Only A Creator

“In the beginning, God created…”

Last Sunday was Valentine’s Day, a hallmark celebration of love.  For Z-360, we talked about the Love of God as part of an abbreviated “Love Month”.  Bekah has been writing blogs all month about love and relationships.  I wrote a couple weeks ago about the Code of a Gentleman, a resource referenced extensively in one of Bekah’s blogs.  I mentioned in my discourse that  it is my belief that “until a man experiences Christ’s love in His ultimate sacrifice, he is incapable of being a gentleman.”  

As I was thinking about things this past week, I was reminded of a study I did several years ago on what Genesis 1 means.  I had heard the “God loves you” rhetoric all my life, memorized John 3:16 and other passages of scripture, yet it was all just that– rhetoric, impersonal and powerless.  The first thing I realized was the eternal existence of God-> “In the beginning, God”.  Before the beginning of time, God is, not was, but is (remember, there is not time, so there can’t be a past).  Indeed, there are many attributes or characteristics of God that can be found simply by studying the implications of the first verse of the Bible, but I won’t get into that much yet.  It needs to be noted, however, that God wouldn’t be God without being good and perfect.

On Wednesday at youth group, Jeremy talked about an universal difficulty in understanding and experiencing God’s love.  Even Jason, in his Valentine’s Day sermon, mentioned a tendency of people to reject the statement of God’s love out of hand, because of what they did or didn’t do to deserve it.  It is hard to grasp a concept of love that doesn’t require something in return, because we never experience that kind of love without faith.  Sure, there is an understanding of a deep brotherly love (Philio love) like the love between David and Jonathan in 1 Sam 19-20.  We are all well acquainted with eros love, a very selfish love that is probably more appropriate to label as lust.  There is a third kind of love, a love deeper than philio, God’s agape love, deeply rooted in who God is.

Once we move on to the fifth word of the Bible, we find a word that I think helps to explain why God loves you and I.  The word of the hour is “created”.  God created everything, excluding nothing.  God is a creator, the Creator, the perfect Creator.  Have you ever drawn a picture or wrote something and then was disappointed with it because it didn’t accurately capture the thought in your head?  It happens to me all the time. BTW this drive to create is a part of God’s image He imprinted in us.  In any case, you were disappointed because your skill with brush or pen didn’t match the complexity of your endeavor.

But, remember God is limited only by his infinite skill, his infinite perfection, and his infinite imagination.  He won’t be disappointed by His product because it would always accurately capture the thought in His mind.  In Genesis 1, God saw that all that He had made was good.  He didn’t try again because Adam’s nose was too long or his ears stuck out like yoda’s.  Adam was exactly how God wanted him to be.  Psalm 139:13-18 extends that creation to us and continues to describe God’s thoughts toward us as good, even after the fall into sin.

So how does that explain God’s love for us?  Have you ever made something and been incredibly attached to it?  Others may like the picture or writing or what ever, but you as the creator feel a certain attachment to it, a strong attachment.  We know everything there is to know about the thing, but we love it.  It is special to us.  That favorite quilt because we made it, that poem because we wrote it, that drawing because we sketched it.  Those things are not living, yet we still have that attachment.  Perhaps the closest thing  to the Creator’s love for His creation we can use as an example is the love between parents and their children. That love is based on a relationship to the parent, not on what the recipient does. 

In short, God loves because He created.  He can’t love less and He can’t love more.  Nothing better will come along to divert God’s love; in God’s mind, nothing can be better.  Only a creator could possibly love like that.  Indeed, only the Creator could love like that.  He loves you and He loves me.  He proved it on the cross when He declared that He would rather die than live without you and he did die so that you and I would have the opportunity to love Him back.    More on this in the coming weeks.

JA Menter 3

“If thoughts have wings, my head is a feather pillow.”

The Code of a Gentleman

In an effort to chime in with what my sister is doing on her blog, I am trying to finish what I have been working on for about two and a half months, upon her request.  I must say that I approach this “code” from a Christian perspective, as opposed to the secular “Emily Post” type of perspective.  I find that it is easier to act like a gentleman than it is to be a gentleman and perhaps I will make that distinction more clear as we go.

