“Convert them, or kill them”


“I’m not giving up on them, but I’m just saying, either convert them or kill them. One or the other.” – Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty.

Ouch. That’s pretty harsh coming from someone who professes to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. I have to be honest. I never did get into the Duck Dynasty hype. I tried watching the show twice, and couldn’t make it through more than ten minutes. For me, it was the typical, silly, scripted, ridiculous reality TV mess that millions of people around the globe live for. I’m not saying it’s wrong to watch reality TV. That is just my own personal opinion on the genre.

From what I hear, at the end of every episode, the entire family sits around the dinner table, and they give thanks for the food. They pray. I have no idea if they talk about the Gospel, Jesus, or salvation at any point during each show. I hope they do since they have such a huge following.

As with everything else I hear from well known people these days, I would much rather stick to the words penned in red that I find in my Bible. Matthew 5 says:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Most of this chapter in Matthew is you have heard it said, but I say examples. I mentioned before that Jesus was comparing the old way of thinking, man’s way, with God’s way. The Bible talks about renewing our minds. This latest statement from the Duck Commander is why. “Convert them or kill them” is total human reasoning. It’s the way that seems right to a man. To say that it’s near impossible for someone to convert and decide to follow Jesus, is to put a limit on what God can do.

This got me thinking a lot about Matthew 5. Why do we lock our doors? Why do we have guns for protection? It’s all about self-preservation. Here’s something Jesus also said in Matthew 16:

25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

We were born into sin. The self mindset was already embedded into our DNA. If we don’t become born again, and allow ourselves to be re-coded, we will always have our self interest at heart.

That completely goes against everything Jesus taught and modeled for us. We have to die to something we were never created to be.

This is something most people don’t like to talk about. It means giving up, well, everything. Giving it all to Him. Crawling up onto that altar and becoming a living sacrifice. It’s not something we hear a lot in church on Sunday mornings. But, it’s the Gospel.

“Worship is for us, not God.” “Convert them or kill them.” It’s frightening how many people don’t see the lies in these statements. There is no truth whatsoever. And these are words from very popular “Christians” in our society. Being a celebrity and quoting scripture doesn’t make you a Christian. It doesn’t make you right. Satan quoted scripture.

I encourage you to open your Bibles and read. Study the life of Christ and ask yourself if you’re following in His footsteps. We’re on this earth to manifest God’s image. The image He created us in.

If Jesus wouldn’t say or do something, then why would we?

My Library


Just wanted to put all my novellas, with their links, into one post. I’ve gained a lot of new readers over the past few months, and I know how easy it is for older posts to get lost. You can click on each picture, and it will take you right to the Amazon page where it’s for sale. Thank you so much for your support. I would ask that if you read any of these books, please leave a review for me on Amazon. I greatly appreciate it. God bless.

Click to purchase

My latest book is entitled, I Was There. It’s a collection of ten Bible stories written from first person perspective. To date, this is my favorite one. I love writing fiction, but there’s no real hope that it can change someone’s life. With I Was There, I believe it has the potential to help people in all areas of life. I’m truly excited to see what God is going to do with it. I’ve already started on a second collection and have the rough drafts completed for three stories.

 

 

Other Side of Night CoverOther Side of Night actually ran for ten weeks in the Kingsport, TN newspaper and the West Australian. It was part of the Newspaper in Education department where they read the story to children in school and used it as a teaching tool. Pretty cool stuff.

 

 

 

The Stranger CoverThe Stranger has been my most popular book up to this point. I started it as a serial story on my blog a long time ago, then decided to turn it into a book.

 

 

 

 

Unknown CoverUnknown is the first in a trilogy that I hope to get back to one day.

 

 

 

Dropping Stones


One of my favorite stories from the entire Bible is about the woman who was caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11) The Pharisees were chomping at the bit to have her stoned. I can only imagine their frenzy as they dragged the woman to the temple courts where a certain celebrity was teaching. The Bible doesn’t say, but I wonder if they made a huge spectacle on their way to see Jesus. What were they saying to the woman as they neared the temple? Were they calling for other people to join them as they rushed to carry out what would surely be the Godly thing to do? End her life. Seal her fate. Write her off.

I can only imagine the condemnation being poured out from their self-righteous mouths, pushing her further down into the mire of her guilt and shame. Without even knowing who she was, or anything about her story, I bet others joined right in with their judgmental bashing. The Pharisees, after all, were the “holy ones” of the era. They were the religious leaders who followed God’s law without fail. They never got it wrong. No one dared argue with their wisdom and knowledge of the ancient scriptures.

What a surprise it must have been when they placed her in front of Jesus and explained the situation. Instead of immediately answering them with a command to stone her, Jesus ignores the most religious men in all the land, bends down, and begins to scribble in the dirt. There have been many views on what exactly He was writing. I tend to believe that He might have been writing out their own sins. Of course He knew them all, He’s Jesus. When the Pharisees realized what it was, they still repeated their question.

Jesus finally answers by saying that whomever has no sin can throw the first stone. There was no other option than for them to unclinch their tightened fists and drop the stones they were so eager to throw. What else could they have possibly done? I’m sure the crowd had pressed in to see what the great teacher had written. The Pharisees were busted. Here they were trying to trap Jesus, and He completely turned the tables on them.

