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Monday, December 16, 2019

7: Silence. Eyes without Words

February 16, 2012, driving home from Mixed Doubles Night
            By now, Jasmine knows she had not been imagining what she observed that night of Davie coaching her from the sidelines.  He wasn’t watching her only because they were about to compete in their first USTA Mixed Doubles Tournament.  His 30th birthday sure clinched an answer to that one.  Of course, the signs had been there for a long time.  From the first day they played together, their connection has been electric.  Both married, and he the youth pastor at her church, they had to be careful.  High fives and lows, smiles, eyes, teases, a wink here, eyebrows raised there, a pat on the arm, a tap on the shoe, a whisper in the ear, a lifted earring, a shirt tugged, and no words.  Silence.  Eyes without words.
Even still, at the time of Davie’s attention to her from the sidelines, she might not have wondered as much had they not played singles the week before.  That week in mid July, 2011, fourteen players showed up to the Yoga Room, where the Mixed Doubles players stretch before their 7 pm court time.  The “mixed” numbers were barely mixed that night with 11 men and 3 women.  Traditionally, the group would have chosen to have one court of mixed doubles, a second with three men and one woman, and a mens’ singles court.  But that night, Davie suggested a mixed doubles court, a mens’ doubles court, and a singles court for him and Jazzie.  Since he and Jazzie had just registered for their first USTA tournament as mixed doubles partners, he explained, they could use the chance to drill some shots.
            With Davie’s suggestion approved, Jasmine now faced Davie as her opponent.   But not immediately. Their warm-up was longer; they rallied backcourt to backcourt, aiming for less than a foot from the baseline; and they drilled volleys, overheads, serves, and service returns.  Davie gave Jasmine special coaching on a specialty of his: backhand volleys.  Most players don’t do them very well, but Davie uses a blunt angled technique that usually wins him the point– at least until his opponents catch on to him and rush the net when they see he’s getting a backhand volley.  Now he has another trick up his sleeve: a sturdy volley down the alley backcourt, if he’s in the ad court, or straight down to center backcourt if he’s in the deuce court.  Davie spent considerable time with Jazzie training her on each of these backhand volley shots, and it was one of those that won Jazzie and Stephen their set the following week.  Davie’s coaching worked.
            After warm-ups and drills, the two still had time to play a full set and then a mini-set to win four games, winning by just one game.  Not that that mattered.  Jasmine took only one game for each to lose at 6-1, 4-1.  But how proud she was of the two games she won.  Mostly, she beamed at his attention to her.
            Most sweet was her second winning game.  It was Jasmine’s serve; the score was deuce.  After putting Jasmine on the defense with a sliced lob to her backhand at back court, Davie thought he was well-positioned for a weak cross court shot, but Jasmine cut off the lob and volleyed her return with a sharp fast down the line shot.
            “Where did that come from?!” Davie exclaimed, after his racquet failed to reach it.
            “You surprised?  You think I couldn’t do that?”
            “I don’t remember a shot that brilliant,” he teased with a smile.
            “Don’t you underestimate me, David Grayson.” Jasmine smiled, then immediately served.
            While returning her serve with a drop-shot, pulling Jasmine to the net, Davie chuckled.  “My mom used to call me by my full name, except she used my middle name too, which—” he smiled, “I won’t tell you.  I knew never to underestimate her when she did.”
            “So you know not to underestimate me either,” Jasmine smiled back, while slamming an overhead center backcourt shot to win the next point. 
            Davie approached the net, where Jasmine was still standing, victorious.  “Never Jasmine Greene, do I or will I ever underestimate you.”  He looked into her eyes while his eyes danced his promise.  Jasmine smiled back.  “I’m going to hold you to that.”  Davie lifted his right hand in a vow, nodded his affirmation, and they shook hands, slowly, letting their hands linger.

            A song on the car radio interrupts Jasmine’s reflection.  It’s one of the 80s Classics she hasn’t heard for many years: Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin’s “Separate Lives.”  Stephen Bishop wrote the song after a break-up, and Jasmine has never listened to the song in any other way.  But the words mean something much more to her now.  Little had she ever realized how much the song also applies to forbidden love.
You have no right to ask me how I feel
You have no right to speak to me so kind
We can’t go on just holding on to time
Now that we’re living separate lives
Well I held on to let you go
And if you lost your love for me, well you never let it show
There was no way to compromise
So now we’re living
Living separate lives
Ooh, it’s so typical, love leads to isolation
So you build that wall
And you make it stronger.
Well you have no right to ask me how I feel
You have no right to speak to me so kind
Some day I might find myself looking in your eyes
But for now, we’ll go on living separate lives
Yes for now, we’ll go living separate lives
Separate lives
Just after she’s been cast from their church for being his object of temptation and on his first night away from Mixed Doubles Night, could a song capture their relationship any better?  Did Stephen Bishop consider the other ways his song could be understood?  Did he consider its perfection for forbidden lovers?  Davie is married, so Jasmine has no right to ask him how he feels, nor does he have that right with her, also married.  They have no right to speak to one another so kind.  They have no right.  If either lost their love, they never let it show.  There’s no way to compromise.  So they build that wall.  And they’ll make it stronger.  And they’ll go on living separate lives.
A missed night without a text.  No right to speak so real.  No right to speak so kind.  Silence. Eyes without words.

