Chapter Eight

Fox Island

A man wakes on an island, deserted and without memory. As he fights to survive and endure the elements of nature, he soon discovers that he is not alone on the island and that his new home has a sinister secret.

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Fox Island

Chapter 8

It was early morning. The sun hadn’t lifted over the eastern horizon. Blue fog hung in the cool air. Fox was three hours to the northwest of the village with Arvor and five other men carrying torches. They stood on the edge of a precipice, overlooking a freshwater river—the source of water for the village. Here in the jungle, a cropping of thirty-foot-high papayas grew on the edge of the world, eight-hundred feet up the rock face. 

While the villagers made light work of the papayas, the sun peaked its face from below the ocean and covered the island with light. Fox dallied on the cliff in a brown study, fantasizing of his ceiba back on his beach. 

He had grown comfortable with the Liberi in the last month, but it didn’t come without a share of grief and regret. His home was gone, and unfortunately, he couldn’t conjure up a need to ever return to it. It no longer seemed wise to attempt his escape from the island. 

What was waiting for him that he couldn’t find here in safety? He had not a name from out there anymore, nor a home from wherever he came. It’s possible that there was a family on the other side of the ocean that he belonged to—but it was just as likely that there was nothing at all. 

When he was on the beach, there was adventure in him and it called him to do the unthinkable and risk his life in the ocean. But now he had a place to lay his head, and food to fill his stomach. He had comrades and conversation. It was the sensible thing to stay. If he left knowing what he knew now, he was a fool and walking into certain death. The adventure was gone—

That thought tasted bitter. He told himself the adventure was still here, just different. He mourned at the sight of the horizon, remembering the ceiba had kept him safe when he felt like all was lost. 

No matter how much he told himself it was wise to stay, he struggled with an uncomfortable conviction that something was strange about the Liberi—he recognized that he would never be one of them, only one among them. Perhaps he could learn to appreciate their culture and religious entanglements. Perhaps he could help them grow in science and history, like Wells’ Time Traveler desired for his Eloi

By now, his ceiba would be nothing but a remnant of some lost soul struggling to survive on an island long ago. And it would be a pitiful sight if he were to see it now—nothing compared to a village, fire, drink, food and bed. No doubt, those incessant monkey destroyed his store and make-shift watering system by now; and what else did he even have at that place save his watch and rucksack bag?

Yes, his watch. He had forgotten. It was the thing that reminded him he belonged somewhere else.  The thing that told him he belonged to someone else. Where was it? He had chased an idea into the center of the island and forgotten what it was.

He caught himself from his stupor. There was work to be done. He made his way toward a papaya tree when a flash of familiar red and orange caught his eye at the edge of the forest. It darted along, just beneath the tall grass; a beautiful island fox. It stopped in a glade and stared him in the eyes. It was unnerving; everything about it was the same as the one at the monolith. Direct and obtrusive, like a friend that was lost and trying to make you remember its name. Yes, he was certain now! It have to be the same from weeks prior. 


An explosion of sound came from down the ravine where Arvor was collecting fruit. An immense boulder had shouldered itself out from under one of the papaya trees and crashed down into the river below, scaring a flurry of white and blue herons. 

Arvor was inside the tree that rested on the rock, and it had tipped out over the ravine from the weight of his body. Fox ran alongside the edge of the cliff and came to the base of the tree, now jutting out, leaving Arvor dangling fifteen feet over the crevice. 

He was screaming and crying for help, trying with all his might to get his body back up into the tree. But his sweat was making his hands weak. He gripped the ridged exterior of the tree and swung his body with all his might, trying to grab the trunk with his legs. With every swing, he grew more tired until he looked down below him and knew he would fall. 

Fox was in the tree, crawling up the trunk, out over the ravine. With every creep he took, the tree shook and shuddered down the cliff. Arvor’s face was smothered in fear, and his forehead was bleeding from falling against the large fruit and branches. 

The tree’s root system was halfway out of the soil, and the trunk itself was horizontal. Fox laid down on the trunk, wrapping his legs around it and reached for Arvor’s hand. The tree would not hold the weight any longer, and the trunk cracked and snapped in half. It came crashing down, attached by splinters and strings, slamming the two men into the side of the cliff. Trumpet vine covering the side of the cliff broke their collision.

A shower of earth rained down as they maneuvered and grabbed hold of the trunk in whatever way possible. The trunk splintered. The leaves rattled in bloody violence. Sweat and life dripped from Arvor’s face. Fox shimmied down and with every movement, the tree bowed and crackled underneath him. He dropped, letting his stomach bend over the upper branches. He reached and took Arvor’s hand. 

Arvor was silent; fear wore him like an animal in the jaws of a wolf. He was a child again, and his arms flailed viciously at Fox, scratching and bruising his forearms. He pulled with all his might and nearly took Fox off the branches with him. Fox reached for a strand of trumpet vine and steadied the two men.

He groaned and fought, pulling the dead weight of the frightened man over himself. The trunk moved again and the whole cliff side gave way to an enormous mouth of dirt and vegetation—sent sailing down the ravine and crashing into the river below. Fox inhaled, gave half a curse, before clenching his jaw and using every last strength to climb to the base of the tree above the break. 

The tree base was hanging perpendicular to the ravine. With each breath, clumps of earth and rock fell from underneath it; the roots shuttered and wormed from their underground burrows, catching the light and throwing their arms up into the sky over Fox’s head. Dirt and clay blinded him. He shut his eyes and reached for the cliff, finding rock behind the vine. He held onto it with all his might; the break gave way and the top of the tree sailed to the river below. 

The two pressed between the base of the trunk and gripped the trumpet vine, praying it would not tear. Clay matted to Fox’s face. He scraped his face into the vine and rock like a madman. The clay fell off; blood smeared across his nose and cheeks. 

He looked at Arvor. He was a stunned and pitiful shell of his former self. Nothing in him knew what to do as he prayed words that Fox didn’t understand and wept out of control. Fox spit in his face in an attempt to calm him down. 

“Look at me!” Fox yelled at him. “Look at the edge,” he said, gesturing his head upward. “Get to the edge.”

Arvor began climbing the vine, and every movement made the tree groan and the earth quake all around. The vine tore and crunched inside the men’s grasp, but the weed held together. They reached the top of the cliff and rolled onto their backs in exhaustion. 

Arvor fell at Fox’s feet, kissing his hands and arms like a puppy to its master. His weeping turned to laughing, and before long the man made no sense. Fox was not amused. He wiped the blood from his eyes and looked down the ravine at the river wrinkling upon itself and swallowing the rest of the tree. He turned away from the cliff and the sobbing, hysterical Arvor, to see the five other Liberi men standing motionless nearby. None spoke; they stared like children paralyzed by the unknown. 

He saw them for what they were. During his time among them, he convinced himself that he was the stranger and foreigner, therefore in need of submitting to their culture, acquiring their habits, and becoming a resident. But now he saw them for what they were. They were cowards. Through and through, true and simple cowards. Unable to do anything necessary when it required bravery. Men becoming farmers and losing the will to hunt. They never fought—accusation, theft, and deception were met with cowardice and submission. Slaps on the wrist sent them running home; things out of place made them frozen in fear. And a man in certain death made them confused and quiet. 

The men turned and began picking fruit from the trees. 

Chapter Seven

Fox Island

A man wakes on an island, deserted and without memory. As he fights to survive and endure the elements of nature, he soon discovers that he is not alone on the island and that his new home has a sinister secret.

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Fox Island

Chapter 7

Fox wasn’t always alone in the outskirts. After a week with the Liberi, he met a man named Arvor. He was quiet and reserved, unlike the common immature Liberi. He discussed culture and habits and taught Fox the language, and for that Fox was indebted. Arvor followed him like a faithful companion, uncommonly speaking only when spoken to. 

Fox journaled relentlessly. It was impossible to keep up with the new words without writing them down. Arvor provided him someone to exclusively learn from, test his theories and answer his questions; it gave him a lavish amount of information to ponder. He ofttimes woke in the afternoon after writing all night to candlelight.

The two men conferred most often at the eastern outskirts, on the edge of a precipice. It overlooked a large valley. In the distant south he could see the unsightly expanse of the marshlands; they were several miles wide, expanding into a droopy fog and shrouded by the shadow of the mountain; it was far greater than he ever would have imagined. While the two men met there, Fox recollected his ugly venture through the dead land. 

If he had come a little north, it would have spit him out on the other side of a tree-line in perfect view of the Liberi village. Instead, he came out through the bahia field, behind a cropping of pepper trees. He would have missed the village altogether if not for the scouting party at the monolith, and that most certainly happened as a consequence of his startling of the birds. It was all very fortuitous and made him laugh. He mused what would have been if he kept his prior heading to the southwest. He would have missed the village and wandered for who-know’s how long into the wild.

“Out over that land,” Fox said aloud, pointing at the bog. “—that’s where I came from.” 

Arvor stared resolutely. “You came through the Marshlands,” he said. “The dead path.”

Fox liked Arvor. Though he wasn’t convinced Arvor had the same level of fondness that he had. Arvor’s aloof and strict behavior made their brotherhood foremost occupational. It gave him an uncomfortable feeling that Arvor was with him as a means to an end. Nonetheless, Fox grew partial to him and appreciated his knowledge. They were friends.

With Arvor, he discussed the basic principles of the Liberi language and grew accustomed. He knew that man was viror, and woman vira. Therefore, they used the same notation as Latin descent, using “oh” and “ah” to deliberate between masculine and feminine; “i” and “u” were neutral. 

Koh, or island, was masculine. But the plants Kohah, that the island produced, were feminine. Koha—here the vowel pronounced in staccato—could delineate a garden or crop. This told him that, like many other nations, the Liberi considered man dominant and woman submissive, while also the fruit bearer. Which of course brought with it many more ideas about government and rule. 

As far as Fox surmised there was no leader, ruler or chief over the village. There was the idea that Arvor was instructed to be with him, but nothing supported that belief other than fantasy. He found it surprising a society that lived in a dangerous locale, facing dangerous weather, starvation and predators, could yet survive without order, government or police. Save for the sackcloth-clad men, he never knew of any difference in class or authority. 

The Liberia were vegetarians, refusing to eat even the most insignificant animals or fish. Because of this, the animal kingdom (or Maioren), had no need to fear the village and occupied it often. Birds, insects and small animals pounced, crept and crawled through the village like a faithful Eden. The Liberia loved monkeys. They would play with them, fondle them, and feed them daily. They were not pets though. They came and left as they desired. They were wild, but cherished.

Most every adult in the village kept their head down and worked in the morning, whilst also playing and dancing in the afternoon and night. They served amongst themselves, both taking care of the colony and their individual person. 

The women were in charge of the water supply. The Liberi hadn’t yet discovered, or at least propagated, the process of irrigation. Every other day the women would venture north on a half day’s journey to a waterfall. They collected water in enormous baskets and  replenished enormous communal barrels used for drinking, bathing, and gardening.  

The men were the farmers, harvesting nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables. In this group, Fox attached himself. He best show himself a viable part of the group when he was present, rather than some vacant visitor sitting solitary on a rock and writing in his parchment. 

He followed the farmers early in the morning, during messakoh (harvest, or morning). He discovered Arvor was a famous and well-versed harvester, or messaku. He could scale a twenty-foot papaya tree in less than three seconds, as quick as a raccoon. The Liberi had this talent of using their hands and feet like paws running up the trunks of the jungle; it made their traversal frightfully efficient. Fox recalled his foot-race with the islander who quickly escaped him.  

Farmlands stretched in every direction surrounding the village, dozens of distinct fruits and vegetables, and each day the men traveled to a fresh crop. One late morning, after harvest, Arvor and Fox traveled at the rear.

“Who is the Liberi leader, Arvor?” Fox asked. 

Arvor looked at him. He repositioned a bushel of bananas to his other shoulder. “What does Fox mean?”

“Who speaks and gives instruction to the Liberi—what to do?—how to live?” 

“Fox is confusing.” Arvor responded.

“I mean—are there Liberi that are above other Liberi in the village? Do some Liberi say to do something, and other Liberi must follow and obey?”

Arvor grew silent. He bounced the question from one side of his head to the other and back again, before answering. “The cria must listen to us.” (Cria was the word for children.)

“No, I do not mean children and parents.” Fox went silent, thinking of another way to ask. “Arvor, there are different tasks the Liberi must make, correct?”

Arvor nodded.

“Liberi must harvest food. Clean food. Cook food. Table must be made. Stool must be made. Fire must be set. Stories must be spoke. Homes must be cleaned.” Arvor continued to nod, waiting for the point. “If a big storm was to come to Island, or animal fought Liberi, who would keep Liberi safe? Who would fight the animal?”