If anyone standing there had the right to accuse the woman of sinning, it was Jesus Himself. The One with no sin. The One who led a perfect life. He chose forgiveness over her failure.

How often are we quick to judge others? Do we rush around to all of our “Christian” friends eager to bash another imperfect human because of something they’ve said or done? Do we turn our nose up at someone who is marrying a person of the same sex? Do we turn our backs on the fifteen year old pregnant girl who made a mistake? These are the people we should be running to with open arms.

Why would anyone want to follow Christ if all they receive is judgement and condemnation from those who claim to know Him?

Just as the Pharisees, who stood before Jesus thinking they were God’s gift to the unwashed masses, assumed it was their duty to judge, so do we. It’s not at all. We need to realize that just because we have Jesus, we’re not elevated onto some untouchable platform, and all the sinners are wandering around in circles below us. We are all broken. We all hurt. We all struggle. We all desire a relationship with someone who gets it.

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It’s hard to open up your arms to someone in love if you’re carrying a bag of rocks.

Behind the Smile


A gentle rain descends from a darkened sky as I lie awake in my bed. The steady sound of water, pattering on the window sill, should lull me to sleep, but I am troubled. While I am nestled warmly under the comfort of blankets, there are children somewhere tonight who have no bed. As they lay on dirty carpet with no pillows, their stomachs growl with hunger that is relentlessly familiar.

I close my eyes and find myself standing outside the window looking in at a scene of immense heartbreak. A young girl, no older than twelve, on her knees in the middle of the living room. She slowly folds her hands together and bows her head. Her father walked out on them a long time ago. Her mother works during the night, leaving the girl to care for her younger brother.

Rain mixes with tears on my face as I listen to her pray. She doesn’t ask for the newest game console, or clothes from Old Navy. She quietly whispers for her brother to get better. He’s been sick with a sinus infection, and they don’t have the money to take him to a doctor. She asks God to give her mother strength as she works through the night. She prays for her safety as she rides the bus home in the hours just before day break. She pleads with God to provide them with food and another bed so she won’t have to sleep on the floor anymore.

At the very end, with tears streaming down her face, the little girl prays for her daddy. She knows he left and most likely will never come back, but still she intercedes on his behalf. She longs for someone to tuck her into bed at night. She cries when she sees other children playing with their dads at the park. She misses the simple things like kicking a soccer ball together. She admits to God that she gets angry at her father for leaving, but she also seeks forgiveness for those feelings.

Her mother is doing everything she can to keep them from falling through the cracks of a society that so often looks the other way. The little girl pleads for help and a miracle to remove them from their dire situation. Roaches are everywhere, scavenging what they can in such bare conditions. The kitchen is practically empty except for a bag of rice and a carton of spoiled milk. 

I open my eyes and wipe the away the tears. The rain continues to fall as I climb out of bed and get down on my knees. I have so much to be thankful for, but I don’t know where to begin. I still see the little girl on the floor of her apartment pouring out her heart to God. She is a face without a name, a lonely heart in a sea of hopelessness. There must be an answer. There just has to be. 

These are the kinds of kids we see on a daily basis at One7. They laugh and play like all the other children, but deep inside, they are hurting. They come from broken homes, many with no fathers. Some have survived horrific ordeals just to make it into this country, thinking a better life awaited. Sadly, many continuously struggle to find food, clothing, and shelter. 

We need your help and support as we start a new year being the hands and feet of Jesus. Please check out the One7 website HERE If you would like to mail in a donation, or simply send a donation through PayPal, please visit the donate page HERE 

Thank you so much for your support.

We’ve learned that behind every smile, there lies a need.

 

Chris Martin

Reflections From a Broken Mirror (repost)


At some point in our life, I believe we have all been there. Unsatisfied with how we look, act, or fit in. It’s human nature to never be happy with how we are. In some cases, that can actually be a good thing, but for now, I’m talking mainly about our appearance and how we feel about life in general. In a world where we are bombarded with millions of different looks, fads, opinions, and opportunities, it’s a miracle we even know who we are as individuals.

It’s everywhere. TV. Movies. Books. Magazines. Billboards. Newspapers. Daily, we are subjected to what the world, society, thinks we should be. What we should wear. What we should eat. What we should not eat. What is healthy. What is not healthy. The list stretches beyond eternity where no one can see an end to the madness. People are looked down upon if they don’t keep up with their neighbors. Men are degraded constantly in TV commercials. No matter where we look, sin is shown as friendly and fun.

There are lost and hurting people all around us, but sadly, most of the world turns round and round with an air of indifference. We are taught to look out for ourselves, move up the ladder of success, get the newest car, buy the largest house on the block, etc. We’re so busy chasing after the American Dream, we forget about the least of these. We forget that if we help the homeless man on the street corner, we’re helping Jesus. (Matthew 25:40) If we feed the woman standing outside McDonald’s with no money, we are feeding Jesus.