© 2019 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

6: Jasmine's Journal: The Fisherman

July 23, 2011

Dear Spirit,

            Let me begin with a story.  It’s a story about a fisherman. You've mysteriously placed an experience into my life that maybe the fisherman will help You catch.  Pun intended.

            A fisherman lives for the great catch.  Many Saturdays, early in the morning, he will be found in the water with his rod, reel, bait, and heart bursting for a great catch.  Sometimes he’s alone with the river, other times, with his buddies.  Sometimes he’s standing in a river, wearing his fishing boots, other times, in a rowboat.  On this day, he’s in a mid-size boat with a dozen others on a three day excursion with a tour group, mostly strangers, led by a captain.  The fisherman smiles that the captain looks almost like Mark Twain, except with less hair, and also roughly 60, like that iconic picture of the famous author and steamboat captain.  The captain anchors, says the spot is good for fish, and invites anyone who is interested to borrow a rod, reel, and bait and try for a catch.  “Maybe one of you will get lucky for us all and catch our dinner tonight,” he says.
            The fisherman has come prepared.  He has his own rod, reel, and bait, and he casts.  He makes some new friends, especially one fishing next to him named Jack.  Jack and a few of the others successfully reel in a few fish.  The fisherman’s patience pays off -- really pays off – and he reels in a great catch, the largest, most glorious fish of his life.  He is beaming and the other boaters applaud his catch.  The captain comes over to him, examines the fish, sighs, and says, “That fish is protected.  You have to throw it back.”
The fisherman looks at him stunned.  The captain can’t be joking.  This is the catch of his life.  “Sorry,” the captain says again, “It’s a beautiful fish, but it’s protected.”  The fisherman starts to well up, but he manages to hold back the tears.  Jack tries to help, points to the other fish caught and says, “It’s OK.  We’ve caught these.  We already have enough fish for dinner.  No worries, Dude.”  The fisherman is hesitant.   His phone is in a cubby; he didn’t think he’d need it, so he doesn’t even have his phone for a selfie.  The others see his hesitance and agree with Jack.  “It’s OK.  It’s a beautiful fish, but we have enough.  Don’t worry about it.” 
They don’t get it.  They just don’t get it.  Now, the pain of being told he has to throw the fish back is compounded by the indifference of his new friends.  The fisherman can no longer hold back his tears. 
One of the other boaters, thankfully not one of the ones he considers a new friend, mocks him for the tears.  “Come on, Buddy.  Just throw it back before you torture it.  We have enough fish for dinner.” Now mocked, and in tears, the fisherman can’t even muster the courage to ask any of his new friends to snap a photo of him on their phone to send to him so he can show his fishing buddies back at home.  The fisherman takes a deep breath.  He exhales a kiss to his great catch and he throws it back.  It’s a moment of great courage, great triumph, and great anguish. 
And no one who witnesses it gets any of that.  “Good job, Buddy!” one of them cries in his own limited understanding, and the others cheer.  “Right! Great catch and great job throwing it back!  Now let’s cook up what we can keep!” The others all cheer, and the captain announces he’ll steer them all to shore to cook up their meal.
Once they reach land, the fisherman points to the woods beyond the shore asks the captain if he can go for a walk while the others cook up the fish.  The captain looks into the eyes of the fisherman.  Someone finally gets it. The captain nods and says, “You did a good thing today, Son.  You made a great catch, and your fish was protected, and you threw it back.  Take as long as you need, Son.  We’ll be anchored here all night.”  Finally feeling understood, the fisherman exhales a deep breath, nods, and takes leave into the wooded trail to release his anguish.

My wooded trail, Spirit, is this journal.  I know I’m not the fisherman.  I haven’t gone out looking for a great catch.  A great catch found me.  And it’s protected and I have to throw it back.  And no one even knows I’m doing it.  But You know it, and I hope you understand.
You’re the captain, Spirit.  For a while, You’ve felt nonchalant to me, indifferent to the waters You steered me out to.  Lately, I’ve sensed Your understanding.  But I still want to know why?  Why did You steer me to a catch so beautiful only to tell me it’s protected and I have to throw it back?  Why, Spirit, why?

© 2019 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.