First, I have to make a series of reflections to help with where this is supposed to go.  I believe that a man’s behavior and attitude reflects the God he serves.  Conversely, if one follows God, then his life should reflect Christ’s life, attitude and behavior.  In truth, a gentleman should emit the reflection of Christ’s sacrifice.  Indeed, Jesus himself commanded the disciples in John 15:12  “As I have loved you, so love one another.”  Surely, Christ’s love drove Him to the cross in an ultimate sacrifice.  It is my firm belief that until a man experiences Christ’s love in His ultimate sacrifice, he is incapable of being a gentleman.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “You’re a gentleman and a scholar.”  People have also told me that I am full of theory, scholarly really.  My experiences, or lack thereof, make me feel deeply inadequate to speak on what I’m trying to relate in this dialogue.  Always the scholar, I’ve struggled with the action part of being a gentleman. 

I think we all know what I mean when I talk about a gentlemanly action or offer.  This would be like getting the door or helping someone carry their things.  I believe one of the underlying principles of the concept is that it is the gentleman’s responsibility to offer these acts, but it is the lady’s privelege to accept.  Responsibility would mean that a man can’t be considered a gentleman if he doesn’t offer to carry out gentlemanly actions.  The implications of this can be explained in two ways, (probably both are incredibly confusing)  1) The gentleman is made or broken based on whether or not he offers, but a lady remains a lady no matter how she choses to respond.  2) The extention of an offer makes or breaks a gentleman, but rejection doesn’t break the lady.

These offers must be genuine.  Guys, people know when you are insincere about these things.  The oddest thing I’ve seen is a guy opening the door to the backseat of a car for a girl so that he can take the front.  People see right through that offer.  Remember what Paul said in Philipians 2:3 (and about a half dozen other places) “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”   Here we come to a hard thing to say.

If one’s sole purpose of gentlemanly behavior is to “get girls”, that person is not a gentleman.  Again, a gentleman, like Christ, sacrifices without expecting to be compensated.  James 3:13-18 come to mind here, which relates that “where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there,” and “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in meekness of wisdom…the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

As a gentleman, integrity is your best ally.  Don’t destroy it; guard it with your life.  It is built slowly over time and destroyed in an instant.  Eccles 7:1 teaches us that a good name is precious.  Indeed, our reputation reflects the God we serve.  Proverbs 6 talks about 7 things that the Lord abhors–1) Pride 2) Lying 3) Shedding innocent blood 4) A heart that plans evil 5) Feet that are swift to sin 6) A false witness and 7) One who sows discord among brothers.  It’s interesting that lying is on the list twice.  Proverbs 11:3 proclaims that “Integrity will guide you…”

Perhaps the biggest enemy of integrity is what we say with our mouths.  As a rule, say little or less.  Prov 10:19 says “In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”  In verse 29 of the same chapter, Solomon says that the lips of the righteous know what is acceptable.  (Prov 11:12; 13:3) “Do you see a man hasty with his words?  There is more hope for a fool than for him,” Prov 29:20.  James 1:19 says to be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath.  James 3 talks about taming the tongue (vs. 2-12)

I think one of the biggest no-nos we can do as men is flatter.  There is a fine line between a compliment and flattery and I don’t think I’ve discovered it yet.  The hardest thing is to find that balance.   Complementing is something we’re encouraged to do (Hebrews 10:24-25), but flattery is a swindler.  “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet” (Prov 29:5).  Indeed, “getting treasures by a lying tongue is the fleeting fantasy of those seeking death” Prov 21:6.  “…A flattering mouth works ruin.” (Prov 26:28)

Basically what this means is be real, be genuine.  Own up to your mistakes instead of being proud of them.  We are all human and mess up, but it’s how you deal with the mistakes that reflects your character and others will see that.  A gentleman can be wrong but he shouldn’t be proud of it.

