e thin's he needs to "e 'ing o$ the school and start u! a gang, %ust li'e Clint +avage did.6 5.ou’ve s!o'en the truth o$ the situation,6 sighed Boltar. 5remem"er how terri"le it was when Luci$er, who had once "een !er$ect in all his ways, re"elled. e is the $ather and originator o$ ungodliness. &t his $all, ,od’s "eauti$ul, orderly universe was instantly tainted "y the introduction o$ sin. The earth was hurled into a history o$ sin and death a$ter Luci$er achieved the 4all o$ &dam and Eve. (ne-third o$ my $ellow angels sided with that re"el whose name means ;Morning +tar’, the e3alted celestial o$$ice he $or$eited through his $all. *ow our Eternal /ing is re$erred to as the #right and Morning +tar, $or e alone is the )orthy (ne. ($ course you 'now that Luci$er, the once sinless angel, "ecame +atan, which means ;adversary’. e is the adversary o$ your soul, Lot. e is, $or a time, con$ined to the #ottomless Pit, "ut mortals o$ this "lessed /ingdom must never idoli?e him through their manner o$ li$e or emulate his evil e3am!le. Luci$er and his demons once s!read sin, sic'ness, idolatry, wars, and crimes o$ every descri!tion throughout this earth. 4or many thousands o$ years, $rom the 4all o$ &dam until our Lord’s +econd Coming, sin and death reigned in all o$ nature. The redeemed o$ the Lord had to ta'e re$uge "eneath is )ings, as godless sinners tyranni?ed this earth and ro""ed it o$ all !eace.6 5- heard that l$e on earth was aw$ul "e$ore =esus returned,6 re$lected Lot. 5Li$e was once a struggle $or mere survival, $or millions who lived throughout the ages,6 said Boltar. 5The strong devoured the
wea'. The rich ro""ed the !oor o$ his sustenance. -n the !oorest nations o$ the earth, a $ellow o$ your age would have "een considered almost an old man76 5#ut -’m only 1F and my voice hasn’t even changed yet7 Boltar, why on earth should *a"al want to return to the (ld )orld0 )e have it made76 5Lot, all the "lessings o$ long li$e, !ros!erity, !er$ect health , endless !eace and a"undance o$ all good things are yoursA $or you are a citi?en o$ Messiah’s earthly /ingdom, as well as is eternal one. +o long as you serve im and o"ey im, all is "ene$its will "e yours. #ut remem"er, Lot. e imsel$ is the greatest #lessing o$ all,6 said the angel reverently. The "oy’s eyes "rightened. & revival o$ love $or his +avior $illed his heart. 5Boltar, you are so right7 ow could - $ail to remem"er the (ne )ho made our wonder$ul world !ossi"le06 5Consider this, Lot. #e$ore you $inish !raying, ,od hears and answers you s!eedily. There are no "lac' clouds o$ demons "attling to !revent you $rom receiving ,od’s answers to !rayer. The !ro!het 9aniel o$$ered u! a $ervent !etition to the Lord. The angel ,a"riel immediately le$t heaven to deliver ,od’s answer to 9aniel. #ut +atan’s $orces $ought against ,a"riel and hindered him $rom reaching 9aniel with ,od’s message. 4or three wee's 9aniel continued in $asting and su!!lication. Michael, ,eneral o$ the armies o$ heaven, came to ,a"riel’s aid. e hel!ed ,a"riel to !ush "ac' and de$eat the demonic !rinci!alities who controlled Persia. 