Pleasing God, Not Men

People may not like me, but Jesus loves me.

If I try to please those people who reject me, I will still not be liked by them,

and I will fail Jesus.

If I live to please Jesus, who cares what

those people think.

I still have Jesus and He loves me no matter what they think.

If I forsake Jesus for them, I will truly have nothing.

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Chapter Seven Ezekiel 16:20

Chapter Seven

Ezekiel 16:20

20“‘And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough?”

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is what matters, right? Am I not entitled to some freedom?  But freedom, when it becomes an idol, and leads to acts of hatred towards the innocent, doesn’t promote freedom anymore.  It becomes bondage and that bondage chains our soul to our actions in ways that aren’t so easily undone.  The freedom we sought so desperately to protect is then lost in the bondage.

“It’s not a child,” she told herself as she stepped into the clinic.  The front entrance was deserted that day.  No one was there to protest her arrival.  Thankfully she was able to enter peacefully and hopefully unnoticed by anyone she knew.  She stepped to the receptionist’s desk.  Her cold glance sent chills down Sarah’s spine.

“Can I help you?” She asked, just as coldly as the expression on her face.

“I’m here to, “Sarah was having trouble getting the words out, “I need to get an abortion.”  She whispered the last few words, and then cleared her throat.  She was numb through her core and felt so alone.   She clutched her stomach, but nothing could save her from this moment.  No one cared. No one wanted her and no one wanted her baby.

“Do you have an appointment?” She asked in a demanding tone.

“I called the other day. It’s Sarah.” She said as hushed as she could to not draw attention to herself.

“Fill this form out completely and it’s $450.00 up front.  Can you pay today?” She looked sternly at Sarah waiting impatiently for an answer.

“Yes, I have the money.  I can pay today.” Sarah took the clip board and sat down in the nearest chair.  She began filling out her information as best and as quickly as she could.  Cold chills went down her spine as she thought about how the receptionist treated her.  Sarah wondered why that lady was so cold and harsh.

Her display of uneasiness was obvious and she refused to make eye contact with anyone for fear of another cold stare. She was so ashamed that she felt sick to her stomach. The morning sickness had been gone for over a month now.  She was about 14 weeks pregnant and had felt some fluttering in her abdomen.

She held back the tears as she thought about how out of control her life had become since she had ran from her home, terrified for her life.  She swallowed it back over and over, not wanting to display any type of emotions.  Memories of people abandoning her and disconnecting from her made her dizzy. She did not care what happened to her.  Life didn’t matter.  She had lost her way and she could not pull herself together.

She took the clip board back to the receptionist and was told to sit down until someone called her back.  She was noticeably shaking.  Everything was so quiet that all she could focus on was the tiny flutters in her lower abdomen and wished for it to stop.  She didn’t want to be reminded of the life being formed in her womb.  She kept lying to herself, over and over in her mind that it was only a quick outpatient surgery to remove some tissue that didn’t belong in her body.  It did not occur to her that this tiny life had a heartbeat.  It deserved life, but not the one she had to offer.  If there was a God, he could put this tiny life into a mother who wanted it.

Sarah wondered if the baby would look like Brad, the one who left her in a hotel room and never came back.   She ached from the memories of him using her and then not caring about the consequences.  He didn’t even know that he had created a life. She fell for the lies of a man one more time, and this was the payment she received for her trust.

Anger filled her once again against her creator.  She was the one who had to pay for the sins of this man.  He walked away and did not even know what he had done.  Would he ever know?

“I’m justified in my actions because I cannot do this alone!”  Her thoughts were screaming at her now.  How could God allow this to happen?  How could he let her be abused during her childhood to the point that she no longer felt human, and then when she tried to make a life for herself after she left home, things kept going wrong? She barely had enough food to eat and she was barely able to put any money in savings.  The pregnancy counselor assured her that an abortion was her only option.  She could not raise a baby on her own! After she had had enough time to relived most of the trials in her life, she heard someone call her name.

“Sarah?” The lady called from the doorway.  “Right this way.” She was calm and relaxed and nicer than the receptionist.  She showed Sarah into the room and closed the door behind her.  “The procedure only takes about 20 minutes.  I will be here with you the whole time.  You need to take your clothing off from the waist down and put this gown on.  I will step out for a few minutes.”

She handed Sarah the gown then stepped out and shut the door.   The room smelled strange.  It was not a normal hospital room.  It had a dirty sock smell. The floors were old and warn and the walls were yellowed with age.  She looked around the room.  There wasn’t much in it.  One wall had cabinets across it and a counter top with some jars of what looked like alcohol and cotton balls.  There was a machine plugged into the wall.  It was a large square shape and had a long tube protruding from it.  She imagined that it was full of aborted fetuses from the day.  She shuttered at the thought of it. Her imagination started getting to her and she had to look away.  She sat down on the edge of the bed in time for a knock on the door.  In came the nurse and the doctor with her.