As I usually say when I publish blog posts, I am not throwing any stones. We are all broken. Your reason may be scars caused from past abuse. Maybe it’s an addiction. Or maybe we’ve been through such horrible things in our life, it’s sometimes difficult to even express in words. In my own broken mirror, the reflection I see looking back is one of heartbreak, loss, failure, hope, happiness, faith, and redemption.

In my opinion, one of the most powerful moments written about in the New Testament is the story of the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:7) The religious leaders of that time brought her before Jesus and declared that according to the Law of Moses, they should immediately stone her to death. I get chills every time I watch that scene in Passion of the Christ when Jesus draws the line in the sand and, one by one, the stones drop from their clutched fists.

None of us have the right to judge anyone else for who they are, or more importantly, for what they have or have not done.

There is only One who can repair the cracks in our mirrors. When we see broken glass, we assume it’s worthless, and toss it into the trash. When God looks at our broken lives, he sees opportunity. He sees pain that only His perfect healing can replace. He sees beauty that only His perfect love can reveal to us. He sees worth that no amount of money, clothing, popularity, or status could ever appreciate. One by one, He replaces the broken pieces with His love. When He’s finished, we can finally step in front of that mirror and realize the greatness of our God and look at ourselves through His lens to see what we look like in His eyes.

We are His children. We are His family. We are His beloved.

 

Chris Martin

Why You Shouldn’t Follow Jesus


Sacrifice isn’t easy. In fact, the very thought of it completely rebels against everything inside of our DNA. We were born into this world with one purpose. To get what we can for ourselves. That is, after all, the American dream. Graduate high school and go to college. Leave the university of higher learning and snag a successful job with the obtained degree. Get a nice house in the suburbs, perfectly square yard, and don’t forget the white picket fence. Make enough money to keep up with our neighbors and all their toys. The ultimate pursuit of happiness.

When Jesus chose the twelve disciples, He pulled them away from everything they had ever known. They were fishermen by trade. It’s how they made a living. Jesus walked up and asked them to drop what they were doing and follow Him. He asked them to give up security, stable income, comfort, their families, everything. They were called to follow someone they didn’t know and live a life of ultimate sacrifice. That’s all kinds of crazy. No one in their right mind would consider doing that. Not even for a second. Now a days it would be more about asking questions like how much is the pay, is there full medical and dental, or what about 401k?

The disciples dropped their nets and followed. While it’s not that far a stretch for me to understand how they could do that, I still think they were nuts. Especially when Jesus said He was going to send them out like “sheep among wolves”. I have never observed any sheep near some wolves, but I can’t imagine that would end very well for the meek little sheep. I’ve asked myself over and over if Jesus walked up to me right now and said leave it all behind…your job, your house, your car, your savings account (all $30 of it)…drop it all right now and let’s go. We’ve got work to do. Could I do it? I want to believe that I would say yes, let’s do this. I feel as if I’ve already sacrificed some things for the Gospel, but have I truly given it all? Jesus gave His whole life as a sacrifice so we wouldn’t have to suffer the punishment we all so greatly deserve. Why would I not want to give up everything I have to serve Him?

I’ve never seen a bumper sticker that reads “Following Jesus is not an easy thing to do.” Most churches aren’t going to tell you following Christ could cost you everything. You’re probably not going to hear the pastor get up on stage and say that your love for Jesus should be so strong, everything else pales in comparison and even looks like hate. Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” Now I personally don’t believe Jesus was saying anyone who wants to follow Him needs to hate his own family. That would go against everything He ever taught about love.

I believe we are to follow Jesus no matter what the cost. If our families don’t agree with us and chose to follow the world, it will obviously cause problems within the family dynamic. Our family members may even perceive that we hate them by that decision. We will lose friends by choosing to follow Jesus. We will lose business relationships. People are not going to like us when we start talking about Jesus. It will make some uncomfortable. It might even make some people attack us verbally or physically. I believe this is what Jesus was trying to convey to His disciples by using the illustration of hate. I’m not a theologian, so I may be completely wrong. I’m sure there are smarter people than me out there who could probably explain that passage much better.

So, if you’re reading this and you are somewhere in the middle, maybe on the fence about deciding if it’s worth it to follow Jesus, here are some things to ponder.

You shouldn’t follow Jesus if you want everyone to like you. (Mark 13:13 “Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”)

You shouldn’t follow Jesus if you aren’t willing to give up everything for the Gospel. (Luke 14:33 “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”)

You shouldn’t follow Jesus if you want an easy life. (Matthew 10:16-17 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues.”)

You should’t follow Jesus if you only want things for yourself. (Mark 8:34-35 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”)

You shouldn’t follow Jesus if your idea of Christianity is just attending church. (Mark 16:15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”)

There is this culture now that says following Jesus is hip, cool, trendy, fun, popular, comfortable, and safe. That message is being spoon-fed to the masses in order to keep them coming back for more. Social media is flooded with people spouting the name of Jesus all the time, while those very same people live however they please. Jesus needs to be more than just a hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. The message straight from the mouth of the One who gave His life for us is the complete opposite of what we’re being told.

I’ve learned from personal experience that following Jesus will cost something. How much are we willing to pay?