4inally, ,od’s !ro!hetic message reached 9aniel.6 5That is some story,6 said Lot. 5-’m glad we never have to $ast...uh, - guess you heard a"out *a"al’s dad.6 5.es, - have heard, Lot. 4or the most !art, $easting has re!laced $asting as a devotion to the Lord. The saints o$ ,od are no longer o!!ressed and em"attled through the !resence o$ demons. The ,lory o$ the Lord $ills the entire earth, and is sweet Presence is ever with the sons o$ men.6 Boltar could not restrain a smile. Then his e3!ression dar'ened. 5#ut there is very grievous sin $ound in the house o$ +aul +avage. & wee' ago Clarion conveyed direct orders $rom Prince 9aniel himsel$. +aul was commanded to mourn and $ast and a$$lict his soul until the Prince has thoroughly dealt with him.6 5*a"al !o'es $un at his $ather $or $asting76 $umed Lot. 5&nd he eats everything he wants when he wants it76 5The time will come, Lot, when *a"al will wee! and wail in the Pit o$ 9estruction "ecause he never hum"led his soul "e$ore the Lord in re!entance.6 The angel loo'ed very sad. 5Boltar, - 'now why *a"al is mad. & $ew 'ids made $un o$ his $ather today. *a"al doesn’t always treat his $ather right, "ut he’ll
get mad i$ others say anything un'ind a"out him. - thin' that’s why *a"al is "eing so aw$ul.6 5,od will deal with the hy!ocrisy o$ those who chose cruelty over 'indness,6 said Boltar. 5Most o$ the children at your school viewed *a"al with com!assion and tried to "e$riend him, didn’t they06 5.es, they did, Boltar, "ut *a"al shrugged it o$$. - do 'now i$ the devil were still on the loose *a"al would have had a much rougher time living down whatever his dad did.6 5Truly it would have "een much worse $or him,6 said Boltar. 5#ut *a"al was too !roud to acce!t the com!assion o$ the 'inder students. -nstead he $ocused on those $ew who wanted to ridicule him to ma'e themselves $eel su!erior. -n this world there is no e3cuse $or continuing in dar'ness. 5Lot, - love you. #ut i$ you choose *a"al and $orsa'e your +avior, - must also $orsa'e you. .ou are $ree to choose li$e...or death. - entreat you, Lot. Turn your "ac' on the Path to 9estruction, and $orsa'e not the )ay to Li$e. 4or the sa'e o$ im )ho loved you and gave imsel$ $or you.6 Boltar stood regarding his charge with !leading eyes as the "oy stood !ondering *a"al. -t was deathly silent. Every "ird and small animal which inha"ited the serene cam!us had $led, even as wildli$e o$ the (ld )orld would have "ehaved erratically at the a!!roach o$ a storm. Presently Lot heard a shrill voice calling $rom a distance. e turned to loo'. e saw *a"al gesturing and yelling at him. Lot 'new his moment o$ decision had come. 5Lot7 Lot7 urry76 called *a"al. That idiot Mee's is leavin’ the cha!el7 Come hel! me %um! him7’ Lot did not hesitate. e turned and ran@into Boltar’s waiting arms. 5(h, Boltar, -’m...so...sorry76 cried the "oy. 5Please $orgive me $or running around with *a"al76 The angel smiled sweetly, stro'ing Lot’s head. 5($ course $orgive you. .ou had to come to this !lace o$ total surrender to the Lord. Come now, let us de!art $rom this !lace o$ im!ending doom. .our righteous soul must not witness the imminent tragedy.6 Lot ignored *a"al’s taunts. &ccom!anied "y the angel, he "egan to wal' $urther away $rom him. 5 ey wa$$lehead7 ey chic'en7 Come ba)# here76 shouted *a"al, waving his $ist in $rustration. 5(h, hell7 That wim! chic'ened out7 #ut - don’t need that idiot’s hel!. - can !ull o$$ this little %o" mysel$76 grum"led *a"al, lowering his com!act telesco!e. (nce again he concealed himsel$ "ehind the "ushes. Timmy Mee's was strolling down the tran<uil lane alone, humming !raises to his ,od. +oon he was within a $ew yards o$ *a"al.