“Lie down on the bed and scoot as far forward as you can,” said the doctor with as much feeling as if he were giving her driving instructions.

“Do I get any pain medication,” Sarah asked the nurse?

“No, there isn’t any, but it should not hurt very much.  You should only feel some discomfort and pressure.” She said, trying to assure Sarah.

The doctor started taking instruments and using them to dilate her cervix so that he could put the suction tube in to remove the fetus.

Sarah was shaking even more now.  She felt like she was freezing and so afraid.  She was looking for someone with compassion, but she would not find any in this room. “If you don’t hold still, I will have to make this a two day procedure and you will have to pay $300.00 more tomorrow before I will finish it.” The doctor spouted out angrily.

He was very impatient to finish so he could move on.  He must have been uncaring and detached because of what he was doing.  Sarah could hardly keep herself together.

Sarah did her best to hold still as he shoved the suction tube through her cervix and into her uterus.  She felt so much pressure and discomfort.  She wanted to scream for him to stop.

Then he did. It was over and she knew it. She knew she could not change her mind. It was done.  The child that had been safely growing inside of her was now discarded from his home for the sake of freedom.  His tiny body was broken into pieces and placed into a bag with other tiny lives that had been ended that day.  She had not thought of it like that before now.  She could not even cry.  The emotional pain ran so deep that she could not utter a sound.  Nor could anyone except God hear the silent scream of her baby.

The nurse touched her hand, “Sarah, it is over.  Please get dressed and here is a pad you will need for the blood loss.  We have to put you in another room for 30 minutes to monitor you to make sure you aren’t going to hemorrhage.  After that, you are free to go.”

“Go where?” Sarah thought.  “Where can I go from here? There is nothing left. “The pain was overwhelming.  The cramping was nothing compared to the heartache she felt.  She stepped out of the room feeling quite dizzy and held onto the door like a crutch to help her through.  As the nurse walked her down the hallway, she grasped ahold of the wall, making her way slowly.

She ended up in a large room with a lot of cots lined against the walls and only a few feet apart.  There were only 3 other girls in the room lying on cots, separated from each other.  None of them moved when she came in.  No one talked.  For a second, she wondered if they were okay, then she decided that she really didn’t care.  She only cared about her misery.  She only cared that no one told her how empty she would feel nor how alone she would feel.

Her body was empty.  The tiny movement had stopped and she knew that she had made a decision that she would regret for the rest of her life.  She thought she would feel relieved after it was over. She didn’t feel any relief at all.  She had exchanged her own baby’s life for her freedom and she didn’t feel so free after all.  There would be no new start for her. Now all she could think about was the baby that had died this day.

Sarah did not know that she was not alone that day.  She did not know that she had a savior with her every step of the way.  He shed tears where she could not. He felt pain when all she felt was numb.  A savior standing so close to the door of her heart, knocking, yet not a sound was heard by Sarah.  When Jesus was scourged, God took his wrath out on his own son to pay the price for the life that was destroyed that day. (Isaiah 53:10, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and to cause him to suffer.”)   The vengeance God felt towards the sins of the human race was all projected onto Jesus, and he hoped that someday, Sarah would be able to grasp that nothing could separate her from his love. (Romans 8:39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Her healer was standing next to her while she lay lifeless on the cot.  He wanted so badly to help her to understand that he took everything she was feeling on himself. He wanted her to comprehend that when he said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know not what they are doing,” that he meant it for her on this day.  (Luke 23:34)

Matthew 19:14

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Sarah’s thoughts began to drift back to when she was younger.  She thought of the counselor who had tried to convince her that God loved her, in spite of how her own father treated her.  She had a hard time believing that God would allow her father to be so cruel to her and yet want her to believe his word.  She didn’t grasp the concept of free will and choices when she was so young.  She only wanted someone to love her.  Her heart now ached for that little girl she longed to comfort.  Her heart ached for the child she would never get to comfort because she had ended his life before he was allowed to see the light of day.

“I am stupid,” she scribbled on paper.  Why not? Her dad had said it so many times that she was starting to believe it.  It had penetrated her very being and was intertwining itself into the fibers of her soul.  She would soon start to play out these words in her actions at school, around her friends, and in her personal life.

She had become tired of trying to deny it.  It was after all, her father who said it.  Her father, who had once been a hero in her eyes, was becoming the villain of her nightmares.

The counselor looked down at her writing. “Is this how you feel about yourself?”

She nodded with tears streaming down her face.  The counselor then asked, “Who calls you stupid?”