Continue to Silence. Eyes without Words
Start from the Beginning: 1: Why did Noah let God drown the world?
Return to previous selection: Coaching from the sidelines

Sunday, October 20, 2019

5: Coaching from the Sidelines

February 16, 2012

            Driving home from Mixed Doubles Night, Jasmine wonders whether she should be upset with Davie, or the elders, or both.  Davie did not make it tonight, nor did he text that he’d be gone.  Was that his choice or the elders’?  Will he miss every week or just this one?  Will he let Jasmine know?  In the past, if he couldn’t make it to Mixed Doubles Night, he’d text her at least by their group’s Yoga Room stretching time, and usually sooner.  It was a simple heads-up: Sorry, you’ll have to hunt for another partner tonight.  The Mixed Doubles group had Courts 1 through 3, and sometimes 4, reserved every Thursday from 7-9 pm.  Since the Yoga Room cleared out at 6:30, the group made it standard practice to meet there at 6:45 for chit-chat and stretching.  Late players sometimes texted some other player at that time.  But Davie didn’t text anyone tonight, not Jasmine, not BD, not anyone.  That’s not like him.
            Will Jasmine see him again?  Cast out of Quail Canyon, she won’t see  him at church.  Maybe she’ll no longer see him at Glendale Racquet Club either.  Is tonight a one-time breather, or did Davie receive a permanent order from the elders to quit the Mixed Doubles group, just as she had received an order to leave the church?  What is to come of her and her mixed doubles partner?  Or should she say former mixed doubles partner?
            They haven’t even had a “break-up.”  And if they’ve never had an official “break up” of their mixed doubles partnership, along with whatever else one might call the rest of their relationship, Jasmine is sure to blame the elders for that.  Davie would never end it like this.  He’d have a real conversation with her, looking her deep in the eyes with sorrowful regret.
            Jasmine can remember only one other time when she hadn’t received a heads-up text from Davie, and it wasn’t on a no-show day.  It was on a day he arrived late – and for good reason.  Stopped at a red light, Jasmine sets free her tortured mind to nostalgically recall that evening almost seven months earlier in late July, 2011 . . .
By the time Davie arrives to Mixed Doubles Night on that last Thursday of July, all three courts are deep into close sets.  The points are carrying long rallies, the games are holding multiple deuces, and the sets are close.  Jasmine’s court, Court 3, is at 4-4, and from what Jasmine can hear from Courts 1 and 2, the other sets appear to be about as tightly matched.  Not only are all three courts playing tight, competitive sets, the numbers had been perfect for Mixed Doubles Night at exactly 12 – until Davie arrives.  He makes the awkward 13th.  Besides that, he hadn’t texted any of the players during Yoga Room stretching.  Based on the group’s rules, he might have to sit out the night.  Late players are welcomed to play if either they tell someone they’ll be late, or if they’re needed.  For Davie on this July night, neither is the case.
            It doesn’t seem to bother him.  When he arrives, he appears exhausted.  Something must be be up.  He approaches Jasmine’s court, and she looks at him puzzled.  “You all play.  I’ll just watch.  It’s been a long day.”  Jasmine had found a partner, Stephen, and they were playing against Todd and Gabbi.  The best seating is by Court 1, but Davie sits down at the bench with the broken leg by Court 3.
            Gabbie takes her serve game to pull her and Todd ahead 5-4, and the group breaks for water and a side switch.  “What made your day so long?” Stephen asks Davie, who stands up to join the players.  Taking a breath, he replies, “I’ve been counseling a teen who has been finding his escape in drugs, but is starting to ask for help.  Confidentiality.  Can’t say much more.  But this kid’s whole story is complicated.  He can’t escape the drugs until he faces all that crap that got him into drugs in the first place.”  Davie lets out a heavy sigh.  He appears to have taken on some of the kid’s trauma.  That’s just like Davie, Jasmine thinks.  His heart is too big.
            Davie’s face begins to relax.  Perhaps he just needed Stephen to ask the question so he could answer it and breathe out a couple of sighs.  He sits back down on the bench, catching his balance after the bench tilts upon Davie’s weight coming down too close to the bench’s broken leg.  Davie’s chuckle is joined by the Court 3 players, and he moves to the side of the bench with the two functional legs.  “You’re risking your life on that bench, you know?” Todd teases.  “Yeah, I know,” Davie replies with a smile.  “I must love you guys a lot, huh?”  Jasmine catches his eyes and smiles at him.  Davie smiles back, raising his eyebrows at her.  Jasmine’s heart flutters.
            Now seated on the sturdy side of the bench, Davie lets his body relax into a laid-back position to enjoy the rest of the set.  It’s now Jasmine’s turn to serve.  “You got this, Jazzie!” Davie calls to her as Stephen tosses a second ball to her for the serve.  She catches it, nods to Stephen, looks over to Davie, smiles at him, and he casts back a wide grin, a nod, and a thumbs up.  Jasmine’s game improves throughout her service game as he roots her on, cheering as her best fan.  At 15-30, she’s at back court and has just hit one toward Gabbi, who is at the net.  “Up!” Davie calls to her, and Jasmine rushes the net in time for Gabbi’s short volley to the alley, which Jasmine drop shot spins for an even shorter centered shot, which Gabbie can’t reach in time, to tie up the point 30-30.  “Hey, no calling out from the peanut gallery, OK?!” teases Todd with a wink to Davie.  “OK, I’ll be good,” Davie smiles with a wink back to Todd.
            Davie stays true to his promise, but only to the letter, not to the spirit.  He still sends gestures, muffled code words, and, most of all, his electric energy to Jasmine.  At the second deuce, she nails the backhand volley he had just coached her on the previous week when the two played singles.  Davie throws himself out of his seat into a standing cheer and cries out, “Yes!  Jazzie, that’s it!” Jasmine smiles, accepts Stephen’s high 5, and then returns the ritual high 5/low 5 from Davie, who is standing a mere foot and a half away from alley.  If Todd thinks that should also be prohibited, he doesn’t speak up.  Now it’s ad-in.  Time for Jasmine to clinch up this set.  “You got this, Jazzie, you got this,” Davie whispers.  With Davie’s energy poured into her, Jasmine sends a powerful spin serve to Todd’s backhand, putting him on the defense and giving Stephen the chance to volley-slam Todd’s return – that favored one-two punch to win the set.  Now the sets are tied up: 5-5.
            Jasmine notices Davie watching her the entire time.  What catches her attention are those filler moments between points when the players are collecting balls, sending them to the server, getting into position, and doing nothing that should draw attention to any of them.  At one of those times when she’s positioning herself at the net, she sees Davie from the corner of her eye.  He’s looking at her fondly.  Does he know she can see him too?  Seemingly not, as he doesn’t look away.  He continues to watch her.  Jasmine returns her eyes to the front and readies herself at the net.  Stephen and Todd carry out a rally, and neither is letting the net player in.  Once, when repositioning herself, Jasmine manages to catch a glimpse of Davie out of the corner of her eye.  His eyes are on her.  She’s not the one playing the point, but she’s the one he’s watching.  His look appears to be of admiration, almost as if he’s charmed by her.  Is she imagining that?  Is he watching her because they’re about to enter a USTA Tournament as mixed doubles partners, or is there something more to his interest?
© 2019 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Climax: Love 30, Part 4