*o angels were visi"le. *either chir!ing o$ "ird nor chattering o$ s<uirrel distur"ed the hush in the air. (nly Timmy’s $ootste!s and cheer$ul, so$tly crooned hymn. *a"al thought the coast was clear. e s!rang out $rom "ehind the "ushes, li'e a ravenous lion attac'ing a lone shee!. e was "randishing his dad’s ra?or-shar! $ishing 'ni$e. Timmy was startled "y the am"ush, "ut $ully con$ident in his Lord’s !rotection. 5('ay, Mee's76 growled *a"al, glowering with hate. 5&s $ounder and head 'ing!in o$ the Clint Cutthroats ,ang, -’m orderin’ you to $or' over your chromatone %ac'et and stereo s!ace watch76 Cuic'ly Timmy a!!raised the situation and <uoted the Law to *a"al: *+ou shall not )o&et your neighbor’s possessions.$ -t only in$uriated *a"al. 59on’t !reach at me, gee'. 4or' ;em over now or -’ll cut your guts out76 Timmy didn’t "udge. e stood his ground. e could ever sense the !rotective !resence o$ his guardian angel. &gain he <uoted +cri!ture:5The %ord is my %ight and my Sal&ation. -f whom shall I be afraid( The angel of the %ord en)amps round about those who fear Him, and deli&ers them. &nd there he is right now76 +uddenly the angel >adiel stood "etween Timmy and *a"al. The massive "eing loo'ed $iercely at *a"al, who was !etri$ied "y his sudden a!!earance. #ut though he was scared, the "oy waved the 'ni$e wildly at the angel. (ther angels were now !resent, shielding the eyes o$ other students and leading them away "e$ore they could witness what would trans!ire. *a"al tried to drive the "lade into the "road chest o$ the angel , thrusting it in a wide arc. -t sto!!ed several inches short o$ its target. *a"al could not see who had interce!ted the 'ni$e, nor could he move it any closer to the angel. e couldn’t see what was s<uee?ing his right hand. is worst $ears were con$irmed when he !eered u! at the colossal angel who had come to >adiel’s assistance. 59ro! the 'ni$e now, *a"al76 ordered the angel Clarion. Muttering de$iant curses, *a"al wriggled and 'ic'ed, trying to wrest his much smaller "ody away $rom the restraint o$ the huge angel. 5.ou dea$ or somethin’0 - told you to ta'e a hi'e, you %er'76 he snarled. The angel was unim!ressed "y the "oy’s histrionics. -n a steely voice he sim!ly said, 5.ou will dro! the 'ni$e.6 <hough Clarion held him in an unrelenting gri! o$ iron, *a"al re!lied with a venomous 5,o to hell76 The !ressure on *a"al’s right wrist intensi$ied. is screams shattered the strange stillness o$ the air. The 'ni$e clattered on the sidewal'. The delin<uent slum!ed to the !avement, writhing and clutching his $ractured right wrist. 5.ou "ro'e my wrist7 .ou stu!id 'lut?76 he shrie'ed. Tears $lowed.
Clarion 'e!t his com!osure. ,rie$ swe!t over his handsome $eatures. +adly he said , 5- was the most loving $riend you ever had in your 12 years o$ li$e...ne3t to the >edeemer, )hose love you have s!urned7 #ut now you have $orced me to "ecome your enemy76 Turning a!ologetically to Timmy’s guardian angel, Clarion said: 5>adiel, - have done all - could on *a"al’s "ehal$. - am so sorry that you have had to witness this wretched scene76 5Clarion, my "rother, - do not hold this outrage against you,6 said >adiel. 5.ou are my $riend and $ellow-servant o$ the Living ,od. Together we serve the Lord in the +!irit o$ is love76 5&men,6 whis!ered Clarion, em"racing >adiel. >adiel turned toward Timmy, who seemed none the worse $or the am"ush. 5Timothy, - am well !leased with you. .our !arents have "een $aith$ul to instill ,od’s )ord into your heart, even $rom your earliest youth. Truly, the Lord ,od is a +un and a +hield to all those who trust in im.6 Timmy answered with a shy smile, although he $eared $or his attac'er. Clarion $rowned at his $ormer charge. 5To my great sorrow,6 he said, 5*a"al has re%ected the ,od )hose love !rovides all those "lessings o$ li$e. e is $it only $or the $ire.6 >adiel !ut his arm around Timmy’s shoulder. 