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Have a blessed day

Question for Discussion


Throughout the years, I’ve had this question pop into my mind on occasion, and I’ve always wondered what other people thought about it. Now, before I even ask the question to you, I want to make something very clear. I am a huge fan of discussing things with respect to those who don’t necessarily agree with me. Just because I believe a certain way, that doesn’t mean the entire world has to feel the same. I’m not the kind of person who is going to take a Bible and try to shove it down your throat. I will tell you what I believe, but I will also listen to your beliefs. I ask that you graciously respect the opinions of others even if you’re thinking they are way off base in the back of your mind.

I don’t want this to turn into some kind of internet World War III. I have confidence that we can all discuss certain issues as adults. Having said that, I would really appreciate your complete honesty and views on the subject. By now, I can’t imagine the thoughts running through your head. You are probably trying to figure out what the heck I’m talking about. I would even bet you’ve already skipped down to the bottom of the post to see what the question is. Don’t worry, it’s not as dramatic as I’m making it out to be.

With the holidays coming around once again, my thoughts usually drift toward traditions. How many of you just smiled when you read that, because memories began to flood your mind? I know the general stories that surround the origins of most all the major holidays. I think a lot of people probably do as well. Traditions have been passed down generation to generation from the dawn of time. Some change as they progress through the centuries while others stay the same, or at least mostly the same.

Christmas is quite possibly the biggest holiday that is steeped in tradition. Christians celebrate the birth of Christ and incorporate other parts as well, while others just enjoy everything else about the season. Giving. Decorations. Work bonus. Santa Clause. I have to be honest, I’m pretty secure in my belief that the modern day Santa doesn’t exist, but for my entire life, every time I heard that name, I immediately felt that there was something bad or possibly evil about him. I even used to call the guy Satan Clause.

I blame my upbringing in a Christian home where any myths about a jolly, somewhat overweight, man with red cheeks flying around in a sleigh were quickly dispelled. (No offense, Mom. I know you’re reading this.) I’m 41, and for the first time ever, I had a different thought about Mr. Clause. So what if children believe in a guy who goes out one night a year, more likely than not in the freezing snow, hitches up his reindeer, and spends hours upon hours giving stuff away? How can that be something evil or bad?

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to bust out a sermon where I try and compare the reindeer whisperer with how Christians should live a life of giving and sacrifice. It’s the principal behind the myth that could be a great life lesson. In my opinion, there is never anything wrong with someone who spends his life giving to other people. We should all be doing that 365 days a year.

So I know by now, some of you are bursting at the seams to present the facts about how holidays, especially Christmas, originated and how you want to smack me upside the head for thinking Santa is not so bad after all. That’s not what I’m looking for with this post. As I mentioned earlier, I know most of that already. I also know Christ wasn’t born on Dec. 25th, so don’t go into that either. 🙂 I’m not going to get into my exact feelings and beliefs about traditions and holidays right now. I want to know what you’re thinking. Having said all of that, here is my question. Well, okay, it’s multiple questions.

How do you approach holidays that originate from pagan traditions? Does God see your heart and know you’re not following the druids when you celebrate something? And not just holidays. Anything that comes from pagan beliefs or rituals in the past and now aren’t being done in the same way. Do you think that is okay?

I want to leave you with this verse from the Bible. 2 Colossians 2:16: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” I haven’t researched it, but I’m sure some or most of our traditions came into being after Paul had passed away, but it’s interesting to me why he would even say those words.

 

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Have a blessed day

From the Ashes (Part 2)


I stood, immobilized, gripped in the clutches of incomprehensible fear.

My eyes had most certainly watched as a large aircraft plowed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, but my mind had yet to rationally compute the horror. I winced as flames, debris, glass, and black smoke erupted in a fireball of destruction. The shock wave assaulted the North Tower, but the windows remained intact. At least the one I was looking through. I felt another rumble under my feet, and I forced my legs to move.

I returned to my fallen co-worker. He moaned in pain. “What’s your name?” I asked.

“It’s Jack.”

“I’m Rick. I think it’s time we got outta here, what do you say?”

Jack nodded. He pulled up his pant leg, and I could see that his ankle had swollen considerably in just a short amount of time. He needed medical assistance. Probably some ice. At that moment, we had neither, so it was time to move. I knelt down and put his arm around my shoulders. I counted to three, and we stood up together. He wasn’t able to put much weight, if any, on the injured ankle. I wondered how we would ever make it out of the building with non-working elevators and seventy-five floors of stairs between us and the outside. I pushed the thoughts away and focused on the present.

We slowly made our way out of the office and into the main hallway. It was nearly impossible to see anything due to the smoke, but I realized rather quickly that we were all alone. It was the same type of eerie quiet that follows a blizzard, except we didn’t have a sheet of sparkling white snow laid out before us. I’m not sure if it was just plain, raw fear, or some kind of instinct, but something urged me forward with increased intensity.

As we moved toward the stairs, I tried to carry as much of Jack’s weight as I possibly could. Sitting behind a desk all day wasn’t exactly a great fitness plan, so I was extremely out of shape. I knew most of my power was coming from adrenaline. If that ran out, we would both be in serious trouble.