Here begins the final installment of the climax. It will come later in the book, but I had to write it now in order to build everything around it.

          Davie turns off the engine of his car and looks deep into Jasmine’s eyes.  Jasmine senses he can’t stop, that he’s drawn to her, entranced by her.  She gazes back, takes a deep breath, lifts her purse, and draws out her car key.
“Let me,” Davie says, as she’s about to open the car door.  He races around the car to open her door from the outside and extends his hand to help her out. 
Lightning strikes.  The two look at one another astonished.  No storm had been predicted.  Davie smiles, “I love storms.”
Already, Jasmine senses the extra electricity in the air.  “Me too,” she replies.  “My family says I’m the odd duck on this too.  My big sister and little brother pulled blankets over their heads during a storm.  I ran out to our front patio deck to take in that oxygenated, electric air.  When I was really brave, I ran out to the sidewalk and danced.”
Davie laughs, “Me too.  Well, not quite dancing, just standing with my arms and head raised up high so the rain beat down on my face.  Do you notice during and just after a thunderstorm, the air is alive, vibrant, pulsating, electric?” 
Jasmine bursts, “I can feel the electricity of the lightening all up and down my arms.  And if the rain pounds hard, all that water fills the air with extra oxygen.  You breathe in this crisp, oxygenated air.  I have to go out and let my body soak it all in!”
“You too?!”
“I do.  My husband says I’m crazy.  I tell him to come out and feel the electric air and breathe in the extra oxygen from the rain, and he shakes his head, shrugs his shoulders, and say he’ll just let me represent both of us out there.”
Davie laughs.  “I wish I could get Pam out there with me.  It was the same with my mom, dad, and little brother.  They tremble at a thunderstorm, and when I was racing out to enjoy it, my brother’s eyes got big.  My dad would scold, ‘You’re no Ben Franklin!  You could get electrocuted!’  I’d scream back, ‘He had a kite and a key and he still lived!’  Then for added emphasis, I’d take off my belt and watch and throw them to him, ‘Here!  Take my belt, take my watch.  I have nothing the lightening wants.  I’ll be fine!’  He knew this was not a battle worth picking.  He’d give me a knowing smile and nod, like he was warning me only because that’s what Mom wanted him to do, and then he’d let me go.  And watch me from the window, mostly for Mom’s sake.”
“It’s good your dad got it.  Nothing can keep those of us who love storms away from them.”
“Right,” Davie smiles.  “You just have to be smart.  Take off your belt, your watch.  Leave your cell phone inside.  And If it gets too fierce, take some cover.”
“As long as it’s not under a tree!”
“You know it!” Davie laughs.  “Stay away from the trees, telephone poles, and anything that draws the lightening.  Then go out and enjoy the hell out of that storm!”
Jasmine can’t believe Davie just use the word “hell.”  She likes him even more because he did.  He loves storms, he’s willing to say “hell,” he thinks at odds, he plays a kickass game of tennis, he directs a thriving youth group with his spiritual wisdom and  youthful spunk, he doesn’t like Noah, and he sides with Abraham, Moses, and Jacob for arguing and wrestling with God.  Could there be anything else in a man Jasmine would like better?
They both gaze into one another’s eyes.  This air, in the close presence of Davie and the lightening, is even more alive, more vibrant, more pulsating, more electric than any air Jasmine can ever remember in her life.
She smiles, looks into his eyes, and says, “Happy Birthday, Love 30.”
Davie cradles his arms around Jasmine’s arms, gazes back into her eyes, shakes his head while looking up, returns his gaze to her eyes, and expresses, as if in disbelief, “It’s been one of the happiest ever.” 
He picks up Jasmine’s hand and kisses the back of it, like gentlemen did in days long past.  Jasmine’s heart flutters.  She squeezes his hand and moves in closer.  The two have shaken hands many times after tennis matches, but they’ve never before touched hands like this.
Davie takes a deep breath and looks up to the sky.  He’s torn.  Jasmine can see in his eyes what he wants and she can feel in his tight grip on her hand his hesitation.
What should she do?  If he gets bold to lean into her, will she let him do it, or can she resist him?
Jasmine doesn’t think she can resist him, but maybe she’s strong enough not to encourage him.  Just don’t encourage him.  Don’t nod, don’t pull him in, don’t lean into him.  If you can just stay still, you’ll do your part. 
Davie looks down again, takes another deep breath, and looks into Jasmine’s eyes again.  Jasmine can’t help but gaze deep back into them.  She’s tightening her arms to keep herself from pulling him into her, but in no way can she resist him.  If he pulls into her, she’s done for.
Davie looks at her again and smiles.  She smiles back, letting her eyes dance.   Davie might have passed the Obedience stage Noah was in, but can he be obedient now?  Jasmine wonders about herself too.  Where is her whisper of mystery?  Usually, in precarious situations like this – and this is one of the most precarious of her life – her whispers of mystery come through reliably.  Not this time.  Whisper?  Spirit?  Where are you? 
Silence.  Jasmine wonders if the silence suggests an endorsement.  If the Holy Spirit wishes to stop her, wouldn’t she get a whisper?  A warning?
She’d better take this situation on her own inner guidance.  Just don’t encourage him.  Perhaps she can at least do that.  She can’t take her eyes off of him, she can’t remove her hand from his, but maybe she can keep her head still?  Perhaps she’s strong enough to remain still.  In no way is she strong enough to resist.  Davie please come into me.  If you come to me, I won’t resist you.
Lightning strikes again.  The two glance up to it, still thrilled and astonished.  Davie takes another breath and returns his gaze to Jasmine.  Thunder strikes.
“The storm’s really close,” Davie whispers, while leaning in closer to Jasmine.  She nods, letting her eyes speak to him: You can kiss me.  I’ll let you kiss me.
The rain suddenly bursts upon them.  If Davie is going to kiss her, he’ll have to do it right now.  You can do it, Davie.  I’ll let you kiss me.
Davie leans his lips toward Jasmine’s and pauses.  Will she come closer or pull away?  Jasmine remains still, but smiles and keeps her eyes dancing and fixed upon his.  Kiss me, Davie.
Davie leans in all the way and kisses her on the lips.  Three soft pucks on the lips.  He pauses and she remains still, smiling.  He leans in again, gives her another soft puck, then he opens his mouth wider.  His tongue has come into Jasmine’s mouth, and Jasmine feels the energy of the most electric tingles of her life.  Never before has she felt a kiss like this.
Davie pulls away and looks at Jasmine astonished.  What had they just done?
Noah, they were not. 
No, they were like Jacob: they had wrestled in their relationship for a long time.  Now, they were walking away.  Alive and limping.