You as a gentleman are responsible for the lady’s safety, so always be alert.  Again, like I said before, many can “act” like a gentleman, but being a gentleman is a continual practice.  Be intentional about it, pay attention to every detail.  In terms of safety, the gentleman should always act as a buffer to potentially dangerous circumstances.  For example, when escorting a lady on a sidewalk close to the street, always take the side of her that is closest to the street.  If by some crazy mishap, she slides on ice or something toward the street, you are in a  position to steady her before she is dumped into the street and the oncoming traffic.

All of this talks about the gentleman, but the lady has an important part in the making of a gentleman.  Ladies, if the gentleman I describe is the man you want to know, you must also be willing to make some sacrifices.   First, don’t comment on or berate a man for not being a gentleman.  If he’s really one of this fraternity of gentleman, he already knows when he doesn’t act like one and is probably beating himself up over it.  It is my experience that this form of encouragement is not helpful nor constructive.  For those caught in that situation, I would just give him another chance or ask him to do the gentlemanly act for you.  That at least gets the ball rolling, because he’s most likely unaware of what you need/want.  In constrast to berating a lack, encourage each act that is offered by accepting as many as you can.  This is where your sacrifice comes in, because I know it goes against the culture of feminine independence and appears to be an admission of need, but it is needed if you want to encourage a consistently gentlemanlike man.

The rewards are vast.  Many have no idea what amount of good the encouragement of such acceptance does for a gentleman.  Likewise, the opposite is true with rejecting an offer (yes, that seems harsh, but that’s what saying, “I’ve got it” is), even in the name of the aforementioned independence or “not needing a man”.  By natural law, you can’t expect offers of this kind to continue if they are constantly rejected.  At some point, the man will give up on this ideal.   So a good thing to keep in mind, ladies, when disappointed by a lack of gentlemanly behavior in guys you know, is to ask yourself when was the last time you accepted an offer that they freely proposed?  If it had been a while, they have already deemed that you will reject their offer so they won’t waste their time with it. 

Nevertheless, Gentlemen are a dying breed in a world and culture where the woman has been “liberated”, but it is truly how God planned the male’s role to be.  They are to be the protector, provider and servant-leader.  Guys, please get on board with this.  First, experience God’s sacrificial love and then take up that mantle of protector and leader.   Revive this enbattled role and live it out.  Don’t be timid.  Step up to the plate and live on the edge, unleash the wildness that God designed in you.  Don’t just act like a gentleman, BE a gentleman.

Also, a good resource for all you men is John Eldredge’s book entitled Wild at Heart.  I should have a copy of it floating around somewhere, if those of you who know me in person want to borrow it for a time.

JA Menter 3

“And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men…for you serve the Lord Christ.” Col 3:23-24

A Post, Quick!

I feel like I got a lot of things done yesterday.  Because I don’t work on Wednesday’s, I was able to take a bit of a step back and do some things that I hadn’t had time for before then.  I revised the script for the Valentine’s DayExtravaganza that Z-360 is putting on as a fundraiser.  Apparently, I have the reputation of working well with words.  I guess that’s what reading my poems last summer did for me.  After I was done going over the script for our murder mystery, I opened the twenty-sixth chapter of my book and wrote a paragraph.  Now, many will think “just a paragraph, Joshua, that’s not very much.”  I agree with you, but the difference between a paragraph and what I was able to do since the beginning of the semester is exactly that, a paragraph.  I’m getting more and more excited about all the information I’ve gathered in the past several months for this final push to the finish.  Oh, and I have about half of a post on  my “Code of a Gentleman” to go along with Bekah’s Love Month Blog series.  It’s already pretty long, but I want to put it up all in the same post.  So look for that sometime next week.

JA Menter 3

Why is it that whenever someone dies young, we say they “died early”, but we still refer to them as “late”?

Tears of the Saints

A song by Leeland that’s been running though my head.  Very good.  Brings me to tears.

There are many prodigal sons
On our city streets they run
Searching for shelter
There are homes broken down
People’s hopes have fallen to the ground
From failures

This is an emergency!