We burst through the door and into the stairwell. The smoke was worse than in the offices. We both immediately started to choke and cough. I leaned Jack up against the wall and ripped off one of my long sleeves. “Keep this over your nose and mouth,” I instructed. I grabbed Jack, and we started down the stairs. I heard someone yelling, but couldn’t tell if it was coming from above us, or from somewhere down below.

After maneuvering down three flights of stairs, I had to stop. We sat on the landing, and I bent over, gasping for breath. 

“You need to leave me here.”

I looked over at Jack. He removed the shirt sleeve covering his face, and forced a smile. Tears etched two thin lines through the dirt and ash on his face. I coughed some more, and then shook my head. “No way. We’re doing this together.”

“We will never make it out of here with you having to carry me down seventy more flights of stairs. Just go.”

“You have kids, Jack?”

He nodded as fresh tears spilled from his eyelashes. “Yes. Two.”

“I do too,” I replied. “They aren’t going to lose their fathers today. Let’s go.”

Despite his protest, I picked Jack up, and we continued down. After counting another five floors, my body just physically couldn’t take it anymore. Jack had stopped talking altogether. His head lolled back and forth as if he were on the brink of unconsciousness. My throat burned with the kind of pain I could only imagine would result after swallowing razor blades. I realized that for the majority of our trek, I had kept my eyes closed. Each time I bumped into a wall, I knew it was time to turn.

I carefully laid Jack’s head down on the cement floor and made sure the makeshift bandanna across his face was secure. I leaned back and finally allowed myself to cry. I had desperately fought to hang on to hope, but sitting there in the darkness with a burning throat and stinging eyes, I knew the end was near. Occasionally, the floor beneath our feet would rumble, and I would hold my breath. I had no idea what had happened to the building. Had an airplane hit ours as well? A bomb? Did the outside world have any idea what was happening here?

I pulled my cell phone out and took a deep breath. I had never thought about the words I would say to my loved ones if I knew I was going to die. I don’t believe anyone could ever be prepared for that kind of conversation. Pivotal moments in my children’s lives flashed through my mind, and I wasn’t present for any of them. Graduation, college, marriage. How would my death affect them in the coming years? Losing a father is not something that just goes away with time. It never did after I lost mine.

I pressed the speed dial button for home. I would try there first. Andrea didn’t always hear her cell phone ring if she was helping Megan with something. After three rings, a tiny voice answered, and my body shook with uncontrollable sobs.

“Hello?”

With every ounce of strength I had left, I regained control and croaked out a greeting. “Hey, Sweetie. This is Daddy.”

“Daddy? Hi, Daddy.”

The excitement that rang in her voice, after hearing it was me, shattered my heart into pieces. “I-I’m at work, Honey. Can you get Mommy on the phone?”

“Daddy? I’m crayon in book.”

I clenched my teeth so tightly together that my temples throbbed in pain. “You and Mommy coloring?”

“Yes. Coming home now?”

God, give me the strength to do this. I hadn’t prayed in a long time. “Daddy can’t come home right now. Soon though.”

There was a shuffling noise, and I could hear Andrea’s voice talking to Megan. Then she spoke into the phone with concern. “Rick? Is that you?”

“Hey, Babe. Yeah, it’s me.”

“What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

“Turn on the TV. It’s got to be on there by now.” Jack moaned, and I leaned over to look at him. He moved his head back and forth, but his eyes remained shut.

“Oh, God, Rick. Are you still at work? Are you still in the building? Please tell me you were all evacuated.”

“What exactly are they saying?” I asked. “What happened?”

“You don’t know? Two planes have flown into both towers of the World Trade Center. There’s smoke pouring out of the upper levels. It’s total chaos. Firefighters and police are everywhere. Are you down on the street? Where are you?”

“I’m-” I paused. Should I tell the truth, or be evasive with my answers? “I’m still in the building, but we are getting out. Slowly.”

At first, I only heard static on the line. Then Andrea began to sob.

“Shhh, it’s okay. I’m sure they have people coming in to get us out. Everything’s going to be alright.” I fought back the urge to vomit as I tried to console my wife. I doubted anyone was coming to rescue us. Even if they did, there was no possible way they could evacuate a building of that size before the flames engulfed it entirely. The images of people falling toward the ground chilled my blood. I didn’t know how much more smoke I could inhale before passing out. Jack might be dead, I wasn’t sure. It was over. It was time to accept it.

Somehow, I had to be strong for Andrea. “Listen, Babe. You there?”

“Yes. I love you so much.”

“I love you too. Listen, I’m sure the firefighters are on their way up. But-”

She cut me off. “No, don’t say that. You can’t say that.” Her voice trailed off into more sobbing.

I swallowed the lump in my throat. I could barely feel the inside of my mouth. “If they don’t make it in time.” Choked up, I paused. I took a deep breath, and winced in pain. I didn’t realize I was lying on my back until I opened my eyes and saw a cloudy ceiling. The smoke had become unbearable. I wasn’t typically a claustrophobic person by nature, but it felt as if I was inside a tiny box, with barely any room to breathe. I knew the smoke was probably filling my lungs, and it wouldn’t be long before I suffocated with no air. “Andrea?”