5Come, Timothy,6 he said. 5)e must de!art $rom this scene o$ im!ending destruction.6 *)hat destruction06 *a"al s<uea'ed wea'ly $rom the sidewal'. 5The destruction o$ a seed"ed o$ sin,6 re!lied Clarion hotly. 5-t must never again in$est ,od’s world.6 & ma%estic !ersonage a!!eared "e$ore Clarion’s eyes. &ccom!anying him were several attendants, whose e3<uisitely wrought a!!arel shimmered in the so$t sunlight. 5#ehold, your %udge has a!!eared,6 said Clarion ominously. 5The &nointed o$ the Lord, whom you have de$ied.6 4ear$ully *a"al loo'ed u! $rom the !avement where he lay writhing in !ain. &"ove him stood the Prince o$ the >ealm, res!lendent in !urest white. e wore a %eweled golden diadem u!on his head. The ,lory o$ ,od shone in his luminous "lue eyes. This caused e3cruciating torment to *a"al’s hardened, ho!elessly lost soul. e averted his eyes $rom that countenance o$ su"lime !urity. 5My gracious Prince,6 Clarion addressed the ruler, 5it "rings the most !ro$ound sorrow to my heart that e3treme $olly has "een $ound in this "oy who once was under my guardianshi!.6 Prince 9aniel !eered down at the moaning *a"al. 5#oy, how is it that you have nursed such wic'edness in your heart0 )hy did you assault my $ellow-servant >adiel0 )hy have you treated the oly Presence o$ the Lord with such disdain and contem!t06
The Prince continued to $ire <uestions at the dum"$ounded *a"al: 59id your $ather not raise you in the $ear o$ the Lord0 9id he not teach you to wal' so$tly and tenderly in is Presence. and to give than's to im $or the a"undance o$ is and, and $or the vigilant watchcare o$ is angels0 )hy did you nourish and cherish your &damic sin nature instead o$ see'ing the Lord’s grace to morti$y it0 Christ would have given you the !ower to overcome it, had you acce!ted is $ree gi$t o$ salvation76 5*a"al7 )hy did you gorge your !am!ered "elly on delicacies while your !oor $ather o"eyed my in%unction to $ast and to a$$lict his soul in sorrow $or the sin which has in$ested his house06 5- got...hungry06 whim!ered *a"al. 5)hat a $limsy e3cuse7 8nseen angels heard you "oast that you longed to tantali?e your $ather with the smells $rom your sum!tuous $are. .ou weren’t even willing to restrict you $ood to very sim!le sustenance $or even one day, that you might cry out to ,od $or is mercy. The salvation o$ your re"ellious, will$ul soul meant that little to you. &nd you des!ise your $ather $or his o"edience to ,od7 5(ne more <uestion, $oolish "oy7 )hy have you des!ised and cast out as re$use your own !recious guardian angel who has never $ailed to see' your good0 e was ever there $or you. e yearned to see you washed in the 4ountain o$ the >edeemer’s #lood, which !er!etually cleanses $rom sin. #ut you have stu""ornly re%ected our >edeemer. .ou have tram!led under$oot the ,race o$ our ,od7 4or that there is no remedy76 *a"al "awled li'e a "a"y. e "egged Prince 9aniel $or mercy, clutching at his $eet with his unin%ured le$t hand. is only concern was saving his own s'in. e was una"le to $eel remorse $or what he’d done. e tried to "argain with the Prince. 5My dad’s loaded7 e can "ail me outa this mess7 Please76 Prince 9aniel’s !ronouncement hit *a"al’s ears li'e thundercla!s: 5*a"al, it will "e my unha!!y duty to noti$y your sorrowing $amily o$ your crimes and o$ the %udgment which must now $all u!on you. The Lord ta'es no !leasure in the death o$ the wic'ed76 & "linding $lash o$ white $ire engul$ed *a"al. e was instantly consumed. (nly a "lac'ened hea! o$ ashes remained. Prince 9aniel’s attendants immediately removed the ashes. Every trace o$ *a"al was gone. 5Clarion,6 said the ruler, 5your heart is $illed with sorrow. -, too, grieve that this e3ecution had to "e carried out. ,ross sins such as this "oy committed must never "e tolerated in the oly Messiah’s /ingdom o$ !eace.6 The Prince did his "est to console Clarion, who was dee!ly moved "y the tragedy. e s!o'e gently to the angel, em"racing him