There are tears from the saints
For the lost and unsaved
We’re crying for them come back home
We’re crying for them come back home
And all your children will stretch out their hands
And pick up the crippled man
Father, we will lead them home
Father, we will lead them home

There are schools full of hatred
Even churches have forsaken
Love and mercy
May we see this generation
In its state of desperation
For Your glory

This is an emergency!

There are tears from the saints
For the lost and unsaved
We’re crying for them come back home
We’re crying for them come back home
And all your children will stretch out their hands
And pick up the crippled man
Father, we will lead them home
Father, we will lead them home

Sinner, reach out your hands!
Children, in Christ you stand!
Sinner, reach out your hands!
Children, in Christ you stand!

There are tears from the saints
For the lost and unsaved
We’re crying for them come back home
We’re crying for them come back home
And all Your children will stretch out their hands
And pick up the crippled man
Father, we will lead them home
Father, we will lead them home

(C)  Leeland

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

Punishment for my Sin

I have heard the gospel message hundreds of times.  I’ve heard it explained in a number of ways, the most common one being from the angle of Jesus taking our punishment.  I have thought to explore that angle a little further.  How can someone make the claim that He took our punishment?  Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin in Matthew 26:59-66, Mark 14:55-64,  and Luke 22:63-71.  False witnesses couldn’t get their story straight and only with two witnesses could anyone, even Jesus be put to death.  The High Priest took a more direct approach and asked Jesus “Are you the Son of God?” 

Jesus’s answer would either be a lie or blasphemy.  God in human form chose to claim that He was the Son of God.  In the eyes of the Sanhedrin, that was blasphemy, punishable by death, and there were plenty of witnesses.  In Isaiah, he is said to be “crushed for our sin and pierced for our transgressions, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.”  This is where an explanation of my thought process gets hard.   Jesus was falsely accused and killed for blasphemy, claiming to be God. 

Several months ago, Jason preached a sermon on “Offerings of the Bible”, which if you want an audio copy of it, I know some sound techs who would be more than happy to burn you a CD.  Anyway, Jason talked about how God sets the standard of the sacrifice, that it must be perfect, spotless, and firstborn.  Part of the text was Malachi 1:7-14 where God through Malachi condemned the bringing of lame, blind, and sick animals to be sacrificed.  A quote that stood out to me was “The minute men determine what the offering should be is the minute they become god.”  God also is the One who determines what is right and what is wrong.

Therefore, when we determine what is right and what is wrong, we’re asserting that we are god.  Another way of saying that is that whenever we sin, we are claiming to be god, because we make the claim that what we’re doing is good and not evil.  Incidently, Malachi later talks about wearying God when we say ‘everyone who does evil is good in the sight of God’. (Mal 3:17)

Now to formally connect these statements, the assertion that we make when we call sin good is that we can decide what is right and what is wrong, God.  A blasphemous claim.  A claim punishable under the law by death.  Jesus claimed rightly that He was God and was falsely killed for it.  We deserved death for our claim, the death that Jesus received for His claim.  There, He literally took our punishment.  The death we deserved He Himself bore.  But thanks be to God, death had no power over the One who created life.  Truly, the punishment that brought us peace and reconciliation was upon Him.

JA Menter 3

“The moment we say ‘no’ to God is the moment we decide we don’t need a saviour.”  Jason Yost


Have you ever taken a handful of carrots and upon eating them, realized that they taste like dirt, a bitter earthy aftertaste?  Have you purposefully taken another handful in hopes that they would taste better, be more luscious and fresh?  In that circumstance, have you debated eating the last one because the carrot you just ate was one of those coveted luscious ones?  As I sat at my computer Tuesday eating baby carrots from the bag, I came upon that situation.  As I debated the merits of getting my daily recommendation of vitamin A and beta carotene, the thought came that this last carrot could actually be better, more luscious and watery fresh, than the last one I ate.  I was also rather hungry at the time, because thinking is quite hungering work, especially when the topic is food. :) 

How many times do I think about that sort of thing in a spiritual sense?  Suppose God has blessed me with a luscious carrot experience but He asks that I move on to the next chapter of life, the next carrot.  In the back on my mind, I always weigh the consequences and cost of what I do.  I ask myself “is this carrot going to taste delicious or like dirt?”  That apprehension causes me to be indecisive, even when I know that the new thing is something God wants me to do.