“I’m here. Baby, I’m here. Just keep talking to me. Stay awake. They’re on their way to get you. Just hold on.”

“Andrea, I love you so much. More than you will ever know. Tell Matthew that so proud of him and the awesome grades he’s in school. Tell you-”

“Rick? Rick?”

My head twirled in a sea of nausea. I could hear myself talking, not making much sense, but I couldn’t control my words. It felt like an out of body experience. I focused all of my concentration on Andrea’s voice. “Tell Megan I think she’s a princess. Her smile tell her I’m sorry.” The building shuddered, and I waited for the final death blow. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I just knew it would be devastating.

Andrea’s voice slowly faded into the distance as I began to drift. For the first time since my morning had been completely turned upside down, I felt peace. My throat no longer burned, and I could open my eyes and see clearly. In contrast to the smoke-filled stairwell, the room was brightly lit. A warmth enveloped me from head to toe, and I sighed in relief. This wouldn’t end as badly as I had imagined.

I frowned when I heard the sharp bark of static.

My eyes snapped open. Bits of a conversation filled my ears.

“We have two.”

“Alive?”

“Barely.”

There was commotion all around me as I laid there in pain and confusion. A face materialized into view right above me. A man spoke, but I couldn’t hear the words. I could see the worry in his eyes, but he smiled. On his head, he wore a helmet with the number 213 and the initials FDNY above that. I tried to speak, but couldn’t. I surrendered to the blackness.

I awoke in the hospital surrounded by my family. I was alive. I had sustained permanent damage to one lung due to smoke inhalation, but other than that, I was fine. Well, physically speaking. I found out later that Jack and I had actually made it down to the fifty ninth floor of the building instead of only a few levels like I had originally thought.

Don’t take anything for granted. Your family, friends, job. While trapped in that building, I realized that life is nothing but a brief journey that passes by way too quickly. Hold your family tight, take chances, and don’t ever think there’s something you can’t do. Nothing is impossible. Oh, and Jack? He’s fine too. The shirt sleeve I wrapped around his face protected him from any damage to his lungs. Our families are headed out of town next weekend together. It’s time for some fresh air.

Note from the author:

While this story is fiction, constructed from the depths of my imagination, we all know how incredibly horrific 9/11 was. I can’t imagine what it was like for someone like Rick, trapped high up in one of the towers, not knowing if he would ever see the light of day again. I’ve tried to illustrate those feelings in my story, but I’m sure they aren’t even close to what a person might have endured. The respect I have for our police force and firefighters can’t be explained in mere words. The brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for others are the true heroes of this world.

We will never forget. 9/11/2001

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From the Ashes (Part 1)


The morning started off in such a beautiful way. Had I known the horror that would follow, I would never have stepped foot outside my front door.

My wife, Andrea, and I have two children. One boy and one girl. Matthew is seven years old and has his mama’s eyes. Megan is three, and thankfully, she doesn’t look like me. She does have my dimple in her chin, but that’s where the similarities end. She is a mini version of the woman I married eight years ago. We had been waiting a week to hear from the doctor about a variety of tests they ran on Megan. The call finally came in that morning as we were sitting around the breakfast table.

With tears streaming down my face, I delivered the good news to Andrea. We bundled together in a small family group hug for several minutes. Whether or not the kids could fully understand what was taking place, Andrea and I were more than relieved that our little one would not have to undergo surgery. There were no handouts or instruction booklets attached to the children at birth. We’ve done the best we can, and believe that their long term damage, due to our inexperience, will be minimal. Taking Megan to the doctor had been one of the most terrifying moments in our lives as parents.

After a celebratory breakfast, I kissed the wife and kids goodbye and headed into work. My job is pretty boring, but it puts money in the bank and food on the table. Selling insurance isn’t glamorous by any means, but it allows me to provide for my family, and that’s what matters. My Dad taught me the value of hard work, and even now in my late thirties, I realize it doesn’t matter what the work is. If you perform to the best of your abilities, there are rewards. In this day and age, just having a job is a reward all in itself.

Traffic that day wasn’t as bad as a typical Tuesday. Most people think Mondays are the worst, but in the city, pretty much every day has its share of bad traffic. Some, who either didn’t own a vehicle or just wanted to enjoy the beautiful fall weather, plodded along the sidewalks. I had my window rolled down and could hear the usual sounds of activity that always infiltrated our chaotic streets. Continuous honking of impatient horns, the serpent-like hissing of buses starting and stopping, and the ever present shouting out for the attention of a cab driver.

Once inside the office, I greeted my co-workers and snagged a cup of steaming, hot coffee from the break room. It wasn’t Starbucks, but it would suffice. Once seated, I looked at the pictures on my desk and smiled. I had so much to be thankful for. So many people take the things they have in life for granted, myself included. I decided right then that our family would take a trip the following weekend. We needed to get out of the city and breathe in some fresh air. It had been too long.

I glanced at my desk calendar and frowned. On September 10th, the day before, I had jotted down a reminder to myself to call my Uncle who was celebrating a birthday. I had completely forgotten to call him. I picked up the phone, and then changed my mind. It wasn’t even nine yet. He might be sleeping in.