“Ah, Fox is a wise fox.” Arvor smiled. “All must be kept in the village. And all Liberi must work and play to keep it. Watanei keeps us safe from the yoku (storm). And he made the animals. Why would they bring us harm?” 

This name or title intrigued Fox. “Is Watanei a man or…name?” (He didn’t know the word for rank or title.)

“Fox is confusing.” Arvor responded. 

“Is Watanei in the village?”


“Where is Watanei?” Fox asked. “Can I—”

“—No.” Arvor interrupted. He would ask if he could meet or speak to Watanei, but he clearly agitated Arvor and immediately relented. 

Arvor stopped walking. He looked heavenward and all around him, as if fighting some internal struggle. Finally, he calmed himself down. “Watanei tells us who we are.” Arvor conceded. “We do not tell him who he is or where is he. We only listen. We do not speak.” The two men walked back to the village henceforth in silence. 

It seemed that Watanei was a god-figure to the Liberi. If he had the power to stop storms, or protect from them, or whatever Arvor meant by that, then surely he wasn’t a man. Could it be that their entire civilization lived in perfect balance under the rule of a religious figure? It’s true that many tribes and smaller communities could live harmoniously. But the Liberi were nearly a thousand men and women. Surely, theft and violence reared their ugly heads up at some point in their history. Law and order were irrelevant to them, so he was to surmise every individual lived selflessly strictly out of obedience to a god? 

When the Liberi were not harvesting their crops and water, they were predominantly playing and relaxing. At night the people became edacious for delight. They lit bonfires and danced about them like Bacchantes and satyrs. Song and music played through horns, flutes and drums, loud and effusive. They laughed, told silly stories, gambled, and played childish games. 

The men, women, and children all drank from the same alcoholic spice Fox received when he was first greeted by the Liberi. They drank themselves silly and the oldest of them regularly woke in the middle of a path leading home. 

Though they seemed at first to drink absent of circumspection, Fox observed a collective understanding that too much of the spice would have dire consequences; thus, independently, they quit the drink after a period, of which the period and amount were determined personally and privately. There was no barkeep or officer monitoring the individual and his or her crapulence; it strictly lasted as long as one desired, and it seemed to Fox that that length was never too dangerous. After all, the whole affair was to enjoy themselves, not destroy themselves. They partook slowly and reveled in the delight of dance and life, rather than absolute debauchery.

Because of this unwritten understanding, they did not concern themselves with putting restrictions on their children in the same manner Fox presumed. They encouraged the little-ones to celebrate and partake in all of nature’s offerings, including the spice-drink. Watching a little one tip over dazed or fall asleep from liquor was amusing to them. But even in this, the village had an unspoken rule of engagement, collectively discerning when the obscure line was near being crossed; the entire village watched the little ones, preventing anything truly dangerous from happening to them.

This made sense, because in all the weeks with them, Fox had a hard time perceiving where the families were. The children ran about the entirety of the village and rarely went to the same house at night. The village itself was a collective parent, all taking care of the offspring together like an elephant parade or lion pride. Too, there weren’t very many children among the Liberi. The youngest child Fox knew of was Arvor’s nephew, already five-years-old; at most he saw only a few dozen children under the age of twenty. 

He wondered if a plague or terrible storm ravaged the people in their recent history. Perhaps, each evening’s party was actually a celebration of life, both of the ones lost and the ones remaining. Song, dance, and liquor spent on sorrow and joy. The thought, at first, brought a quiet comfort—this was a civilization that dedicated each and every night to that of memorial and thanksgiving, pleasure and gaiety. 

Fox didn’t fully understand the language, and what’s more, had an impossible time understanding their stories, metaphors and poetry. He may be completely wrong in his assumption of the party. Instead of celebrating life and death, the dance may be some misguided and religious attempt to ward off evil spirits that sent curses through plague and natural disaster. Perhaps the party was the product of fear rather than honor. The fear of the future oftentimes is cloaked by a spurious praise of the past. It was trepidatious, humdrum; it robbed itself of all its romanticism and made the festivity irrelevant. If fear were the catalyst to joy, could it actually ever be true delight?

Fox knew enough of religious tradition to believe that both were likely true. The ritual probably began with good intent, masking an ugly ulterior meaning. Some two authorities long ago, who believed a dance and memorial were necessary, argued over the inception of it all—one believing that honor and joy mattered; the other believing that worry and appeasement of the gods was of chief importance. 

What resulted was a play that passed down from generation to generation until most forgot its true meaning, causing a celebration that both the scholar and simpleton, deacon and layman, partook in. Some Liberi no doubt drank wisely and with noble regard of the past, while others danced in a fearful obligation of what may happen if they didn’t, and further most others met the drink with a wild gaiety and stupid ambivalence. 

On his first night with the Liberi, Fox celebrated with them. He thought the party was in honor of himself, some sort of welcoming in the community. He basked in the presence of wild frivolity after his weeks of fearful desperation. But upon learning it happened each night, it became insignificant and further deflated and embarrassed him. 

The parties henceforth felt obnoxious, merely resonating with the wild and boisterous people; he respected the culture of the tribe, but it was not his own. He regularly retreated from the festivity or sat quietly at the edge of the fire with Arvor. Neither man preferred the drink, and both sneered at the inebriation of the others—the lascivious wilds of satyrs and nymphs waiting on Bacchus and Ceres to join them. A tribe of people devoted to debauchery and delight. Its endless nightly episode stripped it of the meaning, integrity, and necessity, leaving only the product of selfish wantonness.

A blood-curdling scream broke out of the darkness. Shrill and demonic, it echoed over the fire-pit, lifted with the smoke, and split the ears of every person in the village. It was just the other side of the bonfire from Fox and Arvor. The voice of a woman—a banshee—screaming and vomiting guttural moans up into the smoke and flame. The drums and music ceased. The dancing stuttered. It immediately stirred Fox from his introspection and looked about, trying to find the source of the commotion. Silence was a thick fog that surrounded the orange-lit gathering of people.

Through the pale moonlight and flittering firelight, he saw the scuffle of a woman flailing herself about in the dirt. She was screaming the name of someone again and again, “Cian! Cian! My Cian is gone!”

Confusion stole Fox’s concern; he looked about to see the villager’s staring stoically at the woman. They were dumb and witless, like cattle. He noticed Arvor lean forward and take his staff in his hand, as if to prepare himself for something. 

Whatever it was, he wouldn’t get the chance to see. The woman’s presumed husband came rushing into the circle of people and began apologizing to the crowd. He was doing his best to hush the hysterical woman up, but in the end, only made the event worse and more awkward. He finally gave up trying to give reason to her, and after grabbing her ankle and wrist, he ploddingly dragged the woman off into the darkness to wherever their hut was, all the while her screams growing fainter and fainter into the darkness. 

Her disappearance left the night dense, resting on the shoulders of the assembly. No one looked at one another. They meekly picked up their things and made the journey home. Everyone understood the party was over. Fox was never told who Cian was, nor did he see the woman again after that night. But he conceded that his theory about the celebration of death and life wasn’t too far from the truth.

Chapter Six

Literary Fiction: Fox Island

A man wakes on an island, deserted and without memory. As he fights to survive and endure the elements of nature, he soon discovers that he is not alone on the island and that his new home has a sinister secret.

Fox Island

Chapter 6

THE FEAR SUBSIDED as curiosity struck. They were not aggressive, rather inquisitive of the Traveler who sat eating his meal at the feet of the monolith. Two knelt down and put their palms on the area he had his supper, while one, whom he recognized from his foot race, communicated with the leader of their squad. They spoke a strange language, Latin or Arabic in fluidity, quick and effortless. 

Hullo,” he said, and his own voice startled him. 

Like any man left alone, he had many conversations with himself (scores while creating his watering network in the ceiba, as it proved the preponderance of mental taxation). But he used his voice very little and even lesser still in the previous weeks. Hearing it again, and once more with the tone one uses when directed at a stranger, was as stupefying to himself as it was the native men. 

They communicated amongst themselves again. He tried to interrupt and give reason to his journey in their country, but had a hard time getting a word in. 

The men arrived at whatever deliberation they came upon. The leader was aiming to learn his name now. He opened his mouth to give it, but fell dumbfounded. He hadn’t a name. Like a wave that has taken its entire life crossing an ocean comes crashing onto the rocks—the realization caught up to him and fell hard. He didn’t know his name. It was terrifying and revelatory. The power of being without name brought with it the horror of being unwanted. And it made sense that he would be without one, for he feared in his heart, weeks now, the inconvenient truth—he hadn’t a place or people of belonging. 

One’s name was one’s identity, the thing put upon them by a mother and father who cared and loved for them. It carried with it the idea of consummation and conception. Proof of care and proof of one being above that of an animal tossed to the side. A name was given above noun. It wasn’t a thing, but a being. A cat without a name is nothing more than feral and disregarded. But as soon as the cat receives the name Felix, it is a part of the family, loved, cherished, and justified. The name’s absence, or in this case, the knowledge of a name, brought with it the wonder of one’s futility. 

“I don’t know,” he replied. 

The men carried on. Together they were much more capable; rather opposite than his first encounter with the isolated native. Likewise, they were far from violent and amicable. They offered him a drink like spice and alcoholic. They motioned for him to follow, and he consented.

Over the next several weeks, the Traveler learned about the Liberi. The people he feared were cannibals and witch-doctors came to be nothing more than meager farmers. They were not savages, rather more like children, innocent and easily frightened. They valued honor and respected every form of life—notably the island’s. Stories and theories fascinated them; nothing was beyond the reach of their admiration and deference. Thus, the people accepted the Traveler into their village. 

His renown spread as the will-o’-the-wisp. The strange man, visitation, and most of all the location whereof his discovery; each man and woman wanted to know of the Traveler found at the monolith. They thronged him, bringing fruits, bright-dyed clothing, and necklaces. Through pantomime, each inquired about the monolith called Cultus.

The affair was rather ornate, and he found it comical that his lunch at the feet of the monolith would grant him grace among the people. He assumed that the totem held a religious significance—though he would never understand it. It relieved him to be on the favorable side of it, as he could have easily disgraced the beliefs of the people with the same meal.

His guides, the five sackcloth-clad men, recounted his arrival, and then he never saw them again. He later speculated they were of a scouting or hunting party policing the wild jungle beyond the outskirts of the village.

The Liberi fascinated the Traveler. It was a remarkable thing, discovering a thriving, beautiful country amid a jungle on an island he assumed was undiscovered. What’s more, the people were generous, docile, and amicable. All his life, he believed the strange inhabitants of a secret village in the rainforest would be violent savages, shrinking heads, casting spells, and sacrificing humans. Upon seeing them, he couldn’t imagine these people prodding their own sheep.

The village was a pleasant interruption from his usual and daily activities of survival, pain, and prayer. He laughed when recollecting the many times he nearly died from starvation, weather, and peril, all the while being only a day’s journey from friendly neighbors. Here he could sit on a chair made of straw, eat food he didn’t have to labor for, and not worry about tomorrow’s meal. It was all very refreshing, and for the first time in a long time, he relaxed. The whole notion of repairing his vessel and venturing into the unknown ocean was horrifying now; He would have died at the doorstep of salvation because of ignorance. 

He took the arduous task of learning their language, as he was in no rush to leave the people, and his presence pleased them. Through pantomime and mumbled words, he communicated about trees, birds, foods, crops, and tools. 

The first and second words he learned were “man” and “woman”. While gesturing with a man, and trying to inquire who he was, the Liberi man pointed at himself saying the word “viror”. The Traveler wasn’t sure if the word was the man’s name or the word for all men in generality. When the Traveler pointed at the man saying the word “viror” and motioned back to himself with the same phrase, the man lauded him. But he wasn’t confident if the word represented Mankind or merely men. When pointing at a woman and saying the word, the man shook his head and asserted “vira”. So viror was man, and vira was woman. 

The third word he learned was more meaningful to the Liberi. He reached down and took the dirt in his hand. 

“Dirt,” the Traveler said.

The man stooped down and picked up the dirt, uttering the word, “Koh.” 

The Traveler repeated it, “Koh.” 

Then the Liberi man stood and spread his arms wide, motioning everywhere at the trees, village, valley, and mountain peak, and repeating the word, “Koh. Koh. Koh.” 

The Traveler understood that the island itself was Koh, and maybe even the entire world, for he wasn’t sure if the tribe even understood that there was a vast world beyond the island. The man continued speaking to the Traveler and pointed wildly at several things in the village, but it was all too much and too soon for him. He thanked the man in English, who subsequently misunderstood him, and retreated from his presence, repeating the words to himself. 

Viror. Vira. Koh. Viror—Man. Vira—Woman. Koh—Island.” 