in sym!athy. 5( Prince,6 said Clarion, 5your love is a strength to me. -ndeed we share in the $ellowshi! o$ the #lessed (ne.6 5,od 'nows how distress$ul this is to you, Clarion.6 said the ruler. 5-t is always a terri"le tragedy when a soul %oins Luci$er in the Pit o$ 9estruction.6 5My Prince,6 said Clarion, 5u! until this morning - never gave u! ho!e $or the "oy. - was with him when he too' his very $irst ste!s, s!o'e his $irst words. )hen he was still a small lad, - caught him in my arms a$ter he $ell $rom the tree house which his $ather "uilt $or him in the giant oa'. &nd - delivered him $rom that $ire on Micah Cam!"ell’s !ro!erty.6 5&nd yet he showed you no gratitude today,6 the Prince shoo' his head. 5Even our ,od is $ully ac<uainted with the ingratitude o$ unregenerate men.6 That - 'now well, my Prince. ow !erverse is the stu""ornness o$ re"els. )hen *a"al told his mother that an angel had "ro'en his $all, she only laughed and said that he’d $allen onto his white tram!oline, which %ust ha!!ened to "e under the tree at the time. &s $or the $ire at Micah’s !lace, he had no recollection o$ "eing in it, let alone o$ his miraculous deliverance $rom it.6 Prince 9aniel $rowned. 5-t is a terri"le transgression against the Lord $or a re"el to deli"erately u!root seeds which ,od has sown in the hearts o$ others, es!ecially in the heart o$ a child. &nd - need not ela"orate, Clarion, on what has trans!ired over these !ast $ew months.6 5.es, my Prince,6 re$lected the angel. 5.ou 'now as well as who hastened this "oy’s descent into the Pit. The Lord gives you wisdom and insight into the hearts o$ your su"%ects.6 5Truly,6 said Prince 9aniel, 5the seed o$ his destruction was his $ather +aul’s diso"edience. +aul was warned re!eatedly never to $ire the children’s imaginations with tales o$ their ancestor Clint’s crimes.6 5&nd +aul’s many lies led others astray,6 said Clarion. 5That is also true, Clarion. The res!onsi"ility rests with +aul, "ut the man is "ro'en with dee! sorrow. The Lord will not re%ect a contrite heart, although the harvest $or sin sown is always very grievous.6 5.es,6 sighed Clarion. 5+aul will "e "eyond consolation when he receives the sad news.6 5#etter a sorrow$ul heart !luc'ed $rom the $ire than a merry one dancing to the Pit,6 said the ruler. 5+aul’s soul may yet "e recovered, though the smell o$ smo'e will surely cling to his garments.6 5-t is ever a !rivilege to hear your wisdom, ( Prince,6 said Clarion.
5That same +!irit o$ )isdom which guided me in mortal li$e now guides me in immortality, all !raise to my oly >edeemer,6 said Prince 9aniel. 5Clarion,6 he added, 5you are a delight to our Lord. e shows me that your ne3t assignment will "ring you great %oy. e will give you charge over a child who will "ring glory to the Lam" o$ ,od. To im "e !raise and honor and glory $orever and ever.6 JJJJJJ Tough Love in Christ’s Millennium is currently availa"le as an e-"oo' on the &ma?on and #arnes and *o"le we"sites.
To%&h Lo'e i( Chri)t*) #i++e((i%m Book $(e To order $rom #arnes L *o"le M*oo' #oo' e-"oo'N: htt!:OOwww."arnesandno"le.comOwOtough-love-in-christsmillenium-"oo'-one-!atricia-"a'oraO22FP12HQPH0 eanR2P4FF21P2F4Q2 To order $rom &ma?on M/indle edition e-"oo'N: htt!:OOwww.ama?on.comOTough-Love-Christs-Millenniume"oo'Od!O#FFS &/P#8Ore$Rsr@2@10 ieR8T4HL<idR214P2FFSFFLsrRH-1L'eywordsR"a'ora
To%&h Lo'e i( Chri)t*) #i++e((i%m Book T,o To order $rom #arnes L *o"le M*oo' #oo' e-"oo'N: htt!:OOwww."arnesandno"le.comOwOtough-love-in-christsmillenium-"oo'-two-!atricia-"a'oraO22FP12HS220 eanR2P4FF21P2FG2G To (rder $rom &ma?on M/indle edition e-"oo'N: htt!:OOwww.ama?on.comOTough-Love-Christs-Milleniume"oo'Od!O#FFS &E&=QOre$Rsr@2@40 ieR8T4HL<idR214P2F2F2SLsrRH-4L'eywordsR"a'ora
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