School this semester was just one of those situations that I was apprehensive about on a number of levels.  How would I get back into it?  Would I still have time to do all the other stuff I need to? …want to?  Would I be overwhelmed by the suddenness of constant activity, of having to apply myself to learn something after not using my brain quite in that capacity for eight months?  All of those questions were answered this week with the beginning of the semester.  Getting back into “it” will require me to make sacrifices, as with anything.  I still have time to do the things I need to, but the wants can and should be cut back a little bit, prioritized. As for applying myself to learn, that is like riding a bike it comes back to you.  Or maybe, it’s like my memory- triggered by being thrown into similar circumstances.  Or a combination of both. 

In any case, do you have carrots that you aren’t eating for fear that they will taste bad? I did, until I chose to go for it, and I have a feeling that this next  carrot is going to be more luscious, more watery, more fresh and delicious than the last one.

JA Menter 3

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him.”  Psalm 34:8


Tomorrow, I start my eleventh semester of college.  I have mixed feelings about it, but in the grand scheme of things, how I feel doesn’t mean anything.  With the new semester comes many changes, both in schedule and discipline.  I can no longer stay up until the wee hours of the morning watching silly movies or late night sports games.  I won’t work 40 hours every week but I will have homework that eats just as much time.  I will be learning a language, which will require me to prepare in a different way than I usually do.  I might actually have to study extensively for the first time in my long college career.  A number of my classes have multiple books to read and, as you can imagine, that will strain the time I have.  Where before I could bum around after my eight hours of work, now I will have to place my attention on the busy work of school.  Will being away from it for so long make it fresh and new or will it just feel like going back to the grindstone?

I don’t want this new season to become a lifeless routine.  I want and need adventure, the unexpected.  Though establishing a routine may be key to doing all that needs to be done, I hope that rountine never becomes routine.  (the first “routine” being a noun and the second an adjective)  I hope the routine enables me to seek that adventure because it is an efficient use of time, not merely the easy way into something.  It must be discipline that allows me to emerge from the “school cocoon” just as I burrowed into the “work cocoon” this past year.  In essence, my routine these past seven months had become routine and I got lost in them, unable to truly experience any kind of adventure or unknown whatsoever.

JA Menter 3

“If life becomes routine, then a person becomes a robot, mindless and automated.”

Goals for ’10

I don’t usually do New Year’s resolutions, because then I’m setting myself up to be extraordinarily disappointed when I don’t live up to them.  It’s not like I have weight to lose and gaining weight is just as hard for me as losing it is for so many others (if not harder).  This year I decided to write down some of my goals for this year.  Now, since most of them are not a broad sweeping “gain 10 pounds” or the vague “work out more”, they will require more day to day decision making on my part.  I thought I would let my readership in on a few of them. (Note: this is not an exhaustive list, only a few among many)

  1. Read my Bible throughout the year
  2. Run 1000 miles this year (that’s right 1000 miles, it’s only about 3 a day with about a month off)
  3. Workout a couple times a week
  4. Blog on a weekly basis (Yes, that is a goal I have. It might not always happen depending on the time I have and what’s going on as per my pledge to my readership
  5. Buy a car
  6. Graduate from college

Again, this isn’t exhaustive but merely several of this year’s goals.  Now, to get busy on them…  :P