I heard, or rather felt, the first explosion around 8:45. It was one of those moments where you wait several seconds before reacting just to make sure you hadn’t imagined anything. As I stepped outside my office and saw the fear on everyone’s face, I knew something had indeed happened. The building shuddered, and someone across the room screamed. I ran back into my office and stood by the nearest window. From my vantage point on the 75th floor of the North Tower, I could look down and see the expanse of New York City below.

I walked around my desk and snatched up the phone. I dialed home and waited. After several moments of complete silence, a busy signal assaulted my ear. The call didn’t even go through. I pulled the cell phone from my pocket and held down the 2 button, which was speed dial for Andrea.

“Come on, Darling. Pick up. Please pick up.”

After five rings, the call went to voicemail. I pressed End and then dialed our home number. No answer there either. She must still be on her way home from taking Matthew to school. He hated riding the bus.

A co-worker, Phillip, burst into my office. “Rick! Let’s go. We need to evacuate the building.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t know. Sounded like a bomb went off. There’s already smoke in the hallways, and the elevators are not working. We have to take the stairs. ”

I returned the cell phone to my pocket and followed him out. The main office was already clear of people who wasted no time in running for the exits. Smoke had already started to penetrate the air, and my eyes began to burn. We rushed into the hallway where we found small groups of people standing around, unsure of what to do. Phillip sprang into action and began to direct people towards the stairs. Several stood there crying. Some had cell phones out trying to make calls. It was an eerie scene.

I started to follow everyone else when I heard someone call out from an office I had just passed by. I stopped and looked. Through the gathering smoke, I noticed a man sitting on the floor. I rushed over to him. “What are you doing? We have to go!”

“I twisted my ankle and can’t walk. I think it’s broken.”

Movement flashed in the corner of my eye, and I turned toward a window. At first, I though it was building debris falling from the upper floors. I slowly walked across the office so I could get a better look. Once I realized what was happening, my flesh crawled in horror. Debris was indeed falling, but something else was hurtling toward the ground as well. Bodies. Before my stunned mind could comprehend what my eyes were witnessing, a plane appeared from around the building. My mouth opened in a silent scream as the aircraft slammed into the South tower.

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Another Thursday


The best day of the week is Thursday. Some people will try to convince you that Friday is better, but don’t let them fool you. Thursdays are definitely the best. I understand you might have doubts because I’m only ten years old, but trust me, I know. I never realized how awesome the fourth day of the week could be until about two years ago. I met Danny on a Thursday, and my life was never the same after that. Wait, before I go any further, let me introduce myself.

My name is Addison, but all my friends call me Addy. Like I mentioned before, I am ten years old. I have two of the most awesome parents in the world, and I love horses. My favorite color is purple, well sometimes it’s red, and I don’t mind school at all. Most kids my age can’t stand going to school, but I’m different. I like to learn as much as I possibly can. My dad said the more knowledge I have, the better off in life I will be. Mom tends to agree with him. Ever since I can remember, I have always been curious about everything.

I didn’t sleep well last night. I guess that’s to be expected, though, since I have so much on my mind. The one thing that kept me going through the night was knowing that the morning would come, and it was Thursday. Danny will be here in about twenty minutes. I am so excited. I drew him an epic picture of a horse out in the middle of a field. It’s right as dawn is breaking, and the sun is slowly creeping towards the blue sky. The horse is standing just at the edge of darkened woods, saddled, but there is no rider in sight. I’m leaving it to the imagination as to what may have happened.

I like to do that. I draw stuff all the time, but it’s never truly complete. An imagination is one of the most amazing things we could ever have been given. When I’m scared or feel alone, I go deep into my imagination and picture myself riding horses with all my friends. When I close my eyes, it all feels so real.

Danny is late, and I don’t know why. In two years, he has never been late. I’ve learned a lot about Danny since I met him that first day. I know he volunteers with the fire department, likes to play softball, and goes to church. The biggest thing we have in common is the love of horses. He has several horses on his ranch, and he promised me that one day we would go horseback riding. He and my dad are friends too. They have spent a lot of time together lately.

“Miss Cindy, have you seen Danny?”

Cindy Stepford walks over with a big smile. “Hi, Addy. I haven’t seem him yet this morning. How are you feeling?”

“I’m okay, just worried about Danny. He’s never late.”

“I’m sure he’s fine, Honey. Would you like me to check and see if I can find out where he is?”

I nod and attempt to smile, but I fail horribly. As I watch Cindy walk away, a sadness, that I can’t explain, begins to fill my heart. I can’t shake this feeling of dread. I push the button on my bed and wait patiently as it rises to a full sitting position. I can’t quite see the entire nurses area where the desk is. I see Cindy talking on the phone, and she appears concerned. That can’t be good. She hangs up and waves at someone out of my line of sight.

To my surprise, I see both of my parents walk up to Cindy. They talk for several seconds, and then Daddy glances over at me. I see the look inside his eyes, and my heart drops. Something must be terribly wrong. I motion for them to come into my room. They both enter and give me a kiss on the forehead. No one talks for at least a full minute. Daddy unconsciously tugs at the badge hanging from his neck. Below his picture, it reads Visitor. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is stamped below that.