© 2019 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.
Begin Love 30 Climax

Friday, August 23, 2019

Climax: Love 30, Part 3

Part 3 of 4 of the climax. It will come later in the book, but I had to write it now in order to build everything around it.
Jasmine is stunned by Davie’s choice of words, ‘thinking at odds,' the very phrase her family used to berate her.  Just like his response to her Noah question, he seems to be hinting to her that what she’s been ashamed of, she should instead be proud of.  Further, she had never known Davie had been born in India.  He was getting more interesting moment by moment.  Jubilant he had offered her a ride, Jasmine sent up a thank you prayer that God had helped her forget to gas up her car.  How did she get so lucky to have him all to herself for those two fifteen minute drives to and from Glendale and TGIFs? 
The last to leave the party, Davie and Jasmine picked up the cake, cards, and the group gift package: three sets each of tennis balls, replacement grips, and, most notably, the natural gut tennis strings Davie loves.  It was Jasmine’s idea to have the group pool funds together for three sets of each, one for each decade of Davie’s life, with the tennis strings as the highlight.  Natural gut’s not cheap, but a youth pastor’s salary is, so Jasmine knew Davie couldn’t get afford this luxury too much.
            “Did you let Pam know you’d be late?” Jasmine feels a pang in her heart as she speaks the name of Davie’s wife.  “Yeah, I texted her and she replied to have fun, so she’s cool with it.”
Once in Davie’s car, Jasmine wonders if she can ask another, related forbidden question she learned never to ask in Sunday school.  By now, she’s almost convinced he, like her, is a closet progressive and, today, he revealed he’s also been “thinking at odds.”  Why not take the plunge and ask him the big question?  Jasmine takes a deep breath.  Davie looks at her, smiles, raises his up his eyebrows twice, and asks, “What’s on your mind?”
“Here’s what I really want to know,” Jasmine begins, slowly.
“Go on.”
“OK here goes.  Why do we worship a God who drowns the world?”
Davie smiles and winks at Jasmine.  “Your heart fits better with Abraham.” Jasmine gives Davie a curious look.  “And Moses.” Go on.  You’ve got my attention.  “And even Jacob.”  I’m listening.
“OK,” Davie says, “Let’s start with Abraham.  God wants to destroy the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Every man, woman, and child.  God’s ticked.  They’ve been wicked, perverse, evil, disgusting.  God wants them all gone.  He tells Abraham.”  Jasmine nods, entranced.  Little does Davie know he has just brought up another of her favorite stories – another one she almost got in trouble for.
“Abraham thinks God’s gone over the top.  He even tells him so.  ‘Far be it from you to do such a thing!’ he cries out to God.  He starts to bargain with God.  Would God spare the cities if fifty good men could be found?  God agrees and said He’d spare the cities.  Abraham takes it down to forty, thirty, twenty, and then Abraham really gets bold and asks if God would spare the cities if even ten good men could be found.  God agrees.  Abraham wins.”
Still quiet, Jasmine nods.  Davie continues.  “Then there’s Moses.  Remember it was God who had called Moses to free His people.  Moses: an old man with a bad temper and poor speech.  Moses thinks God is crazy for sending him to free the Hebrew people from the hand of the Egyptian King, but Moses does what God asks.  He fights with Pharaoh, he performs miracles before Pharaoh, and he leads the people on a very dangerous journey out of Egypt.  After crossing the Red Sea, escaping Egypt, wandering through the desert, and going hungry and thirsty, the people were grumbling.  They’d had enough.  Where was this supposed ‘Promised Land’ and when would they finally arrive?  To them, this was one promise broken.  Then Moses goes up a mountain and doesn’t come back.  At least not soon enough for the Israelites.  Now they’re really mad.  So they carve out a calf from their gold.  This makes God mad, so God tells Moses He’ll destroy them.  Moses, himself fed up with the people he’s been commissioned to lead, nevertheless appeals on their behalf to God.  Once again, God relents.”