Year in Review

My eyes burn as I type this, so I don’t know how far I’ll get on this today.  With one month left in the year 2009, I find myself very reflexive and looking at the last 11 months with a critical eye.  As a preliminary assessment, I have to say that this past year has been terrible on a lot of levels.  My episodic madness gets worse as the days drag on.  I can’t think too long about things because so much flies through my head at once it’s just a blur and then gone.  This is not signs of depression, as some might think, but merely a sign of a struggle continuing in ernest.  A battle for sanity.  I have botched a lot of things, not given other things enough attention, buried myself in work to the point of losing myself in it.  Spun my wheels in an attempt to become more financially stable, only to find that the one thing it was all based on was cracked and rotting away, and had been for a long time.  I speak of my intention to earn a teaching degree.  I am barely better off than I was eleven months ago, even though I’ve worked full time for seven months.  All I have to show for it is the laptop I’m using now and a rented house that will further drain my resources for the next semester.  I have no idea whether I will be able to handle school full time and working at the same time, especially trying to learn a language.  A big difference from my original plan, which was to be in the teacher’s program taking one class and working full time, thus paying for my housing and the car I was going to buy last month.

On the blogging front, I have topics that I’ve put on hold for as long as six months. Topics that pile up in lieu of the time constraints working provides.  A post about stories in the Bible where God fought for His people, tying in “Battle Before Breakfast”, “Good, Bad, and the Ugly”, “Winning the Battle, Part 1″, and “HOTP Excerpt”.  A discussion of my thoughts on the tension between the biblical term “Predestined” and the idea of free will, exploring the context in which the word is used.  Looking at the idea of God’s glory from the jumpoff point of Moses on Mt Sinai asking God to show him His glory and continuing through the transfiguration and resurrection to the Faithful Rider on a white horse.  A look at Psalm 37.  A study into the nature of the eternal kingdom in eternal hearts.  A spiritual explanation on how shaky knees after running are by design.  And lastly and most recently- A Code of the Gentleman.

Nevertheless, there is a 90% chance I will get to none of these before the new year, considering the one bright spot of the past month.  I am writing fluidly again and have been averaging about a page a week.  I did some revisions of an earlier chapter during Thanksgiving weekend and I’m still very excited and driven to finish the chapter I’m working on by the end of the year.  If I can get on to the next chapter by Christmas, I might forget how the rest of my year has gone.  Now, I know you guys will spectulate on what I mean, but I am looking at the year overall, not individual circumstances so I’m not “hinting” about anything. Others will try to diagnose things, but I assure you I am only learning to roll with the punches, but this past year has been like a hard fist to the ribs, one after another.  I still walk gingerly.  In closing, this is an explanation of what is going on before you even begin to ask what is going down.  If you want to reach me, you’ll have to pry my fingers from these keys and bribe me with a very enticing offer.  In effect, the “Do Not Disturb” sign hands from my door.


I laugh when I realize how masterfully I have set this up.  I have you thinking about something that will make this even more powerful than it is by itself.  Who would have known that I could be this icily cunning in my untamed madness?  I have only to make one claim.  This is a true story, an allegory, a tale of great importance to you and to me.  A story of my life and your life, a story duplicated a million times over.  A tale of…madness perhaps…or just a cycle of it.

      Floating, breathless, lifeless, weightless but for the sinking pit in the stomach.  Falling, desperate to cling to something.  Brain signaling muscles refusing to respond.  Falling, shivers, convulsions, hiccups jarring the mind free of thought or function.  Falling, mind machine whirring once again.  Signals, cling to something, anything, grasping nothing.  Falling, tightfisted, slipping through, empty-handed.  Darkness blurring with shadows moving but lifeless.  Falling, clawing, plucking, grasping at nothing, breathless, lifeless, weightless, emotionless, flailing, gyrating. Falling on and on, down and down, into oblivion.
      Aaron woke with a start, hitting his head on the low ceiling of his bunk.  Stars wheeled around his eyes as he rubbed his cranium.  A smooth lump was already beginning to form underneath his black hair, slicked back from days without tending.  Aaron could smell the aroma of a feast being prepared downstairs.  Pastry tarts and venison well seasoned filled the air with the scent of home.  Aaron’s stomach ached and growled.
       “Feed the lion,” He thought as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes with both hands folded into fists. 
      Aaron rose to his feet delicately so as not to make his head swim from the sudden movement.  He picked up his boots to stuff on his feet before making the descent to the kitchen.  These boots had been his father’s and were a few sizes too big, or at least they had been yesterday.  Today, it was like inserting a cow in a doghouse.  Aaron’s feet just couldn’t make it into the leather no matter how he pulled and twisted.
       Stubbornly hopping on his toes, Aaron managed to maneuver one foot into the unforgiving boots.  The other, well, the hop was a dance that took him out of his room and into the hallway.  Unconsciously drawn to the fragrance of feasting, Aaron hopped and struggled toward the waiting stairs. One misstep and…
      Falling, flailing, searching for a banister or railing to grab. Finding nothing.  The railing drifted away from his outstretched arms.  He was twisting in midair, changing his perspective from the ground to the ceiling and back again.  The ground looked so inviting.  Aaron wanted to scream but the sound caught in his throat.  He was falling on and on, down and down, into…