The Traveler was fond of retreating to the countryside when thinking and practicing the unfamiliar language. He appreciated the company of the villagers, but couldn’t help feeling uncustomary. They enjoyed staring at him. Processing all the information in front of others was nauseating. After three months alone, without warning, happenstance thrust him into a village, a home of flurries of questions, words, and jokes that he couldn’t comprehend. It frightened and humiliated him.

But he liked the idea of being one of them and learning from them. He found drawing pictures was a simpler method to their language. With his piece of burnt wood as pen on parchment, he drew a monkey and learned the word simor. This practice astounded the Liberi, for they never wrote words or drew pictures.

He explained that he washed ashore, but had a hard time describing the other places outside of the island, beyond the ocean (they called the Ançæps). 

One day, while speaking with a few inquisitive Liberi, he attempted explaining it. “Here,” the Traveler pointed at his picture of the island. “Here, Koh.” 

The group smiled at him. One of them clapped her hands; a man put his hand on the Traveler’s shoulder as if to congratulate him; another spoke too quickly for him to understand. 

The Traveler continued. He ran his finger along the paper across his crude drawing of the ocean. “Here, Ançæps.” 

They nodded again, realizing the Traveler hadn’t finished with his lesson. 

He continued, pointing at a corner of the parchment where a vast island was drawn. He dragged his finger across the drawing. “Here, many Koh’s. Koh and Koh and Koh!”

One of the Liberi shook his head, and the others murmured. He couldn’t understand everything they said, but they were clearly frustrated. The edge of the island was the edge of their world—everything from birth to death; anything else was nonsense. No matter how many drawings he created or stories he told, it never bothered them to imagine a place beyond the ocean. This exasperated him. 

He pondered what kind of culture or religion would birth a society that refused to dream. Every influential philosopher in Plato, Aristotle, and Newton believed in questioning the known, wandering into wonder, and thinking the unthinkable. The desire to dream was in mankind. Of course, it was in some greater than others. Some were born with it, others born to lead, and still some to follow. But never was a society obstinately reluctant to even try to wonder. 

The Liberi was that society. Like a vacuous culture that never grew beyond the state of Neanderthal, they had little inclination for science and philosophy. Yet they thrived in honor and pleasure, were satiated in all they accomplished, and played handsomely when not working in their crops.  

The Traveler hadn’t a name for himself, but the Liberi needed to refer to him as something. While he kept trying to discover the names of various tools, foods, culture, and verbiage, they kept demanding of him what he called himself. But he merely shook his head. Of course, it saddened him far worse than it perplexed them. Every time they asked, he grew dismayed and silent. 

He offered dubbing himself Viror, as he was a man, but that did not satisfy them. He was a man, but he needed a moniker to delineate himself from Fred next to him (Fred was not a Liberi name). They didn’t comprehend his amnesia; the notion of him not knowing his name or people confounded them.

They often asked if he were Aquilyo, which he assumed a neighboring tribe elsewhere on the island. He shook his head at this too; still it crossed his mind a few times to accept the invitation to rid himself of the berating interrogation for his name. He feared what implications could come from assuming the identity of another. My God, he thought, what if they were at war with Aquilyo?! He laughed when he remembered how passive the Liberi were. 

Before long, they relented and referred to him as Vulpunei. He accepted it without a choice; the finest names thrust upon us, rather than bear from our own free will. When he asked for the meaning, he received laughter and nonsense from the Liberi.  

One slow afternoon, he heard a group of farmers discussing a gang of vulpun that ravaged their crop whilst chasing prey. He put together they spoke of a leash of foxes who destroyed their squash field in a mad dash hunt for rabbits. His moniker Vulpunei meant Fox

He fancied the idea that the little fox he met at the monolith had made its way into his story as well. This pleased him, but from everyone’s giggling, he wondered if it were an insult. No matter—to him it meant something personal. Not only did he enjoy the brief visitation with his reddish-orange friend, but it brought back a lost memory deep in the recesses of his subconscious—a half-remembered dream of a fox pelt given to him as a child. A gift from his father, no less. He didn’t know for certain, but he reckoned it might be a memory, and for that the name warmed him.

Chapter Five

Literary Fiction: Fox Island

A man wakes on an island, deserted and without memory. As he fights to survive and endure the elements of nature, he soon discovers that he is not alone on the island and that his new home has a sinister secret.

Fox Island

Chapter 5

FREEDOM LAY IN THE DISTANCE, on the far side of the ocean’s belly. His boat salvaged, his store prepared, his water collected, but no matter anymore. He hadn’t his watch and it drove him mad. It was his only keepsake that mattered. Without it, his nightmares were torrent. Could he even survive? What now did it even matter? He was nothing more than a bird of the air or insect squashed. He was one of the fruit monkeys that stole his supplies, fancying them as toys rather than tools—a half-witted child or simpleton. It occurred to him that his lack of skills to repair the watch—this whole venture in surviving just to survive—absent from legacy and purpose—he had become nothing but an animal. What business did he have with the watch? He didn’t deserve it; he didn’t even know how to use it. And now, without it, it made sense that he shouldn’t be with it. 

No! It was his watch. One of the few things that washed ashore with him. He hadn’t a memory, but he had a memorial, and it was stored away, broken for sure, locked inside the gears, metal and leather of the machinery. No one should have it but him. And it was worth fighting and dying for. 

Liberty in the belly of the ocean was a pipe dream. But his watch was a necessity. It gave him hope. He needed to know he could lay it beside his head at night and wrap it on his wrist in the day. It was proof that he had a past, and if he had a past, he had a future, and if a future, a purpose. He settled on traveling west; into the jungle, passed the cenote and the bog, to find whoever or whatever stole his watch. 

The journey to the cenote was methodical, one he had many times during the arduous task of retrieving his boat from the jungle. But he hadn’t yet returned to the cliff where he first encountered the native. He made his way up and looking down saw the first lily-pad, only a few feet below the bluff. It was wilting; shades of brown crowned the edges; but it was still tough. He climbed down and recovered it, unrolling and cutting a piece to use as a hat with a length of dogbane. 

He looked at his map, and for only the second time, stepped beyond his boundaries and toward the bog. His hike dragged more than his first frantic chase through this part of the jungle, and he felt the calming beauty of it. The sun came out from behind the canopy. The marquee trees diminished. Short pepper trees, bottle palms and cypress flourished; he would be at the swamp before long. 

He could smell it preceding its arrival, helping him locate it. And when he did, discouragement and reluctance fell upon him. The land was underwater some twenty-four inches. He bound his loafers to his ankles with a piece of rope and found a large walking-stick. Stepping into the sawgrass, he left behind all the shelter and confidence he ever knew. But he must retrieve his humanity.

The land was lifeless save a few marsh-hens and coots cooing as he approached. Throughout were dozens of dead banana trees, hanging low, some bent and broken, covered in mud and webs. The sawgrass intertwined and choked them. 

After a few hours of sloshing through, solid ground came under him. He crawled out of the marsh and onto dry ground, thanking God for the disgusting business to be behind him. He leaned on his walking-stick and looked about. The tree-line appeared cultivated, pushed back hundred of meters in every direction. Before him, a wide open field of bahia, eighteen-inches high, with two dozen scarlet ibis eating grasshoppers and arachnids. He watched the flock; one solitary black ibis stood in the midst. It didn’t move like the clutch, but stood staring at him, like a buck defending his does, a stallion watching over his mares, a captain commanding his platoon.

The Traveler brushed the flakes of mud from his chest, legs and shoes and continued west. Curious—to find such cultivated land. He imagined he reached the native’s territory. If they were farmers, it took away the terror of violent cannibals. 

On the other side of the bahia, at the edge of the jungle, a flurry of song and commotion greeted him. Macaws squawked in the canopy, songbirds delighted in flight, finches peeped on the ground, blue herons rattled in the distance; it was a raucous welcoming into their kingdom at what he assumed was the center of the island. 

He came upon a hill of coquina. On it was the most disturbing thing he had discovered on the island yet—a monolith. A great totem of distinct shapes and carvings towering twenty-feet over him, and staring, full of power and might. It was a thing of instrument and technology, carved by the hands of purposeful men. Whether it told a fable, history, or warning and alarm, no matter what, it showed that many people inhabited this island, and were doing so for a long time. 

It was made of limestone, creamy white turned brown and green long ago; its importance yielded to something now unkempt. After staring for a considerable amount, he deciphered what the images were—the faces of four animals. At the top was most recognizable as an eagle, though the wings were broken off. A storm or time eroded the attachments away, though he couldn’t find them on the ground anywhere nearby. The second animal, he never made out. It was a mammal with pointed ears and long snout, wearing cunning eyes and a devious expression. This second monument was damaged as well; one side of its face, including half of the snout and one eye, were missing altogether like something large smashed into it. The third was a large crocodilian; its teeth were meticulous, and its eyes marble. At the bottom, was a picture of his fiendish friend, the monkey; its head was round and rather silly looking, weakly compared to the other powerful archetypes. 

He sat under the gaze of the monolith and had lunch. He pulled a pair of mangoes out and chewed on some nuts while he peeled the rind back. In the distance, he saw a flash of red, darting low at the ground. It halted, and he recognized it as a small red fox. The animal was only twenty yards from him. 

The two peered into one another’s eyes. He marveled at the complexity of the creature. It was a predator, but not in the slightest dangerous to him. King of this forest. It sat on its haunches for nearly two minutes, observing the Traveler before its sheen and pristine back winced and the animal darted away into the underbrush. It no longer needed to study. 

As he finished his meal with a bit of squash, he pulled his map and began drawing the monolith. For the first time, he was inclined to draw a precise representation of what he found. He did his best to mimic the eagle with broken wings, the wily creature underneath, the domineering crocodile next, and the doltish monkey at the bottom. He smiled at the monkey who he gave crooked eyes and a cocked smile.

He stored his leftovers into the sack, stashed his map inside the pocket, and threw it all over his shoulder. When he turned from the monolith he faced five men, clad in sackcloth hanging over their shoulders and tied around the waist. He clenched his jaw. Fear filled him, and his spirit deflated. One was the native he encountered in his foot race weeks before. 

Chapter Four

Literary Fiction: Fox Island

A man wakes on an island, deserted and without memory. As he fights to survive and endure the elements of nature, he soon discovers that he is not alone on the island and that his new home has a sinister secret.

Fox Island

Chapter 4

THE NEXT DAY, he returned to the cenote with his knife and rope. He intended to find a quicker way to the bay and hoped the canoe was in working order. It took fighting through brambles and thorns before he arrived at the lower end of the pond, covered in scratches from cheekbone to ankle. The vessel had a considerable amount of rot and rust; nevertheless, it was promising. 

At the water’s edge, he found budging the thing quite impossible. No matter, that’s why the rope. He tied the bow of the small boat and threw the other end over the branch of a nearby oak. With all his might, he wrenched and moaned to free the thing from its lodged position. It wedged between several rocks and set in clay. He thought it gave when the bow of the canoe splintered and the whole front side snapped off. 

He cursed his luck. Regardless, the wood was too much a resource to leave abandoned. He changed his tactic and ventured forth into the pool, hoping in mind to remove some stones from the backside and push it free. 

The water was brisk and startling; he hadn’t felt a surge of coldness in a lifetime. It froze him for a moment, but he continued forward, letting his body slip into the water and rise above his waist, then chest, and then shoulders. Now that he was in the water, a fresh sense of fear crept down his spine. The deep, black water was holding him, and he was a frog splayed out on the surface waiting to be pulled under. Fish were already nipping at his toes and the freckles on his back, but he wondered if something large was in the unknown. 

He dove under and made quick work, pushing and pulling the rock formations from under the stern. They came out easily enough. He wedged himself between a large stalagmite and the stern and pushed with all his might. The boat gave way and moved about eighteen inches. It satisfied him, and he was confident to pull the rest from the broken end. He crawled out of the water and in his heart felt like he was escaping rather than leaving. He couldn’t shake the sensation of something lurking out there under the lily-pads. 

The lily-pad! He forgot it on the cliff. 

He tied the front of the broken boat to the rope and over the branch again. This time being careful to pull methodically; no sudden jerks. The sand slid, and the boat was free. He used his knife to cut the vegetation that was growing over one side and pulled it away from the bay. He stored the bow of the ship (that had broken off) into the boat itself. With significant effort, he turned the boat round and tied to the stern. 

Now to get his lily-pad. The same problem lay as before; his previously recovered pad would take hours to retrieve from the other side. He would need a new one. He dipped back into the water and slowly pushed himself forward to the rock face. He grabbed hold of the limestone and made his way down to the pads. With every few feet along, he imagined how deep the cenote really was. He could not feel any sort of bottom underneath him at all. It might be hundreds of meters to the floor. The water was clear like crystal, but black in the shadow of the cliffs.