Jasmine smiles.  She’s getting more captivated by Davie with each statement. She can hear the pastor in his voice, but he’s not like any pastor she’s grown up with. 
Davie flicks his turn signal into the Glendale  parking lot.   “And Jacob?” Jasmine asks.
“Now Jacob’s different,” Davie says, with suspense in his voice.  He seems to want to keep Jasmine glued to the conversation.  Will they keep talking in his car for a while?  “He doesn’t bargain with God on behalf of anyone else.  He just doesn’t let up with God until he gets what he wants.”  Jasmine nods.  “The story of Jacob’s encounter with God is truly mysterious, and to some, the most mysterious encounter in the Bible.”
Davie pulls next to Jasmine’s car, then whispers, “Actually, the Bible is filled with mysterious encounters; it’s loaded with them, but people don’t see them.  I think there are many encounters more mysterious than this one with Jacob, but since most people don’t see those ones, this is the encounter that many consider to be the most mysterious.”
            I’m listening.  Go on.  “Jacob’s on this journey.  He’s alone – again.  When Jacob is alone, something mysterious is likely to happen.  The last time Jacob had been alone, he came to a spot the Bible calls ‘a certain place.’  I think that phrase, ‘a certain place’ is a clue.  It’s purposefully ambiguous, but also a hint: this is a special place with special energy.  God doesn’t come to just any place, only certain ones.  That’s where Jacob had his dream of the ladder.
            “Now Jacob is alone again in another ambiguous, mysterious place,  and he encounters what the Bible says is a ‘man,’ and he wrestles this man.  All night long he wrestles him.  Apparently, he loses because when they’re done, Jacob is limping, but Jacob considers it a victory, because he doesn’t die.  The whole story is weird.  Ordinary wrestling matches don’t last more than a few minutes – maybe ten minutes for an extra long one.  But this one lasts all night long.  And Jacob is happy that he did not die.  Whoever this man is who Jacob wrestled is no ordinary man.  That’s the mystery part.  Who is this ‘man’?  If this ‘man’ were just a man, then why, after Jacob wrestled him, would he have called him ‘God’?”
            “Yeah, curious.”
            “I find Jacob’s wrestling match both mysterious and a sign that Jacob is a true biblical hero.”
            “OK, I’m following you.  How does he differ from Noah?”
            “He doesn’t give in.  Can you imagine an all-night-long wrestling match?”
            Jasmine shakes her head. 
“You think you might give up sometime around 2 am?” 
Jasmine nods. 
“How about 3 am?  4 am? 5 am?  When do you think Noah would have given in?” 
“Right away.”
Jasmine smiles.  Now she’s really entranced by this athletic, thoughtful youth pastor who thinks at odds like she does.
            “So you think if Noah had tried to wrestle God or bargain with Him, God might not have flooded the whole planet?”
            “Maybe not.”
            “OK,” Jasmine nods, thinking it through.  “I still don’t like Noah.  But at least that makes God look a little better.” 
Davie grins.  At the expense of Noah, he’s made a small victory for God. 
“But for many Noah is still considered a hero,” Davie continues, “because they remain in the spiritual evolution of obedience.  Some people catch early in life the essence of what is good, learn obedience quickly, and can move onto lessons of love.  You’re one of them.  But those people can sometimes annoy the people who have to learn obedience.”
Jasmine is marveling.  Does he ever get her and her life story.  Why had they not met before they were both married?
© 2019 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Climax: Love 30, Part 2

