Open post

1 – ARRIVAL

ARRIVAL

Cries of pain echoed down the hallway. The noise was deafening in this place of continual screaming and pleading; a forsaken place where you are left to die or be executed. Scratch marks plastered the concrete walls proclaiming encouragement and rage mixed with odd figures.[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”tcroke-pullquote-red”]In this place of continual screaming and pleading, the pain never stops, the torture never ends.[/su_pullquote]“Welcome to hell!” The welcome haunted Luke as he lay, body racked with pain, on a thin mattress.

A single, twenty centimeter square recessed in the ceiling provided the only light. A small corner hole functioned as the toilet, while a smooth, thick, steel door imposed the impossibility of escape. The heat was unbearable. Luke wished he could crawl out of his skin to cool off. Even the concrete was warm to the touch. Escape was all Luke yearned for.

“There is no escape from here,” the voice replayed in his head. “Only torment and death if you don’t choose to help us.”

Despair had long ago settled in Luke’s heart. ‘The pain never stops. The torture never ends. I long to die, but they never allow-’

“AHHHH! Dear God, HELP!” Another scream rang through the cell piercing his thoughts, followed by deafening silence.

“Poor soul,” spoke Luke out loud to no one in particular.

Three months stuck here, he was forced to listen to men and women, one after the other, being tortured. A high value prisoner, he was housed next to the room where souls were brought to be tormented. Day after day, hour after hour, in a relentless cycle, new people and new voices cried out for mercy. The only respite was after a soul either confessed or passed on. As disturbed as it was, Luke looked forward to these moments of silence for rest.

In the momentary silence, Luke’s mind wandered.

‘I miss my family…’ Luke’s mind replayed a seemingly distant memory.

 

Surrounded by friends, Luke stood in front of twenty people in his close friend Gary’s living room. On the couch sat his wife and thirteen year old daughter paying close attention. Luke, speaking to the cell he was leading, was giving instructions.

“Things are looking bad, but do not be discouraged, we know in the end we will win. Though they may try their best, the coalition cannot stop our cause. We will overcome them! They may capture and kill us, but for every one they kill another two will rise up in their place! Do not fear death, imprisonment, or torture, for you will receive your reward if you stay faithfu-”

The window shattered, glass flying inward cutting his sentence short. A canister landed on the floor. Joe, sitting closest, pounced on it. The full electroshock tore through his body, killing him instantly.

“Police, run!” Luke screamed.

The cell moved in coordinated unison. This attack was fully unanticipated. Even so, they had planned for such an event. Jumping from the couch, Luke’s wife grabbed his daughter. Turning to flee with other cell members they darted to the basement escape.

Seconds later, three electric grenades simultaneously broke through different windows.

Knowing there wasn’t time to escape the blast, Luke lunged for the basement door. His wife looked on in anguish toward Luke with a final gaze. The moment Luke’s full body weight slammed the basement door closed the grenades ignited.

10,000 volts burned through his body immobilizing him. He slumped against the door.

[su_pullquote class=”tcroke-pullquote-green”]“Remain faithful!” came his wife’s muffled cry…[/su_pullquote]Twitching uncontrollably on the floor, he saw a final canister spew gas throughout the room as his wife’s muffled cry from below sounded, “Remain faithful!”

Commanding voices and boots crossing the porch were the final sounds he heard as the gas took effect. Luke slipped into unconsciousness.

 

Luke’s head pounded as ammonium carbonate wafted under his nose repulsing him. He jerked straight up to get away from the smell.

“Awake! Good!” came an unknown voice.

A hood blinded Luke. He tried to move but found his hands and feet shackled. A buzzer went off overhead causing Luke to jump.

“Where am I?” questioned Luke.

From behind him voices laughed under their breath.

Luke strained against his restraints, to no avail.

“Can you remove this hood?” he asked to no reply.

Giving up trying to escape, Luke stopped pulling at the restraints, instead straining to listen, the only sense he could use. He could hear only the rhythmic breathing from two, maybe three people in the room.

“Hello? What is going on? Who are you?”