He reached the lily-pads and his knees hit an outcropping. He stood up, out of the water, ankle-deep, and took hold of one stock. With all his might, he pulled and discovered how lucky he was to get his first one so easily. It wouldn’t snap. While on the bay, he thought he was wise for keeping his knife away from a blundering drop. Now, he just wanted to be out of the water with the lily-pad. He panicked and jerked the thing wildly. It would not move. 

He let go of the stock and stood erect on the outcropping. His neck stretch and chest  expanded. Bending down, he tried another stock. This time he had more luck. It budged, cracked and snapped off. It wasn’t as large as some others, but was a godly four feet in diameter. 

As he pulled it out, an explosion of water erupted in his face. He bolted to the side of the cliff, shaking his head and wiping his eyes. A large black tail splashed the water and retreated from him. It was the resting place of some large aquatic animal.

Now he stood, frozen on the side of the cliff, his feet shivering on the outcropping, and some 15 meters of deep dark cavernous water between him and the shore. He had no choice but to face his fear; his only option was to make it to the shore. He wouldn’t live on this small rock forever; it was live or die in the water, but staying in fear was not an option. He clenched his teeth, grabbed hold of his lily-pad, and with some newfound bravery, fell into the water.

He rushed along the edge, never taking his eyes off the surface of the pond for any movement or irregularity. When he came to the shore, he rushed up onto the sand and gave a fifteen-foot gulf between him and the water. He thought for a moment he saw a pair of eyes peering at him from across the cenote, but wasn’t sure. It was nothing but black in a moment. 

It took him a week to get the vessel back to his homestead. Every day included cutting vines, and breaking branches to make his way along with the broken boat. And when he found himself in the thickest of the jungle, he had to find another way north or south, zigging around massive trunks until he made an easterly path again. 

But his home was coming along. He wore his bright and ugly windbreaker at all times now, because he fashioned his large lily-pad into a satisfactory network of gathering rainwater. The water fell through the ceiba, guided by pieces of the pad, and collect in a sizable group of smooth stones and flat woods, making a bath of potable water. It all took him about as long as getting the boat back. 

He was quite common at using dogbane and dragon fruit roots to fashion moderate ropes which he used to repair the rucksack and the boat. The latter of which was the key to getting off the damnable island. He could live as long as needed with his supply of water and fruit, but the boat would be his way home. He used the ropes to tie up the broken pieces and found a cropping of rubber trees to the northwest, which he broke and drained, cultivating the latex sap onto pieces of wood lined with the lily-pads. Patching up the wounds of the boat with the latex, he went to sleep every night, knowing he was one moment closer to freedom. 

After four weeks of working, he lay down to sleep, fancying the notion that he was only days away from venturing into his greatest challenge yet—the unknown and worry of what lay outside the island, under the blistering sun, away from his fruit trees and fresh water; away from the birds’ songs and reptilian friends’ scampers; and of course, away from his beloved ceiba. 

He took off his wristwatch, per routine, and tried to imagine how long it had been since it worked. What would any person back home think of him if they found him the state he was in now? Hairy, unkempt, ugly and battered. Alas, he was also stronger, braver, and more resourceful than he ever imagined possible. 

He sneered, not even knowing what “back home” was. Merely knowing that the watch was the relic that he had one. He placed it on the root next to his head in its sacred place, just as always, and fell asleep. 

A terrible irritation woke him—the nuisance of golf-ball raindrops beating the side of his face and soaking him through. The crack of lightning and thunder pierced the sky, shattering his reverie. It was another terrible storm, not unlike the first he encountered weeks before. He pulled himself up close to the tree-trunk and cowered under the windbreaker’s shield. 

The wind howled at him, full of angry vengeance, mad that he was still alive and thriving. It punished him on the beach and he lay down, hugging a root, waiting for the tempest to relent. He glanced about at his food store and water structure; they were under the canopy, intact. His boat was filling with water, but nothing effort wouldn’t repair. 

He tried easing his mind, telling himself it would abate soon. Then he looked and saw that his wristwatch was no longer beside his sleeping area. He rushed to the root it lay on and looked about every which way. He brushed leaves, water, and mud aside, trying to uncover where it had gone. 

At once the rain stopped. And out of the darkness, somewhere deep in the jungle, the horn blown again. The same metallic, breathy scream from machine or animal that he heard on his second night in the midst of the first frightful storm. It took his breath away, his heart lodged somewhere at his esophagus, and before he could tell himself to relax, it blown again. And again a third time, the loud dull scream of some monstrous dragon or giant elephant, unlike anything he had ever heard or imagined. It was out in the darkness, calling for him, and somehow he knew it had his watch. 

Chapter Three

Literary Fiction: Fox Island

A man wakes on an island, deserted and without memory. As he fights to survive and endure the elements of nature, he soon discovers that he is not alone on the island and that his new home has a sinister secret.

Fox Island

Chapter 3

HE OWNED A GREAT SENSE OF ADVENTURE the next day, one like a man succumbs when he realizes he has no other option than to be excited about what lay ahead. It wasn’t the first time, nor the last, that he felt silly for his prior fear. He promised himself that the next storm or unexpected thing wouldn’t cause him such dread. It made the next few days more pleasant, and frankly, he had a lot of good fortune. Food was easier to come by; within a day’s journey, he had bananas, mangos, passion fruit, nuts, and even squash. 

Early on, he was tempted to create a store in his ceiba tree, but quickly learned the error in his ways. One morning, a group of monkeys raiding his cache and throwing the remains everywhere woke him. His watch, rope, and knife were considerably interesting to them and it took him an entire day to collect them back from the jungle, after being dispersed by the monkey’s eventual lack of interest. When he returned, ants invaded his home, devouring whatever the monkeys left behind. He decided it was best to only keep at his tree-house whatever he planned on eating before the day’s end. 

Nonetheless, his first week was not too difficult, nor did it overwhelm him. Save the second night, when he heard that awful booming horn in the storm, he felt relaxed and accomplished with the passing of each day on his island. In the mornings, he put on his watch, strapped on his loafers, and walked out into the jungle. And every evening, he awakened the embers of his fireplace and enjoyed a piece of fruit with his feet up against the ceiba’s roots. He even began drawing a map using parchment and a cinder. On it had the location of his favorite fruit trees, the rucksack-tree and corpse, what he imagined were the whereabouts of the thieving monkeys, and even another beach like his own to the north. 

One afternoon, while the sun was it at hottest, he came upon a cenote. It was on the side of a limestone and coquina rock-face. It sat awkwardly at the bottom of a twenty-foot precipice, lined with roots, leaves and loose soil. Its water was enticing, glistening in the heat, calling him to its blue and green vibrance. At three sides, the rock-face enclosed it, but the side furthest him came low and created a sort of bay. He could imagine himself walking up to swim at it. 

He had in his pockets a collection of nuts, and half-eaten banana, for his trip back. He knew that if he swam, the wildlife would ruin his meal and cause him an even harder journey home that night. He thought better of it and planned for another time.

Along the edges of the cenote, giant lily-pads grew in the water. He had the idea of taking one back home as a canopy to shield from the rain and better catch for freshwater; he could finally have his windbreaker back on his shoulders. The jungle grew very thick and cumbersome along the cliff-side; he would have to make quite the travel up the rock-face before coming back down to the other side where the bay was. He knew if he approached the cenote from another angle entirely, it would be much easier to avoid this task. He made a note on his map, but for now the journey appeared too arduous. 

He decided rather to climb down the rock-face where he stood, as it seemed just as profitable as going around, and far less time-consuming. He held on to the roots as he ventured downward, trying his best to keep his loafers from slipping in the loose sediment. He couldn’t quite reach the edge of the water, but lay down on a portion of the bedrock overhanging the spring. He reached for a grand six-foot lily-pad and pulled it out. It was difficult to break the stock, but it came out easily once the base snapped from underwater. He slowly rolled it up and put it over his shoulder to make the climb back. 

Before doing so, something caught his eye on the bank. From this angle he could see a large mass of brown and black sitting on the edge of the water at the far side of the cenote, some 200 yards from him. The underbrush of palm trees covered it. His heart leapt as he saw it was a boat wreck—something like a canoe of birchbark. It was probably rotten in many areas, but he was too excited to care. This could be his way off the cursed island. 

It would take him hours to hike around the other side through the thick jungle, but he planned to return from the other side the following day to examine its durability. He collected his lily-pad and made his way up the precipice. 

When he pulled himself up from the side of the cenote cavern, he was taken aback, nearly falling down into the hole he just climbed out of. A man was only thirty meters from him, dressed in far less clothing, and his body tanned like leather. The Traveler startled the native, who dropped to a prone position, ready to run at any moment. The Traveler took a step. He greeted the native, but his visitor took flight as soon as he spoke, running through the jungle quickly and quietly. 

His mind flooded with questions, postulations, ideas, confounded by his own ignorance and foolishness; but he had no time to sort through any of it if he were to catch up to the man. He engaged in the foot-race, leaping over tree limbs, rocks and the underbrush of the jungle, attempting to catch the man who clearly knew the jungle better than he. Every moment he thought he was catching up to the native, he would come upon some impassable brush or large tree that made him diverge and waste precious time. The sound of the jungle grew loud—the wind, trees, birds, and insects, as well as the blood coursing through his veins hindered his hearing. He couldn’t tell where he was and soon doubted any idea of where the native had fled. 

He stopped running and calmed down. His chest was pounding; his legs worn out; he hadn’t exhausted himself in this way while on the island, and his diet of fruits and vegetables made him easily fatigued. He looked every which way around him. Then suddenly, a burst of noise, somewhere in the distance to the west. Heavy footsteps like someone had fallen, and then the sound of sloshing water. 

He realized the native must have been using the trees to get around. He grabbed hold of the limb of a dead banyan tree and lifted himself up. He climbed above the underbrush and scurried through the branches, gazing into the distance. He saw the brush moving and a figure running to the northwest.

He dropped back to the ground and took off. He came out of the jungle upon a large sea of sawgrass; recently forming a marsh. It was only a few days old; he surmised the heavy storm was its culprit. In dryer days it would have been navigable; but now he hesitated. He couldn’t see but a bit in front of him; the grass towered eight-feet high and thick as weeds. He knew the native had escaped through it. A few ugly and irresponsible tracks were left at the edge of the bog; caused by a man who was more concerned with fleeing rather leaving a sign. 

He took a careful step into the bog and his foot sank a few inches in. Another step and he knew that it was impassable. His ankles were under the wet soil. He tried stepping again but fell promptly back onto his rump. He reached back to the dry ground, using the leverage to pry his feet free. When his foot came through, the loafer stayed behind; he quickly lunged his hand into the mud to save the shoe before the earth ate it. It took him a few moments to get the loafer free again, and by the time it was in his hand he had resigned any notion of catching the native. He was too inexperienced and too unaware of his surroundings to venture forth. 

But the whole affair really surprised him. He knew now that he was not alone on the island. And like any man that runs from a new encounter, they run back to what they find comfort in. There must be more natives on this island; perhaps a village. It was all very fascinating to the Traveler. How did they arrive? How long had they lived here? Was there a way to other islands or perhaps even the Mainland? Were they indigenous or marooned like him? 

But the longer he sat on his haunches in the mud, far from his beach and ceiba, the more uneasy he felt. Man was treacherous. Stories of natives and wild jungle-men flooding his imagination; stories of cannibals and witch-doctors told by those more educated and world-weary. Perhaps it was best that the native got away. After all, the native may well have been leading him to a trap, rather than fleeing for his life. What did he have to offer that was frightening? What was so alarming about his own appearance that would make someone else run away at first encounter? Was it his pale skin, disheveled beard and awkward brown deck-shoes? No, it must be a trap. 

Now the bog grew ominous before him. The smell of the filthy earth and dead grass was unsettling. He wanted to be far from this place and never return. He stood erect and located the east. He assured himself that the distance to his beach would help conceal his location in the future. Pulling the map from his pocket, he quickly scribbled a general location of the marsh and moved on. 

Chapter Two

Literary Fiction: Fox Island

A man wakes on an island, deserted and without memory. As he fights to survive and endure the elements of nature, he soon discovers that he is not alone on the island and that his new home has a sinister secret.

Fox Island

Chapter 2

WHEN MORNING ROSE, it came with the revelation many have experienced after falling asleep from exhaustion before taking the time to find a suitable resting place. His lower-back and side were in pain from the large root running underneath him; his neck was sore from being pressed awkwardly against the trunk of the ceiba. He loved his new tree-house, but his first morning with it was less than admirable. He lay for some time under the shade of it while he listened to the morning; birds and insects sang from every direction, and he was altogether happy enough to never move again. 