The sobs were almost uncontrollable now.  She formed the words on her lips but they would not escape due to the fear in her heart.  Her father was respected and well known in the community.  He let the family know that no one was to talk badly about their home life.

“Can you write it down?”

She gathered herself the best that a ten year old could, “How can I tell you if you are just going to tell my dad?”

“I am bound by an oath that I will not tell or I could lose my job.” She answered, hoping this would convince her.

“My dad calls me stupid.” She blurted out in pain.  Emotional pain had turned to physical.  Her young body was feeling warn out for trying so hard to please someone who would never be happy with her because he was not happy with himself.

“Dear God, how can I help this child when it’s the father who needs counseling?” She screamed from within.

“Sarah,” she said aloud, “You know that you aren’t stupid.  Your dad doesn’t realize that his words are hurting you.  The Bible tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  It tells us that God formed us in our mother’s womb.”

Sarah looked up at her and asked, “If my dad, who I can see, doesn’t love me, how am I supposed to believe that an invisible God loves me?”  (1 John 4:20) “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

“Sarah, I need to check you before you can go.” The voice startled her as she looked up.  It was a different lady standing over her than the one who had been with her during the procedure.  She helped Sarah to her feet.  “How are you feeling,” she asked.

Sarah nodded her head, but no words came out.

“It’s normal to feel some discomfort, but if you start feeling like you are losing too much blood, go straight to the hospital.”

Sarah nodded again.

After she checked Sarah’s vital signs, she led her to the exit.  Sarah stepped out onto the sidewalk behind the building and slowly walked to her car.  The sun was shining, but she didn’t feel it.  The cold hardness she felt was not going to be easy to shake.

Becoming Childlike

One day when we were driving down the road, my 4 year old son, Henry, was counting out loud.  His sister rudely interrupted his math lesson with a totally unrelated subject.  He stopped counting long enough to say to her, “Stop talking to me (he paused while he thought about how to communicate correctly his frustration) while I’m talking to me!” I love the simplicity of a child’s mind. If I said that to another adult, I might be considered insane.  The truth is that sometimes, I need to think out loud. Henry’s statement was simple and direct.  He was pleading with someone not to interrupt his thought process.  How often do we stop what we are doing so that we can seem sane to those around us?  How often do I want to appear polite, so I stop what I am doing and allow the world to interrupt me? When I try to get back to my work, part of what I was doing is lost forever in time. Next time I am in the middle of an important thought process out loud, I think I will incorporate the wisdom of my son and simply say, “Stop talking to me while I’m talking to me!”

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Gladiator meets Les Miserables

It’s dark and musty.  The floor is dirt and their clothes are torn.  Jean Valjean is chained to another man.  His face is tanned like leather, as someone who has spent too many days working in the sun.  He glances at a man being led in and chained with his hands hanging from cuffs above his head.    He recognized this man.  He was a man of valor, but a man who was betrayed.  He starred into his eyes for a moment, but he could not hold the gaze.  His eyes dropped to the ground.  He was convicted to the core.

Maximus felt this man’s shame.  He spoke with a raspy voice, “You know that things aren’t always viewed by God in the same manner as man views them. There is a shame that haunts us all, but that shame should never keep us from being who we were created to be.”

“I’m a simple thief. I broke a window and stole a loaf of bread so I could try to save my sister and her children.  My boss refused to pay me after several days of work. I thought I could solve my problem, but now I don’t know what has happened to my sister, nor her children.  I have failed them.” Jean Valjean made eye contact once again.  He questioned this man’s confidence with the current state of the governments of their countries.  He didn’t flinch at the chains nor did they seem to bother him.

“I would not call you a simple thief, knowing the present state of the governing authorities nor their code of conduct with the citizens.  They withhold the very thing that is needed to sustain life.”

“No sin goes unpunished.  I am Jean Valjean, the bread thief, and I will have to live with the memories of my  imprisonment for the rest of my life.”

“I am Maximus, and the only bondage that can hold you down are the ones you allow to control you.”

Jean Valjean thought about this man’s words.  He looked up at him and said, “I know who you are, Maximus.  Your stories of victories in war are legendary.  I am very pleased to meet you.”

“And you likewise, Jean Valjean.  My story will come to an end, but yours is yet to be written.  Use your last years wisely.  You will impact a lot of people. Come to know your creator and you will be able to smile back at death also.” Maximus smiled.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pleased to Meet You.”

Chapter Two, Part One

Luke 17:2

1 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.”

Five years ago can seem like forever, unless the memories plague your mind like they happened just yesterday.  Sarah remembered five years back with haunting clarity.  She had hoped to put her past far behind her, but some memories, especially bad one, were hard for her to shake.  She wanted to put her hope in the future, but so much had happened, and she had so many broken places in her life.