As noted in Love 30, part 1, this section, especially this following first ever selection from Davie’s point of view, is likely to come later in the book, but is getting written now to set everything else into place.
Is that a blush?  Davie hopes so, but Jasmine speaks before he can be sure.  “If Noah had a bumper sticker for his Ark, I wonder what it would say?”
“Hmmm,” Davie’s pleased and challenged with her riddle.  “Something like, ‘This Ark Obeys God’?  Or ‘Real Men Build an Ark’?”
“Something like that,” Jasmine smiles.  “How about ‘Are you Ready for the Great Flood’?”
“Now we’re getting somewhere,” Davie replies, but let’s add to it: “My children are ready for the Flood.  Are yours?”
“I like that,” Jasmine smiles.  Then, mischievously, she smiles.  “How about a twist on the Jewish Carpenter: ‘My Boss is a Global Destroyer.’”
“I know.  Too much.  Maybe he played tennis.  How about this one: ‘This Ark is ready for the Dunk Smash/How about you?’” 
“I like it,” Davie laughs.  “But only tennis players would get it.  Here’s one. ‘If the Flood comes tonight, Will you Float or Drown?’” 
“That’s it!” 
They both laugh heartily.  This is why Davie likes Jasmine so much.  She’s a thinker, she’s compassionate, and she has a sense of humor.  Even her cynicism is rooted in compassion.  She’s a killer tennis player too.  Davie loves it when she sends their opponents far into the alleys, perfectly setting him up for an overhead smash.  On and off the court, she’s just his style.  Why hadn’t they met ten years ago?
Never before has he met a Christian girl who questions Noah, let alone one at the tender age of 11.  He loves that spirit, that interest, and that desire to transcend basic obedience.  Still, there’s a pastor in him too.  He feels like he should stick up for Noah, at least a little bit, even if he’s not particularly fond of this biblical “hero.”  Like Jasmine, he feels Noah wimped out too early to save the world.  Couldn’t he have saved at least a few people outside of his own family?  Still, for Noah’s moment in the evolution of spiritual history, he didn’t do too bad.  At least he didn’t die in the Flood.  And, he saved a bunch of animals.
Davie wonders how he can lead into a way to save face for Noah, while maintaining that energy he’s sharing with Jazzie.  If he’s really good, maybe he can even catch another blush.
“You were quite a precocious girl.”  Davie smiles and winks at Jasmine as they are approaching the front door of TGIFs.  Davie can’t discern a blush on Jasmine’s face, but at least she smiles and squints her eyes with curiosity.  “In youth, one’s goal is obedience,” Davie says, stopping in front of the door.  “In maturity, it’s love – even if it means breaking the rules.  Maybe Noah represents youth in humanity’s evolution.  The world was young, so the lesson was obedience.  Now we’re older and our lesson is love.”
Jasmine looks interested.  Davie continues, “Many Christians don’t catch that there is not one right way for all people to behave.  On many matters, our decisions of what is upright is individual.  For example, some can drink, some can't.  Paul explains this freedom in Romans 14.   I would take the notion beyond what Paul says, though.  How we should act depends not only on our circumstances, but also on where we are on our life path.  The right course of action early in life, when one still has much growth left in life, can impede a person later in life.  So some people learn in youth, ‘This is how you behave,’ and they’re still behaving like that when they’re older.  But by then, they should be behaving different.”
“And some of them make it worse, don’t they?” Jasmine asks with a wistful nod.   “They judge people who aren’t behaving that way, even—“
“--if they’re already passed that point.” Davie finishes, in perfect tandem with Jasmine.  They chuckle, Davie winks, and Jasmine, most certainly, is blushing.  Opening the door for Jasmine, Davie holds his eyes and smile on her.  “You were already grown up when you were 11.”