Opposite the sea, he faced the morning sun as he slowly stretched the kinks from his muscles. The air tasted stale and bitter. It made the world around him hazy and slow; not truly awake yet. He pondered if the stars and moon ever felt tired, and if so, were it possible to see one slow itself enough to rest on the horizon. He opened and closed his hands rapidly, trying to grab at the horizon and shake it awake; he scowled in disappointment. He understood it wasn’t the world was tired; it was that he was thirsty; his mouth, eyes and fingertips were weak. It hadn’t occurred to him the entire day before, that if he didn’t find water, he wouldn’t be here much longer. 

He bent down and found his watch on the root next to where he lay asleep. He secured it to his wrist, and elected venturing a new direction, hoping to find a source of freshwater. To the south was the trail and the mango tree, but beyond it, the jungle was far too dense to manage; that left north and west. He presumed he would eventually journey north, and hopefully find a way beyond the bay, but his reason for discovery was no longer bent on civilization or geography; he needed water, and it made sense that the further from the beach he was, the more likely he would find it. He packed his last two mangos in his pockets and started west into the jungle. 

The jungle was not near as difficult to wander this time; he broke limbs off small plants and threw flowers on the ground, as a visual path for his return to his beach. He was grateful, not for the last time, that he had his loafers as he kept finding ants and spiders running along them when he rested; he could only imagine what his feet would have to endure if they were bare. Although he heard a constant ringing noise of birds and insects, it surprised him how little life he actually witnessed besides these and the plants. He wandered across scat and digs but didn’t have any idea what beasts they came from. The jungle, it seemed, knew how to hide itself as he lumbered through. He struggled to imagine any deer living out here, so he presumed pig or capybara were the culprits behind the trails he stumbled upon.

His luck increased when he found an abandoned rucksack jammed in the crook of an oak tree. The worn leather was nearly useless, but he imagined he could find something of use inside. He had a rather difficult time getting the thing free, as it was just at arm’s length, and the tree itself was too wide for him to climb; his violent jerking tore the leather and fabric. Finally, after wasting an exorbitant amount of energy and fearing that it wasn’t nearly worth the effort, he freed the thing from its cradle. To his delight he found a pocket knife, a box of matches and windbreaker. A field guide was inside, but the weather destroyed the material ages ago. The thing that excited him most was a long piece of rope; he imagined he could make a proper shelter. The jacket wasn’t fashionable and looked altogether ridiculous on him, but he was happy to have something protecting his skin from the flies and sun. He stuffed the rest in his pockets. 

He decided this was the end of what he could do today, and it seemed fitting. His body was weak and dehydrated; the work of retrieving the rucksack furthermore exhausted him, and he knew his trip back would be twice as arduous. While turning away, he tripped and fell backward on a large object hidden in the grass. The fall took the wind out of him. He felt silly turning himself over; he knew if he weren’t so exhausted he wouldn’t have stumbled. He searched around in the grass for what tripped him, and to his disgust, found a corpse. The decomposition was many years old; wildlife had eaten much of it, leaving only the frame of the torso, head, and one arm. Its head was thrown back and looked frightful. 

It possessed him with a fast and senseless fear, one borne from disgust and that absolute thing inside of us that death is coming and time is always against us. He wondered what had happened to this islander. Was he a native or someone like him, abandoned or shipwrecked? Had he died from starvation and thirst, or something sinister in the jungle? And if it were something sinister, why would it leave his corpse here in the open, slowly eaten by small wildlife, rather than taken back to some hole or den for storing and eating at leisure; perhaps, something evil but not altogether animalistic was on the island. He hated his thoughts and resolved he best leave it alone. He thanked the body for his pack and supplies, and presently left, but not before wondering if he should bury the corpse and honor the dead; at this, he forfeited—what use was it to honor the dead when you may join them for doing so? He was at wit’s end and needed to get back to food, shelter, and hope he stumble across some source of water along the way. 

He followed his trail back to the beach, but not before stopping at the mango tree. When he arrived at the ceiba, he partitioned an area inside its large roots, intending to light a fire. Using some parchment he collected from the rucksack and dried brambles along the way, he was able to start one. The two days he was on the island left him with feelings of highs and lows. He found a source of food, equipment and now the power to protect and warm himself; but he missed the sound of a man’s voice, and even his own in conversation. He attempted speaking to himself, but it only made him feel lonelier. 

As soon as dusk came, a large gale swept up from the west. The wind and rain howled, deafening him. He cowered in the largest nook of the roots and covered his face with his jacket. There were no more birds or insects singing now; only the scream of thunder and lightning, pounding frightfully and blinding the heavens above. He was grateful to have the tree at his back, but was miserable, nonetheless. He could only enjoy his fire for an hour, before it was extinguished in a moment.

As he lay cowering under his windbreaker, hugging tightly to the tree, the rain slapped him. Harder, fiercer and at quicker intervals the storm flurried at him, like a great hand slamming him into the side of the trunk. Water collected on the leaves of the ceiba and trickled down onto his head. For whatever reason, it hadn’t occurred to him that this is what he spent his whole day searching for. The violence of the storm made him blind to its purpose; the rain had come to give the island nutrition, and everything on the island was benefitting it. When his lips felt the water dribble onto them, they opened and his tongue drank zealously.

He almost laughed at how he had been hiding from the rain, as if something inside of him was still telling him he ought to be dry and comfortable. He scurried out of the cover of the tree’s limbs and shot his head up, drinking as much as the sky could offer. He took the windbreaker off and fashioned in the sand a sort of bowl. It filled with water. 

Lightning cracked from the sky and set him off his feet. He sat back at the base of the tree and watched his bowl slowly fill. Beyond it, the horizon was bleak and imposing. It stared at him like a black amorphous monster, only lit by the irregular strike of lightning that illuminated different shapes in the dark clouds. It was unsettling. He imagined the storm a thing that was lower and closer to earth than the sky would allow; that it was threatening to crawl to the island and face him head-on—though it wasn’t something that would walk or crawl. No, it would glide or swim along the surface of the earth and attack him in his lungs. 

A new sound frightened him. It was like a horn blown from the lungs of some mammoth creature; metallic, but breathy. It shook away any silly imagination or frightful nightmare, because it was not imagined or dreamed. It was a real thing, something tangible and therefore all the more disturbing. Something far out there crying aloud its low, boisterous call. Was it at him? The sound of distress? The sound of communication? His mind thought of dragons and monsters lurking in the shadows; something large and powerful at the top of an unseen and unfound mountain, that was declaring its descent and hunt. 

He tried to steel his nerves, though every second he was feeling more like a child, lost and afraid. He was no longer proud of his success with the rucksack or the water-bowl. Fear humiliated him and found his place where it ought to be—at the bottom, in the dirt, hugging the base of a tree-trunk, covered in foolishness and horror. He fell asleep in his torment.

Chapter One

Literary Fiction: Fox Island

A man wakes on an island, deserted and without memory. As he fights to survive and endure the elements of nature, he soon discovers that he is not alone on the island and that his new home has a sinister secret.

Fox Island

Chapter 1

THE TRAVELER woke at the touch of wind and sand prickling his cheeks. It rushed over him and through the mangroves while imitating the sound of the waves crashing on the beach just beneath him. A click beetle made its way nearest him and perched on his hand. It clicked and jumped on his arm as he opened his eyes. He flicked his wrist and let the thing fall from the back of his forearm. A large wind swelled up again and the trees bent so loudly, he wondered if they would fall over on him. 

Finally, he sat up, brushing the sand from his face and shoulders. He could feel the sun on his reddened bare-back. He wore only shorts and one brown loafer; a leather watch on his left wrist. 

Something is in men that propels us forward even when we don’t know what is necessarily beyond us; the necessity to move on regardless of information or the lack thereof. Survival is what is important, and movement is rudimentary in survival. 

He did not remember where he was, or how he came to be on this beach. He assumed he was a ship-wreck, though he couldn’t see signs of it. The waves were at his feet, and he rather not let the tide come in much further upon him, before getting up and deciding to camp for the night or scout for his company. He looked about, left and right, and found another shoe run up on the beach, some fifteen-feet from him. He stood to retrieve it, and as he did, he realized how unstable the ground was; or perhaps his own feet were. He fell over immediately; the sand shifting from beneath him, scaring the click beetle away. 

He did his best to stand again, this time with more success; one foot flexed into the sand, letting it riddle his toes; the other foot sat awkward and cock-eyed from the loafer, like anyone who hasn’t yet discovered how uncomfortable it is to walk on a beach in shoes. He ventured forth, aiming to retrieve the other loafer, yet inevitably falling again only half the distance to it. He abandoned his idea to walk and quickly crawled his way to the shoe, promptly putting it on when he reclaimed it. He stood again with the feeling of accomplishment and humanity. At least he had his shoes. 

The beach’s song was soothing, and its repetitive nature lulled him; nonetheless, he established in his heart that he was best to get away from it. Inside he knew that the beach he was leaving may be the thing that would save him, some vessel or shipmate, but for now it was a distraction; one that he couldn’t afford to rest near. He needed to know why he was on this beach, and furthermore, how he would get off of it. While he had energy in his muscles, he needed to use them wisely and not wasted on charm. The waves, wind and insects may have sounded pleasant and soporific, but they brought with them a disquieting and alerting sound—or perhaps, the lack of sound; one often takes for granted the reassuring human and mechanical noises in the world around them. But once they are gone, they take security with them. He felt underneath him an ugly sense of urgency. 

Mostly it hid behind an almost optimistic and evidently steady perspective to work slowly and confidently at whatever lay before him, making camp, finding rations, and surviving for as long as he need like Robinson Crusoe. This led him to the sensation of adventure and fame—but underneath it, a thing reminded him he was much more simple and cowardice than he liked to admit; it was a lingering and ugly despondency that he may die here, or worse, may already be dead. 

And it was an ugly thing, for it destroyed the power and beauty of the paradise he had awakened on. The water was thin and vibrant, slowly crashing against the bay. The outer ridges of his beach (for so he already began to think of it as his) spanned some two miles before bending harshly outward toward the horizon, and then flexing back again, before disappearing out of view. He decided the bay was too good to leave permanently, but that he should at least find his way to the other side of one of the ridges, or beyond into the jungle, in search of humanity or supplies. 

Like any man at a crossroads whose choice doesn’t really amount to much difference, he made a religious choice to believe one way up the beach was better than the other down; he made that right was better than the left. It wasn’t only until much later that he realized his right may have been left if he were facing the other direction. 

He tried again at walking, and this time his loafers did much better. He could tell there was plenty of life on the beach—crabs, gulls, insects and lizards—so the part of him that worried of survival hushed; at the least, he would need to grow fond of eating insects and raw crab, which men have had to survive with much worse. After a few grueling hundred yards, the shore came to a rocky enclave; the waves were more violent and punished him for trying to stand. He fell numerous times, breaking open his shins and ankles on the crag and barnacles, before retreating to the former side of the beach. 

He realized that he wouldn’t be able to cross this portion of the shoreline without venturing deeper into the jungle. He had already made up in his mind that he would have to scour through it for supplies and food at some point, but it wasn’t until this moment that he realized he was just afraid of the jungle as he was of the beach. But his fear of the jungle was quite different. The beach brought with it a fear of tranquility and slowly dying in well-being; the jungle brought a fear of the unknown and the hunt out there. No one could possibly know what was on the other side of that tree-line. 

He shook his fears, quit like a man, and proclaimed all that as nonsense and boyish imaginations. He stepped forward and found on the other side of the tree-line an open path that he presumed belonged to wildlife. He noticed at once, how much dimmer the ocean’s volume was on this end of the tree-line. The wind quickened and poured down from the canopy. Underneath the raucous wind, he could hear only the faint whispers of katydids and crickets somewhere far in the jungle and singing as loud as possible; intermittently a seagull’s caw would ring out. He continued on the path until it too became insurmountable, and forced him to find a less structured, meandering way through the jungle. 

With great fortune that both felt random and predestined, he came upon a large mango tree. His heart elated as he raced to it and began eating promptly from the sweet nectar tree. None of the mangos were altogether ripe, and most were tough and meaty; nonetheless, it gave him hope again that he, until that point, hadn’t realized he was waning. He felt reassured that he wouldn’t die after all. But as soon as that thought crossed his mind, with it again was the fear that we were already dead. Why was this place so flawless, like one of the Fortunate Isles? Had his soul washed ashore after his body was lost at sea? Perhaps all of this was some trick of a lesser god and he was the pawn caught inside of it. The pathway was so simple, and it led him irrevocably to this mango tree. 

The lack of humanity and purpose was driving him mad. It was a madness that few men experience—the madness of not knowing what to do when no one is there to tell you what next. He inadvertently looked at his watch. It was no longer moving. But it reminded him that somewhere out there beyond the ocean were men and women still ticking away at their clocks and regime. He would be okay. He just need to decide and take one step at a time. 