      Thomas shook his head.  It was like stepping out of one reality into another.  He had been called Aaron once, before…he couldn’t remember.  Was his memory failing him?  It usually was sharper than that of the few friends he had.  What time was it anyway?  Thomas looked at the sky above him.  The sun was not yet to its zenith high above him.  Today would be a hot one.
      Thomas put his hand back on the plow he was guiding down the long lines of field.  The wood was old; it had been his father’s once, a long time ago, before the accident.  He was the man of the house now, tending fields that had been in the family for generations.  His sister and her young son lived with him in the farmhouse at the top of the hill to the east.  Would he have an heir to carry his name?
      A cry jolted Thomas out of his pondering and he stalled the horses.  At the top of the hill, a young boy barely five stood looking into the large oak tree at its crown.  The youngster pointed at the makeshift kite Thomas had made for him that was wound tightly around a branch near the peak of the canopy.  Thomas ran to comfort him, brushing the tears that cascaded down his pudgy cheeks.
      “Rory, I’ll make you a new one, don’t worry about it.”  Thomas said, trying hard to reassure his nephew.
      “No, I want that one,” Rory moaned through irrational sobs.  He was beginning to choke and cough in the rawness of his throat.
      “I’ll try to get it down, Rory, but it will be ruined if I manage it.”
      With nothing for it, Thomas hoisted himself into the oak, leaving the moaning boy below.  He wished it had been the cherry tree across the yard.  It had been easy to climb and sturdy, unlike the gnarled boughs of this oak, and Thomas had climbed the cherry often as a kid.  Higher and higher, he climbed, taking no small risk to restore his nephew’s happiness.  For Rory.  The branch the kite was caught on was thin but sturdy even under Thomas’s bulking weight. 
      A short time of disentangling and a jerk on the line sent the fabric diamond and tail soaring down to earth.  It was free.  The sobs turned quickly to exclamations of joy that made the scratches and the branches poking savagely into his back worth it.  Now, to get down.  The grass beckoned him.  He needed to return to his plowing.  The crop hadn’t been planted yet and rain was coming.  Rain.
The branch was slippery under the rubber of his boots and Thomas lost his footing.  Falling.  Had that last been a dream?  Falling faster and faster, branches and twigs scraping and whipping him as he plummeted.  Thomas clawed a branch and held on, his fists clinched in a vise.  His trajectory stopped with a powerful jerk.  His arm disengaged from his shoulder, unleashing a fury of pain.  He just wanted to get to the ground, hanging as he was from the branch straining and cracking under his weight.
      There was no way to reach the rest of the tree apart from trying to swing by the splintering branch he hung from.  The pain of his shoulder froze him, a hot sharp pain of ligaments tearing. Dangling there, unable to make his arms swing over to the next branch, clinging to the split wood with the instinctive grip of adrenaline.
      With a woody crack, the branch broke free and Thomas was falling again.  Further and further, the green grass waving its welcome.  The pain pulsated through his body in throbs of emotion.  He couldn’t think about either.  He closed his eyes and fell, down and down, into…