When the two walk into the party room, Davie is struck by the decorations, the care, and the attention that has gone into the d├ęcor of his birthday party.  A sign is posted on the wall behind the table in handwritten markers, reading “LOVE 30!”  It’s framed on both sides of the message with three yellow tennis balls.  The Love 30 theme is also accented with red heart-shaped helium balloons with “30” in black lettering floating above the table. 
On the table is a chocolate cake, decorated mostly in blue letters, also reading, “LOVE 30,” with two exceptions: the “O” of “LOVE” is in red and drawn as a heart and the “0” of “30” is in yellow and nice and round, more like a capital “O,” to depict a tennis ball.  Astonished by how it feels to be so celebrated, Davie realizes it might not be so bad the group determined it’s his 30th birthday.
“Who made the cake?”
BD points to Jasmine, who smiles coyly and lifts her hand for a slight wave.  “I LOVE it,” he replies with a deep smile to Jasmine.  Her eyes twinkle and Davie thinks he’s just caught yet another blush.  What a beauty Jasmine is when she blushes.  How many more of these can he catch tonight?  He feels magic in the air. Watch yourself, Davie.  This night could get dangerous.

 “You have quite the digital birthday, tomorrow, don’t you, Davie?” Steve asks as all the party-goers are finding seats.  “1-2-0-2-0-1-2.”
            “At least it’s not 1-2-2-1-2-0-1-2!” Theresa teases.
            “Right! Then he’d be 30 and dead!”  BD exclaims to the group’s laughter.
            Davie leans into Jasmine, pressing his arm and shoulders into hers to whisper, “I wonder what the SUV owner thinks?”
Jasmine chuckles and bends even closer into him to whisper her reply.  This is better than a blush.  Davie feels tingles and a little arousal running through his body.  The night is getting dangerous, but he has no desire to retreat from it. 
“I bet he’s hoping!” Jasmine whispers into his ear.  “He can’t wait to de-man his car!”
BD asks, “What are you two talking about?”
“The owner of this SUV parked too close to our spot was sporting a bumper sticker,” Davie replies.  “’Warning: ‘In case of Rapture, this vehicle will be de-manned.”
“Oh, one of those!” BD exclaims.
“We’re wondering what bumper sticker we should put on top of that one?” Davie poses to BD.
BD might be anti-church, but he knows the lingo, and suggests, “In case of Rapture, this driver will be Left Behind?”
The three nod in agreement.  Davie’s a pastor, so he shouldn’t be scoffing at those who believe in the Rapture, but he’s also irked their attitude about it gives Jesus a bad rap.

“Hey look at this, Davie,“ Gabbie holds up the napkin she’s just written on.  In nine years, your birthday will be both digital and have onomatopoeia: 1-2-0-2-0-2-1.”
            Steve teases, “Digital.  Symmetrical. Does that make you square?”
            “Not square.  Confused.  I can’t decide whether to be Capricorn or Aquarius.”
            BD gives Davie and quizzical look.  “I didn’t know you believed in that stuff.”
            “Not really, but  confused between two birth signs, whatever they might mean, does fit.”
            “What do the astrologers say you are?” Mindy wondered.    
“They say I’m Aquarius.  I was born in India on January 20, the first day of Aquarius.  My parents had decided to start out their life as missionaries there, but didn’t intend to stay longer than a year.  When their assignment was almost done, they were offered a second year, took it, got pregnant, and then had their baby – me – two months before they were done.  Then when I was two months old, we moved to Colorado, where I’ve lived the rest of my life -- and would have been born Capricorn.”
“Interesting,” Steve replies. “What do the astrologers say about that?”
“They say that means I was meant to be born in the East, as Aquarius.”
“Do you feel more Aquarian or Capricorn?” Gabbie asks.
“I feel confused.  Like a walking paradox who can’t decide.  I feel like I’m always thinking at odds.”

© 2019 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.