It wouldn’t be good to fall asleep in the jungle, so he stuffed two mangos into each of his shorts’ pockets, grabbed a large handful of them, and set off back toward his beach. He fancied how many more he could carry if he had a shirt to haul them. But the idea was fruitless, and he thought it better for himself not to count his want but his gain. 

He found the path in the jungle again with little complication. But soon discovered that it must have had multiple partitions, for he was now cutting harsher turns and alleys through the overhanging pepper trees, ferns, and palms, than he had on his first trek. 

Much to his delight, it spit him out on the beach again, but at a different portion of the bay. He had already forgotten how painful the wind was here; the sand splintered his eyes and ears, bowing his head in submission. He had somehow found his way further down the bay, past the rocky enclave. He said a prayer of gratitude and again felt very accomplished of himself that he had not only explored half of the bay now but also found a viable source of food for days ahead. 

Before him, just at the base of the tree-line, stood a powerfully massive ceiba tree. Its limbs were as thick as his torso and its roots widened out before uprooting and moving circular around the beach; instead of the harsh sand, tree leaves and dirt covered the center; this created a natural bedding that he could sit inside to shield him from the wind. He resolved it would make a fine shelter for him, both from weather and wildlife. 

Night fell upon him, and its volume quite surprised him. While part of him knew that nocturnal animals would make sound to communicate and search through the darkness, nothing in his imagination quite prepared him for the cacophony. Tree frogs and dart frogs croaked, bats and geckos chirped, and monkeys howled at each other. Branches swayed, raindrops fell from the leaves they held onto all day, and invisible footsteps crunched in the darkness. Over all of it was the sound of the ocean rising and falling, crashing and sinking. It was deafening.

He ate a mango before laying his head down and resting. He stared at the sky in wonder of where he had come from. He involuntarily tried to tell time again by looking at his watch. Accordingly, time had stood still. He took it off his wrist and tried blowing any sand and water out of the thin metallic grooves. Unsurprisingly, it was no use. He decided to keep it. It reminded him that he didn’t belong here. He placed it on a large root next to his head, imitating the act of keeping house. Then he fell asleep. 

Short Stories

Short Stories
for God’s Grown-up Children

Please enjoy the first Chapter to Short Stories.
Below you will find further information and where to purchase your own copy of the full book.

Short Stories: for God’s Grown-up Children

Part 1: Meeting God

In the fall of 2006, I walked into my first semester of World Religions at a community college in my hometown Cocoa, Florida. The air was stale and the room brown and amber, lit by the kind of pitiful fluorescent lighting that gives you a minor headache in thirty minutes or less. I found a seat like I always did, alone at the center of the room, so I didn’t come off too lazy like the guys in the back or too astute like the girls in the front. The attendance was what you would expect from any night class at a community college, thin and ranging from 18 to 150 in age. 

Our teacher was already at his desk, doing his best to look busy. He was an older man, balding. The kind of guy that prides himself on being a professor, and carries himself like he has been working at Harvard, rather than a community college for the last twenty years. He introduced himself and got right into the material. He compared himself to another World Religions professor at the school that only taught on Christianity, Judaism and Islam (“the Big Three”). He informed us that he planned on getting through as many religions as possible with us, spending no more than a week on any one of them. 

He was well spoken and seemed genuine. The kind of uncle you have growing up that is the really rich one your parents don’t seem to like, but you don’t understand why because he has a pool. He delivered the class orientation and opened it up to questions for anyone. After a few inquisitive people tried to get him to reveal his personal religion, he told us he wouldn’t tell us until the last day of class. But if anyone could guess it on the final, he would give him or her extra credit. 

Finally, the first class was over and I was walking back to my car under the night sky, able to breathe the fresh air again. It was a beautiful night, and I felt really glad to be alive at 18 years old.

I walked to my old ’94 Nissan, talking to Jesus. All my life, I grew up in a Christian household, in a very conservative neighborhood, in a very Christian county, in a very Christian country. I was proud and happy about this, but in my adolescent years, I would often think about the 18 year old on the other side of the planet, worshipping Allah with all their heart. And they were doing it because it was what they had grown up in. It was their culture. It was their life. 

I knew my God. And never for a second did I doubt He was my Savior. But I also knew He was a confident God. I told Him I wanted to “test” Him. I wanted to go through this class, asking every hard question to Him. What was so attractive to someone else about their religion? Why was Jesus still the answer? How could I answer a Buddhist’s questions, if I never faced them myself? Thus, I began my World Religions class in the fall of 2006 and a very trying and educational period of life for me. 

I listened and learned as we went through each religion from different parts of the world. Each one, I knocked out of the sky with a club in the shape of the cross. Though I did thoroughly enjoy learning some of them, all the religions had one recurring theme. Ironically enough, it was religion

Mankind is a sucker for religion, because we feel the need to control. And it is the fear of man that has created religion, fear of what we may or may not do if we are not told what to do. It is the fear that our children won’t be wise enough to follow Christ or do what is right. That is what drives us to create religions. We are afraid that God will not be good enough to take care of us. So we give ourselves boundaries and rules to hold us inside of a barricade of laws. 

When the Jews out of Egypt looked down at the ground and saw that God had covered it in food just for them, they exclaimed, “What is it?” Then they packaged it away in their nice containers because they knew better than God to let it just sit out, even though He told them not to.1

They knew to keep it safe and locked up before the next day because it may never come back, and then they would go hungry. Thus, it was covered in maggots and became rotten. The thing that God had provided for them became a plague because of their fear in trusting Him. Religion is a demonic spirit that tells you and me we know better than God. 

Religion is full of it. In religion, man’s hard work is what gets him taken care of, never God’s love. Even in Christianity, we see, riddled throughout, different teachings on man’s failure to receive God’s grace. But the problem with this thought is grace was never man’s idea. It was God’s. 

The day came when my professor spoke on Christianity. I was so excited to hear taught the history of Jesus and what Christians believe, because honestly for all I could perceive, our teacher had been very unbiased toward each religion. He gave them respect, pointed out positives and negatives and always kept his speeches very historically based, rather than opinionated.

We got into Christianity, and I immediately felt some little, but painful jabs at it. I wanted to believe that maybe, because I was a Christian, it just felt that way coming from his emotionless dialogue. Perhaps, the Muslim next to me felt the same tension when he heard the professor speak on Islam. 

But then there were more jabs. “Did you all know that half the New Testament was actually written by a man who never even met Jesus?” the professor asked with more than a shred of indignation on his lips.

I looked around the room, spotting the group of 60-and-up in the back, nodding with their mouths agape. They were token Christian old ladies from Sunday school at the local Methodist chapel, and yet they acted like they just received the revelation of a lifetime.

“Did you all know that Moses was actually polytheistic? Here it is in the text where he wrote, ‘We shall create man in OUR image’. He uses the word ‘our’ to describe God because he was not monotheistic like many now believe. He and Abraham were most likely Zoroastrians and not Jewish at all.” 

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! 

What in the world was this guy even saying?! I looked over at the empty seat next to me, imagining Jesus in it. “Am I allowed to jump up and rip this guy to shreds, Lord?” Where was the straight history talk now? This was a lot more than just a basic understanding of the Christian religion. Now he was blatantly twisting the Bible to disprove itself. 

I got through the night class and left, more than flustered by how the whole experience went. The rest of the course went back to normal, and the semester ended. The final came, and no one could guess the professor’s religion, which honestly didn’t even matter. 

I passed the class, and as we received our tests back, he left us all with one final divinely inspired thought. “Remember, if ever in life you feel like you have finally found the answer…” Pause for dramatic effect. “…you’ve already forgotten the question.” 

I sat in my seat, most likely wearing every emotion on my face for a few minutes, as I chewed that piece of crap over in my mouth. What in the world did that even mean? And why did so many of my classmates “a-ha” at that? 

For at least an hour I chewed on that with Jesus. Together. And that’s one thing I really love about Jesus. He will sit and chew on a piece of crap with you for a whole hour if it means you find a solution. 

The conundrum the professor created was, “How do I find the answer to a question that I seemingly lose as soon as I begin to find it?” Perhaps, more accurately what he meant was, “If you think you have found God or purpose, you have already forgotten that you’re not supposed to”

The problem with all of this thinking is: I would not have the question in my heart if I weren’t supposed to answer it. It’s the very reason God wrote eternity on the hearts of men and put a hole on the inside of us the size of a galaxy. Because He wanted us to come looking for Him.

The question my teacher was asking all along was the wrong one. He kept asking, “Can I find God?” When in reality he didn’t want to. If he wanted to, he would have started by now, instead of claiming its impossibility as a philosophical paradox. And the reason he didn’t want to was because of who he believed God to be. And that is why so many of us fear searching for God. Because we are afraid of what we will find. 

In religion, we start to imagine God in man’s image, rather than the other way around. It’s why Greek mythology is such a beautiful mess, not unlike that of a soap opera. The more we create God in our image, the more we project all of our own faults on Him. God’s wrath must be unjust and dangerous because I am out of control when I am angry. God’s wealth must be greedy because I could never have that much money and not be selfish. God’s love must be conditional. God’s grace must be circumstantial. God’s forgiveness must be earned. 

In religion, we project ourselves onto the image of God, rather than us being a projection of His. So the real question my teacher should have been asking is not “Can I find God?” He should be asking, “What is God like?”

The Proud God

I remember in the winter of ’98, just after my eleventh birthday, going to the movie theatre with my dad. We were seeing The Prince of Egypt2on its opening weekend. Beforehand, I had little interest in the movie, but my dad was especially excited about it. And because it was just the two of us going, this was a special occasion, indeed. 

For those who are unfamiliar with Dreamworks’ first real hit, The Prince of Egypt is the animated story of Moses. And honestly, it does a pretty darn good job at telling it. Thus, the first real imagery of this masterful tale was bolstered to my imagination. 

My dad was so intrigued by it. His little grunts and groans throughout told me that it was hitting all the right beats and staying true to the source material. It had Moses, the stereotypically good-looking Egyptian. It had the cool action shots of crocodiles swimming by a baby in a basket. It had singing and dancing. It had people spilling their full glasses in every scene. Which I always wondered, was it to show the viewer there was liquid in those cups or that everyone had little concern for drought? Either way, it was always frustrating to me to see so much beverage spilt needlessly.

Then this moment came in the movie, where a flaming bush started speaking. And Val Kilmer’s voice said the words, “I am that I am.” And somehow I knew that strange little phrase meant a whole lot more than I could comprehend in the moment. 

In my years after The Prince of Egypt, I was really starting to learn who God was, and more than that, what I believed about Him. Up until then, He was Sunday school and routine. He was that Thing that “loved us” and that Thing we loved back. 

About the age of thirteen, I really started to press into knowing the role of Jesus. And honestly, I had a very hard time understanding this three in one, Trinity thing. It all seemed a little odd to me. God was some mean guy who made the Old Testament, Jesus was this cool hipster that made the New Testament and the Holy Spirit was imaginary, or something.

I remember having a conversation with my dad on the way to school one morning. We only had about five minutes of travel time each morning, but many of those conversations resonate with me more than fifteen years later. We were discussing God, and I said something of how God really wasn’t that important to me; Jesus was all that mattered, and God was just some guy I didn’t really care about.

As I was growing up, my dad always had this quality about him when I said something theologically stupid. His whole demeanor would change and his tone would have this sort of intense authority that could smack the fear of God into you so fast, you knew you would never think it again, for all of eternity. 

He said something like, “You better fear God. He’s God.”

And that was that. I suddenly knew exactly what he meant. My dad loved me. And my dad scared me. And in that moment, BAM, I knew that God loved me. And God scared me. And I never thought otherwise again. I could look at God and see someone so terrifying. The most terrifying thing of all was that He loved me more than anything. It was haunting. 

I believe God is so infinite in His attributes, that even He has a hard time describing Himself. When it comes right down to it, God is much bigger than we could ever truly express with mere words. Perhaps, this is why He gives us His own language, tongues3, to speak with Him so often.

He has given Himself names like God Almighty4, Master5, Banner6, Shepherd7, and the One that is There8. He is the Beginning and End9, Everlasting God10, Jealous11, Provider12, Peace13, and Lord of Hosts14. He is God of the Breakthrough15. God is Love16.

Before understanding the motivations of God and ultimately what He intends for us, we must understand who He actually is and what He thinks about us. Without knowing His heart, we can never know His intent. Over the last few years, God has revealed to me more and more how proud of a God He really is. 

There is a place in Israel, just at the base of Mount Hermon called Pan’s Grotto. It’s quite fascinating, the history of this little hole in a mountain. The people in Jesus’ day actually called it the Gates of Hell. And though it doesn’t look too menacing now, a lot of bad stuff went down in this place. The worshippers of Pan would actually throw sacrifices, human or not, into this hole. If the body drowned, Pan was satisfied. If the blood ran out, Pan was angry. The people believed the cave to be a gateway to Hell.