She knew too well that time had a way of etching away at her unsecured hope of a future.  What she didn’t know is that God could help her pick up the pieces.  She lacked faith that a savior existed.  She doubted this Jesus Christ that her father preached about would be able to help her leave her past behind.  Most of her problems were her father’s fault.  How could he expect her to believe in a God that he preached about on Sunday morning and then ignored Monday through Saturday?  He preached about a boss who expected perfection.  He told of an intolerant judge who would throw people into hell for mistakes.  If God was that hateful, how could she ever be good enough to go to heaven?  Her view of Jesus was shadowed by the view she had of her father.

Her way seemed so lost and meaningless and she despised the image she saw in the mirror, but as long as she had breath in her, she refused to lie down and quit.  Something had to change one day.  Her hope was in some future event that she was waiting for.  She just had to make it to that moment in time, and everything would be changed.  She got out of bed every day, hoping this would be the moment in time that would change her life forever.

She flipped her hair back and fluffed it with her fingers one more time.  Her make-up looked good and her clothes were tight enough to draw some attention.  She was hoping for one of the guys to notice her at work and ask her out.  There were a couple of nice looking ones, but they didn’t seem to notice her at all.  She was invisible to them.  After six months of working in a machine shop, she figured someone would have a more in-depth conversation with her other than to say, “Hi, how are you doing? Can you get me some bolts and washers?”  She kept trying different things to bring attention to herself, but no one seemed to notice.

Carol, one of the women that she worked with, tried to witness to her about Jesus a few times, but she shut out the words as quickly as they were spoken.  Carol did not know what it was like to grow up with a step-mom and a dad who were so abusive that she felt completely detached from anyone?  The Jesus she once thought she believed in was a Jesus of her childhood fairy tales that she had fabricated before her mother died.  Although she begged Him to save her, he never showed up to save her and her image of him was soon destroyed by the violence of her step-mother and her father, who should have known better.  Too many nights she cried herself to sleep.  Too many days she had suffered bruising by hands that should have held her and cared for her.  Those bruises were covered by clothing, but the emotional ones were plainly seen on her face as she went through her day. She wished she could cover her face to hide her shame.

Because of this, Sarah had no true concept of mercy.  When she was young, she would go over and over in her mind the mistakes she had made and wondered how she could do better to earn her Dad’s love and respect.  Each day, she would try harder, but nothing seemed to work.  By the time she was in middle school, she had given up and began to rebel as much as she could. She had resigned herself to pleasing her piers no matter what she had to do.  The guys seemed to like it, so she kept pushing towards that attention with no restraint. She sought male attention where danger had no harness.

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Writing an outline on paper is still useful.

When I want to write a book about something, I will take out paper and pencils so that I can make an outline.  I have the ability to see what I write, lay it across a table in order,  add notes in the margins, draw lines to sections with notes, and reorganize my paragraphs in a way that a computer will never allow.  I hope that paper will not become obsolete.   It is a key tool for a lot of my writing.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pens and Pencils.”

Chapter One, Part Three

She looked down at the verse on her phone again. It made sense to her now. To be still and know that God accepted her no matter who or what caused the sins in her life was something that she so desperately needed. It shifted the blame from her and others to her savior who took them on His own body without complaint. She began to comprehend that Jesus was mutilated beyond recognition and He was placed on display at the top of a garbage heap so that she could be free from the vile guilt and debilitating memories that shattered her existence into pieces too complicated to reassemble by human hands.

There was no glamour to His death. The cross was not smoothly sanded nor stained to perfection. It was quite rough and splinters poked through the already raw back of the Son of God. God, the Father, didn’t have to allow this, but He did it because He knew that some of the lowest of us would feel like we were thrown away like garbage by the world. We were ignored and abused beyond recognition by people who thought our voices would be silenced by their blows. The eyes of the young that once shined with hope and peace now clearly had turned to ice-cold darkness.

No one could show her these truths unless he saw the depths of her soul. No one would be able to teach her this truth and cause it to heal her heart, except the Son of God, Jesus, who was speaking directly to her heart, in a language only she could understand. He showed her that He did understand her pain and misery. He showed her that He was the answer to all of the questions if she would let Him into the dark placed of her heart. She wanted so badly to embrace this love that she felt. She wanted so badly to feel light in her soul that she had not felt for too many years.

The memories were confusing her and she wasn’t sure how to let go of it all. It was like shuffling a deck of cards and trying to keep the good but the bad kept getting shuffled back into her deck. Her mind was telling her to scream in order to silence the thoughts that were trying to hang on to her, but her heart was slowly being revived into a new faith. She felt a peace that passes all understanding settling on her. The struggle that seemed so impossible to overcome finally was breaking over her like clouds dispersing after a storm. She slowly pulled herself onto her bed and fell asleep.

Michelle Menut