I have cancer. I won’t go into all the medical terms or explanations that will most likely leave you even more confused as to what my condition is. They don’t know it, but I overheard my parents talking with Dr. Morris the other day. According to him, I have six months to live, maybe less. I know what you’re thinking. How can a ten year old handle something this horrific? Well, to be honest, I don’t know. Am I scared? Of course, but I still believe in the hope that the awesome people here will find a cure for me. They haven’t given up. Why should I?

I’ve experienced the stinging taste of death as some of my closest friends here lost their battles. I guess that’s what makes me more mature than what my age would dictate. I’ve seen pain, fear, despair, and hope in it’s rawest forms. I’ve learned to accept the cards that life dealt me, but to also press forward and never give up hope. I want to live again. I want to experience life outside of a hospital bed, like I did two years ago.

Sometimes I see a look of failure on my parent’s faces, and I know I have to be strong for them. I don’t let them see me cry. I only do that when I’m alone at night. They have shed so many tears of their own. They don’t need to hurt through mine as well.

“Daddy, what’s going on? Where’s Danny?”

Daddy looks up with glistening eyes. “Sweetie, Danny won’t be able to visit you today.”

I glance over at Mom, but she doesn’t look up. “What happened? Is he okay?”

“His wife and daughter were involved in a terrible car accident this morning. His wife didn’t make it, and their daughter is in ICU. She is on life support.”

I swallowed a swell of emotions that threatened to overtake me. Tears formed in my eyes, but I fought them back. I had to be strong. I had only met Danny’s family twice over the two year span I had been here at St. Jude. He told me they were uncomfortable visiting the hospital, and I could completely understand that. “Is she going to die?”

“She needs a heart transplant, Sweetie. They are trying to get her pushed to the front of the list, but there are no guarantees. They don’t have much time, so it’s not looking too good right now.”

“Danny’s daughter,” I say. “How old is she?”

“She’s nine.”

Two years ago, the driver of my school bus had a brain aneurysm, drifted off the road and slammed us into a tree, causing the bus to flip over. The gas tank exploded and the entire vehicle caught on fire. Most of the kids were able to escape out the back except for me and one other boy. The bolts, from the seat we were sitting on, had snapped, and the bench fell over, trapping us both inside the bus. A piece of metal had come up from underneath and pierced my back, causing me to be paralyzed from the waist down. As people screamed and the flames grew closer, I squeezed the boy’s hand and tried to stay strong for the both of us.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a fireman appeared over us. I remember the look of concern in his eyes, but also one of determination. At that point, I was nearing unconsciousness, but I remember him taking my hand and saying everything was going to be alright. The screams faded as I drifted off into darkness. I awoke in the hospital and couldn’t feel anything. The doctor said I was lucky, and if the fireman had been even a minute or two later, the boy and I would have died. It was during my stay at the hospital that the doctor found something on one of my test results, and we learned I had cancer.

I ask “What is her blood type?”

My mother drops her head and bursts into sobs. Daddy jumps up and stands by my bed. He shakes his head as tears begin to stream down his face. “No. You can’t- I won’t-”

“Dad, it’s okay. I overheard you guys talking with Dr. Morris. I know I don’t have much time. The tumor is spreading through my brain. I can feel it sometimes, and I know it’s only a matter of time before I won’t be able to speak or remember anything. This is my chance, my one chance, to make a difference in someone’s life.”

“But they might find a cure. We can’t give up hope. You might not even be a match.”

“Then let’s find out.”

While Mom and Dad stand over my bed and cry, I slowly begin to fall asleep. I hope they talk to Dr. Morris and see if my heart would be compatible with Danny’s daughter. I have come to accept the fact that I don’t have much time left on this earth. I won’t go to college. I won’t fall in love. I won’t get married and have children. I hope my parents somehow find a way to go on once I’m gone. If my heart can help save another little girl, then my life will have served a purpose.

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It’s a Thursday night, and Danny Johnson sits on his couch in the living room. The steady crackle from the fireplace nearly puts him to sleep. On the mantle sits a picture of a horse standing just at the edge of darkened woods, saddled, but the rider is no where in sight. He smiles through his tears as he realizes he never figured that one out.

He was off duty the day he happened upon the school bus accident. It was complete chaos with screaming children and onlookers who had stopped, but were afraid to approach the burning vehicle. Without hesitation, he donned his gear and rushed into the flames once he learned there were still students on board. The driver was already dead, but he was able to rescue the boy and girl trapped under the bench. It was a just another Thursday, but he had been on his way to their cabin forty miles outside of town. A full bottle of whiskey and a loaded .45 were going to erase the pain of the broken marriage he had been trying to piece back together.

When he rescued Addy, he once again found the hope he had given up on. His life was never the same after that day.

“Daddy?”

Danny looks down into the eyes of his daughter. Addy’s heart beats steadily inside her chest. The little girl he saved on that fateful Thursday afternoon, returned the favor by not only saving his daughter’s life, but his as well.

SPACE

SPACE

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