As truly awful as that sounds, this is also where Jesus stood with His disciples in Matthew 16, when He said to Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”17 Sometimes, we lose in translation some of the visceral reality of Jesus’ statements. We know this verse to mean that Jesus was going to build his church on Peter, “the rock”, who became the first Pope, and that the Christian faith would never be stopped. But in an even more real sense, Jesus was standing in front of one of the deadliest locations in Israel, and proclaiming that God’s church would not be built in a secluded pretty corner of a garden. He pointed at the rock that hung over Pan’s Grotto and proclaimed the Church would be built over the corpse of a demon that would never be worshipped again. 

That is who our God is. A proud God. He doesn’t care to share space with a demon. He moves in and says, “It’s Mine.”

When I was about eight years old, I went fishing with my father off the side of Indian River in Cocoa, FL. He had just bought a cast net for the first time in his life, and we were eager to figure out how to use this crazy contraption. 

My father was not a fisherman. Nonetheless, he was convinced that he could master cast netting in no time. So there we were, both taking turns throwing this ball of nylon into the salty river water. I don’t remember either of us catching anything except a small seahorse, which honestly was probably more interesting than any fish we would have caught. 

But this story is not one of my favorites. In fact, it’s one of the most hated stories of my childhood. One that haunted me for many years, and still makes my stomach turn when I think of it. 

I grew bored of watching my dad cast, curse and pull the ball of nylon again and again off the side of the dock. I went searching for anything interesting to do, chasing fiddler crabs and silver fish round the rocks on the bay, when a boy about the same age as me, came running up.

He mockingly exclaimed, “Hey, hey! Your dad just lost his whole cast net in the water! He threw the whole rope in!”

 I don’t even know why I responded the way I did, but somehow I had a humiliation rush over me, greater than anything I’d ever felt toward my father. 

I retorted, “He’s not my dad! He’s my…my uncle.”

Immediately I felt sick. My whole insides cringed and writhed. I looked down at the ground as the boy ran away with a shrug. Who was this boy anyway, that I let decide how I should feel about my dad?! I had abandoned my father. And suddenly I didn’t feel like a son anymore. 

I walked over to Marvin. He was doing what he does best, laughing off the whole ordeal. Some fisherman had helped him hook the net and get it out of the river. He said something about how he was just beginning to get the hang of it when he let the whole thing go. Then the rest of the trip became a blur and we were going home.

I couldn’t look at him. I sinned against my father. And it felt like I didn’t deserve to call him “dad” anymore. I felt similar to how I imagine Peter felt, when he let a little girl scare him into cursing and denying Jesus, when Jesus needed Peter the most. The same way he wouldn’t let himself return to ministry, I didn’t want to let myself return to sonship with my father. 

And sadly, it took years for me to confess it to my dad and let go of it. Once I did, he mostly shrugged it off and thought nothing of it. But the truth is, he deserved better than that. He deserved my pride in him. Even when I was embarrassed by it.

A few years ago, I remember seeing a British comedian on television poke fun at the United States. His big shtick was how our Senate was asked publicly if anyone in the House denounced evolution and believed God created the Earth. At that, three men stood. This was hilarious to the comedian of course; that our government could actually have men so foolish to believe in God and that evolution was a bunch of crock. 

But while he said this, I muted him with the remote and thanked God for men in our government doing the hard thing. Honestly, I know there were many more men and women in that room that wanted to stand and fearfully wouldn’t. And I was proud of my brothers that did stand in that moment, in the face of ridicule, for our Father. 

Our God is a proud God. Not because of whom He says He is. But because of whom we say He is. He says, “I am that I am.” You can’t get more hipster than that! It’s the essence of The Beatles and the ‘let it chill generation’. And yet, because of us, it holds the weight of the universe. 

Because we know who that I AM really is. He is the Maker of it all. He held the stars in His left hand, and threw the galaxies into existence with His right. His voice has traveled since the beginning of time, carrying the invisible attributes that hold the fabric of our mortal bodies together. He is the God of the Universe, all power, all might, wrapped into glory. The stars vibrate in song of His goodness. The dolphin jump, eagles soar, lions roar, all to bring Him glory. And He is the One that let Himself become mortal and die for us. In a flash, He could wrap time on itself and begin all over again. Instead, He held death on His shoulders and breathed His last painful breath. All that we would have pride in Him. 

That is why we fear God, as my father taught me on that car drive. Because He deserves it. Because He is the Great I Am. That is what makes Him a proud God. You and me. 

Our youth ministry The New Thing holds a week long camp every summer, and I’m fortunate enough to have been a part of it for over half of my lifetime. For a few years even, I had the honor of being the worship leader. We treat this thing like the Super Bowl of all youth ministry. It is youth ministry. Loudness, fun, late nights, worship and the Word. And every year, it is an amazing thing to see young people laying out their lives before God in worship. I’ve seen hundreds give their lives to Christ at this event. Hundreds get filled with the Holy Spirit. Lives changed forever in one night. People healed. People set free.

There is a really wonderful thing that happens when you take a couple hundred young people, pumped and ready to hear from God, out into the woods to spend time worshiping for an entire week. You can rest assured you will receive a ton of revelation. 

In the summer of 2014, it was no different. While celebrating our camp, I remember seeing many lives changed. People who had struggled for years about understanding God’s Word were getting filled with the Holy Spirit. Lives were coming to Jesus. Left and right, people were talking about the awesome new revelations they had received from God. And I was sitting in the middle of it wondering, “What about me?”

Here I am, the worship leader of this whole thing, leading a couple hundred people into God’s courts each night, and I wasn’t getting anything. Don’t get me wrong, it was awesome to give God glory and to see lives encounter Him. But where was my “moment”? Where was my awesome new thing that was going to give me five new sermons and ten new worship songs? I needed that thing to change the world! And I had better receive it now. And theoretically speaking, if this many people were getting something, I should probably get multiple things. I am that great, right?

It was the last night of camp. Which by default, means it has to be the craziest in worship. There was a moment where the entire mass of people were singing this song “Set a Fire” again and again, just the chorus, three lines, for over half an hour! And that’s when God spoke. 

Here it was! The moment I was dying to hear. Change me forever! What is the power you have bestowed on me to carry into the rest of the world?

“I’m proud of you.”

That was it?

He simply said, “I’m proud of you.”

I had no idea that such a simple statement could actually shake my whole core for so long. Here I thought it would be some majestic revelation of the Word no one had ever seen before. But what He needed me to know and understand, beyond a shadow of a doubt, was His pride in me. 

You see, what I didn’t realize at the time was that my ministry was on a standstill because of depression. Something I had faced for many years and something I think many of this generation face. 

There is this insane culture in our world today. By the age of fourteen, we need to know what college and career we are going to have. We have to have our life completely planned out for the next twenty years. And if you don’t, you’ll miss out on all that life has to offer. Because at the age of 30, all life ends, and that’s when you finally get married and do the things no one really wants to do. 

Saying it out loud may seem like total lunacy, but in reality, this is how most people between puberty and 30 feel right now. I’ve actually had many one on one conversations with students who are at the brink of anxiety attacks because they are going into their final year of high school and still don’t know what career they are supposed to have for the rest of their life! 

And some of that fearful thinking was in me. Piled on by the thought that I’ve made too many mistakes for my ministry to ever have any real sustenance, and that I’m getting started too late anyway. 

Guess what, God uses broken material18. He knows exactly whom He is dealing with when He looks at us. He turned a stuttering selfish Moses into the savior of His people and the author of the first five books in our Bible. Elijah was proud. Jonah was racist. Jacob was selfish. Matthew was a crook. Paul was a murderer. And all of them, God looked at well before they were ready and said, “This one. This is the one I’m going to use to change the world.” 

Look at David. Probably the greatest ministry in the Old Testament rests on David’s shoulders. And he was groomed for the position while he sat on the backside of a hill, singing to his sheep and battling off lions. David was an incredible man, and yet, deep into his flourishing ministry, he murdered a man and stole his wife. God looks at you and knows exactly who you are just as any father looks at their children and doesn’t see where they are today but who they will become. 

I can remember a day that my oldest daughter AnnaBelle and I were playing outside of a restaurant waiting for a table inside to open up. She was a little over two years old and was practicing her balancing on the curbs in the parking lot as I walked behind her. Round and round she went for about thirty minutes, getting more and more excited and starting to run. Finally, it happened. She slipped and completely ate it, face first into the curb. My whole body cringed, and I reached down in a hurry, fully expecting a bloody, crying face to look back at me. Instead, she pushed herself up from the ground and under her breath she let out, “That was a good one, Dad…”

I tend to laugh at unexpected, and frankly surreal circumstances. And I couldn’t help but giggle at her apparent apathy toward her injury. She was fine. She pulled herself up and continued on her balancing.

Now, I could be frustrated with her for falling. How dare she not know how to balance on a curb properly! But that would make me a lousy father. Instead, when I see her wobbling around on those curbs, and every once in a while slip, I see the lady she is becoming. And when I see her push herself up from an injury and exclaim, “That was a good one!” my heart tells me, she is going to change the world. That’s how God looked at those men and women in the Bible. The ones that crashed and burned and shook it off with a word to their Father. 

So there I stood on the stage at camp. My heart was soaring, as I watched more and more teenagers getting moved by the power of God. And here was my God, knowing fully whom I was, simply saying, “I’m proud of you.”

Depression died in me that day. And I have carried that simple statement in my heart for years. It is one that denounces everything the Enemy could use to come against me. Nothing else matters if I know my Father is proud to be my Father. 

God the Father

In the Old Testament, God is referred to as Father only fifteen times. Once Jesus shows up, He is called Father over one hundred sixty times in the Gospels alone. This is not an accident. All of our relationship with God is built on Jesus. And Jesus can only describe Him as Dad. Tearing the veil and destroying what religion was, Jesus has restored us to the place of recognizing our God the way He wants to be seen, as a Father. 

Now, this gets a little fuzzy in some circles of our Christian family as some would say this is labeling God as a male and that is wrong. And perhaps it is wrong to designate God, a spirit, as having male dominant properties. But all of it is misinterpreted when sexual male and sexual female qualities, which a spirit doesn’t have, are at the forefront of what we consider male and female. This is not what a he or she really is. Outside of living bodies, we are much more than the natural sexual properties our bodies exhibit. My spirit determines the natural reaction of my body. In my spirit, I am masculine, and thus male in my flesh. Not male in my flesh determining the masculinity in my spirit.   

C.S. Lewis put it this way in Perelandra19:

“Our ancestors did not make mountains masculine because they projected male characteristics into them. The real process is the reverse. Gender is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex. Sex is, in fact, merely the adaptation to organic life… Female sex is simply one of the things that have feminine gender; there are many others… Masculine is not attenuated male, nor feminine attenuated female.”

Everything in this world that we see as masculine (like an oak) or feminine (like a willow) is based not on sex, but instead on the true genders of God, and their supernatural characteristics. God is both Masculine and Feminine, having birthed Himself into both man and woman. In fact, it was Himself that He breathed first into Adam, not solely masculinity, but femininity also. And that femininity is what He took out, in order to create Eve next to him. God carries both the qualities of warrior (masculine), and a “hen [gathering] her chicks”20 (feminine). 

I would happily admit that I hold both masculine and feminine qualities. Just as my wife holds feminine and masculine qualities. But I do not equate myself as the female sex. I am a man built on dominant masculine qualities, who recognizes that in me are the abilities to be a mother to my children, if and when my wife is absent. (Note: this would mean in a woman, the feminine is dominant and masculine recessive.)

If anything, this is a celebration of what gender is, rather than a divisive line trying to separate man and woman. Our gender is built on the fabric of spiritual characteristics, not defined by our bodies. It is built by the spirit put into us by God, not by what we equate ourselves with because of biological nature, or our personal experiences.

This puts in mind the discussion of what sex is, and what the transgender argument states. In the past, the generally conceived thought was that your biological sex defined you as male or female. The freethinking New Age opinion now believes that your sex is defined by your psyche, instead of biology. 

In fact, it is neither. It’s spiritual. Masculine and Feminine are not based on natural substance or emotional impulse. God breathed a female or male into you. And your body acquired the physical attributes tied to it (masculine or feminine). This is why no one can change it. Because your body didn’t determine it, nor did your psyche. God’s Spirit did.

I cannot decide my gender based on an emotional declaration, for the same reason I cannot let my emotional impulsivity declare I am a murderer. My emotions built on the fabric of my natural body, being led by exhaustion, fear, rage, hunger and pride, have told me to do very sinful things to the fool who cut me off in traffic! But those thoughts do not define me.

Paul’s words about “taking every thought captive” come to mind. If a thought can distinguish something in me that is feminine and in turn tell me I am a woman in a man’s body, I must be ready to take it captive and see that it is untrue. My gender is not determined by an emotion or feeling, but determined by the Spirit of God when He breathed a man into me. 