Again, only silence.

After what felt like an eternity, the screech of a door opening to his right pierced the eerie stillness.

“He’s awake. Good,” spoke an unfamiliar voice as feet shuffled about the room.

“Hello?” questioned Luke, turning his head in the direction of the voice.

Feet approached Luke. The sound of a chair easily sliding across the floor was all he could distinguish. A body sat heavily in the chair. Luke didn’t wait for the person to speak, “Who are you?”

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”tcroke-pullquote-red”]“You don’t have to worry about that…we won’t meet again.”[/su_pullquote]“You don’t have to worry about that,” snarled a man’s deep voice. “We won’t meet again.”

Luke’s heart quickened in worry with ominous dread at the tone the words.

“You are a known terrorist of the state,” continued the voice. “In fact, our intel suggests you are one of six leaders of the cell. Is this correct?”

Luke choose to remain silent. ‘Do not turn against your cell!’ he mentally encouraged himself.

“No answer. I assumed that would be your response,” spoke the man. “You have one of two choices right now Luke. Yes, I know your name. You have eluded capture for a long time. Justice has finally caught you.”

“You don’t know true justice,” replied Luke sharply.

“Your warped sense of justice, no. But the state’s-”

“The state,” spat Luke, “is full of lies! Your government is as dark as this-”

“Enough!” demanded the voice. An unseen punch above the left eye jarred Luke’s head to the right.

“Your blind rhetoric is useless here. Now then, I’ll give you two options, cooperate with us willingly or unwillingly. Either way, you will give us what we want to know. Which will you choose?”

Luke sat silently reflecting while regaining his senses from the blow.

“There’s one more option,” Luke coolly answered.

The voice waited for an answer. Luke enjoyed toying with him.

“So?” came an impatience voice. “Indulge me.”

Hearing the impatience, it was only a matter of time before another blow would land. Saving himself the blow, Luke jested, “it is plain to see.”

“Really? What is so easily beheld?”

“Escape!”

Loud laughter roared forth from the man and around the room. “That’s humorously ironic coming from a hooded man! You are severely misled Luke! There is no escape from here, only torment and death if you don’t choose to help us.”

Luke sensed the man spoke the truth. He sat unresponsive.

“I take by your silence you choose the unwilling route,” spoke the man with malice. “Well then, welcome!”

“Welcome to where?” asked Luke trying to glean as much information as possible.

The body arose from the chair across from Luke. He could hear footsteps walking in a small arch toward him. Luke tensed, ready to absorb another blow as the feet drew near.

“Where?”

Luke jumped at the voice directly next to his ear. The voice paused, then in a very low snarl answered, “Welcome to hell!”

 

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”tcroke-pullquote-green”]“PLEASE STOP!!” another victim cried in anguish… [/su_pullquote] “PLEASE STOP!!” the anguished cry of another victim thrust Luke back into the present.

Still staring at the ceiling, Luke mentally relived the scene. Now, an unknown amount of time later, Luke was believing the truth of that statement.

Muffled voices of the tormentors could be heard through the wall as a man continued to cry for mercy.

‘Another one falling prey to their insatiable appetite,’ Luke thought.

Abdon interrupted, “Luke, take courage it will be alright.”

‘Yeah right’ he thought, focused on his pain and others’ torment. ‘How will it be alright? There is no escape from this hell. I will never get to see my family again. The agony is constant!’

“Your family is taken care of. It is just your body aching,” encouraged Abdon.

‘Just my body?! I can’t stand! My legs are crushed from toe to knee.’

The tormentors had cut, gouged, and broken them during the last session two weeks ago. Bandages kept him alive but purposely didn’t bring relief.

Grasping his legs, Luke tried to think of the last time he had been without pain.

“AHHHH! I WILL NOT!” another scream pierced the walls.

‘He is in the last steps of torment,’ Luke reflected. ‘Must have been an unimportant person with the quickness in which they finished him.’

“There is no unimportant person in the cause,” admonished Abdon.

‘Right, I forgot,’ thought Luke pessimistically.