      Thomas opened his eyes.  That was a dream; it had to be.  A waking dream?  His shoulder throbbed in distant pain, like a wound that had never fully healed.  Had it really happened?  Thomas looked up to see the plate of food before him.  He was at a banquet table, or so it seemed.  Following the people seated around him, Thomas recognized a few of the dinner guests.  Guests?  Was he hosting this?
      Thomas saw his nephew Gregory and his sister among the seven gathered to eat.  Was that real?  Others he did not know championed the center of attention from the head of the table.  A beautiful woman with golden blonde hair sat next to him. A silver necklace overlapped the high neckline of her blue dress that flowed to the floor to cover even her feet and the chair legs.  Thomas instinctively knew he was seeing this woman.  Not seeing but seeing. He smiled.
      “Andrew dear, would you like to get some air?  You seem out of sorts tonight.” The woman, Martha, offered when the conversation paused.
       Andrew? They call me Andrew?  Oh, yes, that is my name now, isn’t it?  Out of sorts, heck, I’m lost and confused.  But I do like the night air…and stars and…
      “Of course, Darling,” Andrew agreed and unfolded himself from his seat.
      Andrew helped push Martha’s chair away from the table and offered an arm to escort her to the raised porch just outside the front door.  It seemed natural to him to make these gestures, as if he’d been trained in them.  He remembered being captivated by the woman clinging to his arm, but now he just felt distant.
      Beyond the door, the porch extended past the awning before stairs lowered down to the drive.  Stairs again.  Images flashed through his mind, like a ball unraveling in midflight.  Stairs, food, boots, plowing, kite, tree, rain… It was raining now, just beyond the reach of the eaves. A hard rain, a washing rain, a flash of lightning, the clap of thunder…
      “Andrew dearest, what is wrong?”  Martha’s voice calmed the unraveling storm in his mind.
      Before he could turn to look at her eyes peering at him with such concern, another light flashed through his vision and clap of… His face was numb except for his jaw which felt crunched into his ear.  Without warning, his feet were above him in the air and the low railing beside him.  There was no porch underneath him.  Had he been punched, pushed, thrown?
       Martha?  Had she betrayed him, used him?  Surely this was not her doing.  There was no scream as Andrew thought there must, but he couldn’t really hear anything.  His ear hurt like mad and his jaw couldn’t move no matter the signals sent from his brain.  But he was falling, there was no way around it.
       Andrew’s body flipped and turned, rotating in its descent.  In the back of his mind, he knew he would never feel the impact of his fall, but that didn’t change the facts.  His suit coat was getting drenched in the pouring rain.  It would be ruined, but that was a fleeting concern next to his other worries.  The mud and flowers below would muffle his landing, but that didn’t matter.  Someone had pushed him, punched him and he was descending down and down, faster and faster, on and on into…

      The lives continued.  Sometimes, he managed to grow old and see grandkids.  Most times, he died young and alone.  Always, he was confused by the person he became.  The events and emotions that drove him grew ever more distant from who he was.  Once, he’d been called Kyle and woke up after a dream to a woman in his bed, his wife of twelve years, a woman of whom he knew nothing.  It made him angry that the lives seemed so seamless and yet only vaguely remembered.  They were shrouded anecdotes hidden away deep in his mind, only to surface at odd times, distantly familiar beyond explanation.  He couldn’t separate the present from his many pasts, nor predict when it would come to an abrupt end and start over, but it always did. Always.

     Floating, breathless, lifeless, weightless but for the sinking pit in the stomach.  Falling, desperate to cling to something.  Brain signaling muscles refusing to respond.  Falling, shivers, convulsions, hiccups jarring the mind free of thought or function.  Falling, mind machine whirring once again.  Signals, cling to something, anything, grasping nothing.  Falling, tightfisted, slipping through, empty-handed.  Darkness blurring with shadows moving but lifeless.  Falling, clawing, plucking, grasping at nothing, breathless, lifeless, weightless, emotionless, flailing, gyrating. Falling on and on, down and down, into oblivion.