“Take your eyes off yourself and pray for him!” commanded Abdon.

Luke lay with a war waging within him. When he had first arrived he prayed for every person being tortured, hoping it would help them. After four weeks of listening to the same routine day and night, his faith had wavered from his convictions. Despair was winning the war of faith. On the other hand he had always believed that every prayer is heard and answered. This truth, deeply seated in him since his youth, seemed far removed.

Abdon continued urging him, “Pray, in this case it will make a difference!”

Luke contemplated that argument. He hadn’t prayed for over a week and didn’t care to. It seemed like only a concrete wall was listening anyway.

“He needs you,” pleaded Abdon.

‘I’m sure he does.’

“Just a quick prayer, that’s all.”

“Fine,” spoke Luke to no one in particular, “as long as you leave me alone.”

Thinking for a minute, Luke finally prayed, “God, may he endure until death.” Content with his prayer, he closed his eyes and lay still waiting for silence so he could sleep.

Abdon smiled not at all discouraged by the short prayer, it was all that was needed.

‘If only you could see the difference that made,’ he thought.

Abdon couldn’t help but remark within, ‘Well, the prayer wasn’t much, but it was a start.’

>>> Chapter 2 – SHIFT >>>

 

Creating A Legacy

If we don’t pass the importance stuff off [to future generations] there is no legacy. What the world offers is not important.

 

Open post

Conversing with a Child Exploiting John

An unlikely meeting to challenge my perspective.

I have found sometimes unusual cravings are directions from God. After a God ordained trip throughout the southwest of the USA, I found myself craving a hamburger, conversation, and a beer. [su_pullquote align=”right” class=”tcroke-pullquote-blue”]My mind, wallet, and flesh argued … the flesh finally won.[/su_pullquote]After devouring a Wendy’s Baconator my body screamed for a beer. My mind, wallet, and flesh argued for an hour but the flesh finally won the argument. So off I went in search of a bar.

A raging sleet storm forced everyone (or so it seemed) inside; the first bar stop was packed to standing room only. Frustrated and cold, I pulled my jacket collar up and walked to the next hotel bar dodging in out of building to avoid the miserable weather. Finally arriving I took off my coat and bag and threw them onto a waiting lounge table. The bar was packed too, but one seat was open at the bar between two men. Quickly walking over to it I inquired from the young man on my right, “Is this open?”

“I think so,” came his accented reply.

Turning to the man on the left, “are you saving this seat?”

“No,” came a deep accented voice.

‘Great!’ I thought, plunking down to order my drink so I could return to my waiting lounge chair.

[su_pullquote class=”tcroke-pullquote-blue”]The watch on his wrist cost more than my year’s salary.[/su_pullquote]The bar staff was overly busy and passed me by repeatedly. In the waiting I struck up a conversation with the man on my right. He and his girlfriend were on holiday from Australia. (I’d guessed that by the accent). They were too engrossed with each other to continue the conversation long, so I turned to the man on my left.

The man, a slightly overweight businessman, wore a black suit and tie. The gold and diamond watch on his wrist alone probably cost more than my year’s salary. Doing a quick hand check there wasn’t any rings on the finger. Now I had enough information to strike up a conversation.

“Where you from?” I asked.

Turning from the shaken martini and a shrimp platter he was consuming to face me he responded, “Florida, but I drove down from Mesa Verda today.”

“Oh. Where are you from originally? Your accent isn’t Floridian (if that is a word). You on vacation?” I asked.

“Germany originally, but I work in both Germany and Florida.”

“Ah, that’s the accent,” I commented.

“This is just a stopover. I am waiting here to kill time. I’m mixed up on the time. I had dinner reservations but am an hour early due to the time zone switch. Tomorrow I’m continuing on to Las Vegas to take in the activities there. Then fly home. What are you doing?”

“Hold on,” I said as the bartender finally came and asked for my drink order. I chatted with her about different beers on tap, tried the local flavors (which I disliked) and with no better option settled on a Budweiser. While she poured the drink I nicely excused myself from the bar to settle into my lounge chair.

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”tcroke-pullquote-blue”]I came to relax, not minister to a broken man.[/su_pullquote]Sitting, sipping the beer while trying to relax I begin my task of journaling. Pulling out the paper and pen my mind brain farted and went blank. Staring at a blank paper with pen in hand I waited for a thought, any thought.

Nothing.

Finally a thought interrupted the silence, ‘I should talk with the man at the bar.’

‘Nope, I’m here to relax,’ came my reflex thought.

Well the argument raged much like it had between my body, mind and wallet for the beer. Finally I stood up and settled into the bar stool for what I knew was going to be a long conversation.

“Excuse me, is it okay if I join you again. Let me tell you what I do.”

‘He won’t mind,’ I reasoned, ‘any man sitting at a bar alone will welcome conversation.’ So I sat and began talking without waiting for a response.

We began immediately talking about what we did for a living. He was perplexed at my current state of affairs (traveling and not working). He asked how it would be possible to do what I do and I spoke that my trust rested in knowing a good God who loves me. I trusted he would provide for me as I needed.

“I can’t believe that,” he responded, “you see money is where there is security.” We discussed what true security looks like. (The conversation went way deeper than I planned or expected.) No matter what we talked about he simply could not be convinced God could provide security for him greater than money and handwork could.

[su_pullquote align=”left” class=”tcroke-pullquote-green”]Suddenly, the conversation changed…[/su_pullquote]Suddenly, on a dime, the conversation changed significantly.

“You see, a couple of years ago I got sick.” His mood changed very sober, “My best friend, or who I thought was my best friend, left me once I was unwilling to pay the tab for his fun. I found out then that he wasn’t a friend, but only using me to freeload his lifestyle off. In the sickness I watched friends leave me. It took me two years to overcome that sickness. People simply stopped coming around visiting and being friends. When I needed people they weren’t there.”

I listened carefully as his monologue continued.

“Now I am cutting out the bad around me. Anyone who isn’t encouraging or agree with me I simply cut out of my life. I am breaking off those who hold me down.”

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”tcroke-pullquote-blue”]He was like a man who was wandering through life in search of something he could not capture.[/su_pullquote]‘What a lonely life,’ I thought, ‘if I stopped being friends with everyone who disagreed with me, I would have no one left.’

He began opening up about the pains and  hurts in his life. Abuse of friends, sickness and loss in his life. How he had been coping without finding completion. He talked about how people had used him due to his wealth and when he was in desperate need they simply abandoned him. As he continued to share I could see and hear this man’s desperate need for unconditional love. He was like a man who was wandering through life in search of something he could not capture.

My heart broke for him as the minutes on the wall clock behind his head tick by.

Having shared his life story and vented much of his pain, the conversation began winding down. The conversation began an aimless wander. We began to talk about places we’ve visited.

“I visited Asia last year. It was a great place,” I offered.

“Asia is great. The discothèques in Singapore and the night life there is quite amazing. A while ago I spent a vacation there enjoying it and the last night I spent the whole night out on the town until I had to get on an airplane. I’ll be visiting Thailand in a few months for three days to enjoy the time there. You know. It the same reason I’m going to Las Vegas for a few nights. Yeah, I visit Asia once or twice a year.”

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”tcroke-pullquote-blue”]Disgust and compassion arose simultaneously within me.[/su_pullquote]Alarms rang in my head. Key words: Singapore discothèques, Thailand, a single wealthy business man, regular trips, night life. Everything within me screamed!!

A internal war raged as he continued to talk about his visits to Asia.

Having worked with child sex trafficked victims I knew of their stories, their pain. Disgust battled compassion within me. All I wanted to do was cut into this man. Tell him what’s wrong with him. To stop immediately. Yet this John was broken, hurting. As he droned on I wrestled over two questions: what would Christ do? What did he do?

What would you do?

 

 

Your Focus

You can be so focused on doing the Great Commission that you miss the Great Commandment.

– Speaker on what is important

Leadership Authority

The authority by which the leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.

– John Stott

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