Contrarily, much of the Christian world would fight against this awkward feeling of feminism, deem it effeminate and unholy and thus be afraid of showing any emotion whatsoever. And this is what leads us to the whole mess of being offended by “Is God a man or a woman?” or “Can women be pastors?” and even “Christian homophobia” in the first place.

If my emotions can sway me foolishly, how much more can my personal experiences in my developmental years lead me to believe something wrong about myself or the people around me? Racism is the best example of this. How can an intelligent American man be raised to whole-heartedly believe another man is lesser than him based on his skin tone? Because an emotional and psychological guide is a poor excuse for the spiritual truth of whom you and I really are. And we are lied to our entire lives by the Kingdom of Darkness. Our spirit must become louder than our soul and body.

Thus, gender is neither built on biological nor psychological principles. Your biological gender is a product of the spiritual dominance of either masculine or feminine inside you. And no feeling, idea, belief or psyche can change that fact. No one can decide or finally “understand” they are a different sex, because their sex has no authority over the spirit already living inside of them. 

Masculinity and Femininity are spiritual characteristics, and perhaps we will one day even shake their hands. But until then, we should recognize that God breathed both, therefore is both, and we should stop fretting over whether God is a male or female. Instead, we should celebrate that He is in all things.

And yet, He calls Himself, Father (a clear masculine symbol). He calls the Church, His Bride. Jesus, the Son of God, calls Him “Abba, Father”.

He attributes Himself as the masculine caretaker, the protector, the warrior, because it is His masculinity that He wants His children to be aware of most. He will always be there, a firm and powerful foundation. His feminine qualities are seen when He is in worship with us, whisking us about, full of delight. His masculinity is shown as the mountain He is. And in a world full of darkness and sin, it is a good and holy thing to see Him as that mountain that never shudders in the wind. Perhaps, one day in paradise, we will see much more of his femininity than ever before. For now, I am happy He is our masculine “strong tower”21

Our first two daughters were born at Cape Canaveral Hospital in Merritt Island, Florida. We had all our checkups, both pre and post-natal, for them there. Needless to say, we were there often. And I sort of gained this appreciation for their chicken fingers. It wasn’t just a liking, as much as it was a deep, deep love for those golden, crispy chicken delights. 

But it wasn’t all too often I would get them once the girls started growing up. The hospital was really out of the way from our normal day to day, and you had to be passing a particular part of the afternoon to get them just right. 

One day, the family was passing by and I hadn’t eaten anything but an apple and cup of coffee the whole day. Carlia looked at me and encouraged me to go grab a serving of fingers and fries. 

Not to be confused with a fast food joint, this is a hospital, and waiting for food can take a while as only one cook is serving four people in front of you. I sat in line, chatting with everyone about their day, visit, and all that jazz. But deep down, I just wanted my chicken fingers! 

Finally, it was my turn. The cook took my order and fried them up. He threw them in a Styrofoam container with some French fries and I was off. Back to the car, and rushing home.

Now, maybe you are thinking, “Keith, why don’t you just grab some and eat them in the car on the long drive home?”

Well then you don’t understand how good these chicken fingers are. They are prepared by Heaven, and one cannot simply grab them and eat idly while looking at the road. One needs to properly put them on a ceramic plate and ceremoniously eat them, one by one, in a proper chair at a proper dining table. 

Twenty minutes later, we were home and I went to my spot at the dinner table. We were going on evening time now, and my stomach was really starting to growl. Here they were: my chicken fingers.

I started pouring into them. Slowly and graciously enjoying every bite, when suddenly, my two-year-old daughter AnnaBelle hops up on the chair next to me, smiles, and grabs a whole chicken finger, throwing it into her mouth. 

My wife knows the deal with these chicken fingers. Though she may not understand how good they are, she does understand how much I love them. She quickly started to reprimand AnnaBelle, “Those are daddy’s! Stop that!”

I looked at my sweet, darling daughter and her precious smile. “It’s okay, honey,” I said, “She can have it.”

I leaned over and gave her some of my ketchup and a few fries so she could enjoy her lunch with daddy. She grinned and kept enjoying her little feast. 

If God calls Himself our Father, we need to start looking at Him that way. When God looks at you, He sees His son or daughter. When He looks at you, climbing into the seat next to Him to get what He has, He is eager to give it away. 

There is this incredible story in our Bible about a Gentile woman who came to Jesus to beg Him for healing. The woman comes to Jesus on the road and pleads for Him to heal her daughter. Jesus, believe it or not, ignores her. She continues on, as the disciples tell Jesus to blow her off. At this, He admits that His purpose is not for the Gentile, but for the Jews.

Theologians and scholars would agree that Jesus’ ministry was to the Jew first, and not until after His death and resurrection and after the Holy Spirit came onto the scene, was His ministry finally for all. This is when we first see the disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, doing God’s work in all the nations, at Jesus’ final command. Before this, we see only two instances where Jesus’ ministry coincides with the Gentiles, and this is one of them. 

Here this woman is begging Jesus, and He ultimately tells her that His hands are tied. It is not His duty to be helping her. At this, the woman cries out, 

“Lord, help me!”

But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”22

For context, we can look at Jesus’ ministry thus far. Just before this stroll past Sidon and Tyre, the Pharisees condemned Jesus for His disciples being infidels that do not wash their hands properly at suppertime. To which He replied that the whole lot of them were nothing but a bunch of hypocrites giving lip service to God, vainly worshiping Him and declaring their own personal beliefs as the doctrine of Heaven. And then His own disciples cater to the fact that He just “offended” the Pharisees. No crap, Peter! 

With “…are you still without understanding” just having come off His lips, Jesus departs and meets this crazy Gentile woman begging Him to heal her daughter. His response, probably spritzed with a bit of frustration, is that He can’t do anything for her. He’s there for the Jews.

Then the woman gets even bolder. She saw what these Jews did in response to Jesus. She is watching the Lord of heaven and earth walk before her, and the Jews are condemning Him for not teaching his employees how to wash hands properly before returning to work. 

“Lord, even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

Jesus is moved. This woman would stop at nothing. She knew He had the power to save her daughter, and she wanted it. Just like my daughter AnnaBelle saw that I had a piece of heavenly chicken on my dinner plate. She wanted it. And she got up and took it. I didn’t slap my daughter for getting what she wanted. I was proud that my daughter knew what her father was like. She was confident that her father loved her and that her father would give her anything she desired. 

This Gentile woman was confident, amidst fear of persecution, that Jesus was here because He loved her. And she was going to get what she needed. And how does Jesus respond? He doesn’t slap her, push her in the dirt, and say, “No, dog!” He celebrates her! He stands before the men that were just fighting over hand washing procedures and says to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed that very hour.23

Jesus was willing to break His own rules of the supernatural, which honestly I will never fully understand in this earthly life, because this woman wanted what He had and would stop at nothing to get it. God is waiting, hungry as a Father, to give His children all that they desire. Are we afraid of what His response will be if we go asking? What will happen if we throw ourselves up into the seat next to Him and grab His dinner? As a proud Father, He is waiting for you to see.

One of my favorite moments in every day is the moment I first open my front door, coming home from work. My children rush to me full of delight. It doesn’t matter what toy they are holding and playing with. It doesn’t matter what TV show they are watching. It doesn’t matter what they are eating. They drop it all and come running, exclaiming, “Daddy, daddy! Daddy is home!” 

I pick them up in my arms and spin them around. Sometimes, I have to rush to the bathroom, but most of the time, all I want is to see them and hold them. 

I want my heart’s desire to always be one of excitement when my Father walks in the room. In the House of Worship or the house of Alderman, I want my expectation to be for my Father’s entrance. So that when it happens, nothing else matters. Everything is dropped as I run to be beside my Father. He deserves it. 

As much as I want that, I have learned a very important lesson while being a dad. God wants it too. His favorite moment in the day is when He enters the room and you come running to be by His side. And not only so He would get praised and honored, but because He loves you. 

I love asking my two year old what her day was like. It is never very clear and always a bit broken in sentences, but I don’t care. I want to hear her voice tell me what she did. Because I love her. God, the Father, loves you. And He loves being with you. He loves talking about your day with you, the good, bad and ugly. 

Sometimes we can get wrapped up in ourselves and tell social media and every friend in our contacts list about the crappy day we have just had, but we forget to talk with our Father about it. Either out of neglect, or some stupid prideful assumption that God wouldn’t want to hear about our griping. 

On the contrary, God would much rather hear your griping than never hear from you at all. It would be best to not gripe, and just as my children must learn and grow, we must too. But I would hate it if my children never spoke to me because they thought I didn’t want to hear what they had to say. 

He wants to hear about what we are thinking. He wants to hear about what we are feeling and learning. It’s okay if some of it is wrong. In fact, most of it will probably be wrong. When my daughters talk to me about their day or what they are learning with mommy or at school, there is usually a very large chunk of it that is incorrect. But that’s okay. Because they are learning and I am doing it with them! 

He is a father. He knows His kids are kinda stupid sometimes. That doesn’t change His pride in you. Like I said before, a father’s pride is not found in who their child is but who they are becoming. 

He wants to play with you. Why would we have mouths that smile and lungs that laugh uncontrollably, unless we were designed to have fun? God is the God of Fun. It’s time we stopped focusing on all the negative persecution and/or due diligence and took time to have fun, because our Father wants to play with us. 

I’ll be honest; there is very little part of me that wants to play Princess Doctor in the middle of my evening. But there is a massive part of my heart that wants to experience what my daughters are doing and what makes them happy. 

Paul said, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.”24 This is exactly what he’s talking about. My job is not to sit in a bunker and pray constantly night and day until the day I die. There is no part of Jesus’ ministry that looks like that. 

But Jesus’ ministry does show us that He was always quick to stop and listen to God, quick to pull away with Him when He needed. A life like Jesus’ is accomplished by having God always on our mind. I cannot experience Publix grocery shopping to its fullest until I am aware that I am walking with God down the aisles. And I cannot experience God to His fullest until I am aware that He enjoys doing it with me. 

Purchase at Amazon

“Short Stories for God’s Grown-up Children” will undoubtedly teach you something about yourself, and most importantly, about your Creator. What started as a collection of stories for Keith’s children has turned into a book of lessons for all of God’s children, a book about recognizing God’s heart in every circumstance. A compilation of stories and sermons written with the purpose of making you think, question and understand His goodness. Through personal tales and testimonies, “Short Stories” reveals the love and character of God.


Tall Tales and How to Become One

Please enjoy the first Chapter to Legendary: Tall Tales and How to Become One.
Below you will find further information and where to purchase your own copy of the full book.

Legendary: Tall Tales and How to Become One

Part 1: Desiring Legends

i. the creature from the black lagoon

“The safest road to Hell is the gradual one-the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” – C.S. Lewis

The hot Florida summer sun pierced through the long black limbs of the canopy like a thousand strong fingers crawling across the swampy ground and cypress knees. Cicadas and honeybees sang their vibrating songs in anthem. Squirrels danced and chased one another. Fluttering leaves, shuddering in the breeze, mimicked a green ocean wave standing upright along the riverbank. 

Out of the black underbelly of the forest, came two silhouette figures, slowly trudging through the muddy slop. One carried a ten-foot piece of rebar across his shoulder; the other held a .22 rifle draped across his forearm. Their shoes sloshed in the mud, sinking ankle-deep into the muck as they approached the edge of the river. The older handsome brother stared at the stagnant black water. He jabbed the rebar at the end of the bank. It stuttered in his hands, hitting dry ground only a few inches below the mud. 

He edged himself a few yards down the bank and stabbed at it again. It, too, hit solid ground below the mud. The two men quietly continued their way down the river, stopping to jab at it every few yards. Finally, the rod appeased the young man when it cut through the bank and sunk half its length into the ground. 

Without a word, the young man stepped slowly into the black water, using the rebar to balance himself. The cold shocking river rose up around his belly and torso, stopping just above the chest. He bobbed in the water, positioning his pole about his waist. He made slow methodical jabs under the riverbank into the large cavern the pole had discovered. 

Maneuvering about the edges and crooks of cypress roots and boulders, his pole hit the belly of a beast that came rushing out, straight at his legs, taking him off his feet. Out of the water came the head of a ten-foot alligator. The man and monster stared into one another’s eyes, challenging each to flinch.

“Shoot him, Roy,” the young man said flatly.

On the bank, Marvin Alderman’s younger brother Roy was holding his .22 rifle. He already had the gun up and aimed at the beast. He fired a single shot at the back of the alligator’s eye, only three feet from Marvin’s face. 

The gator went berserk, flipping its body into a death roll, throwing waves and mud everywhere. Marvin was already under the water, diving away from the animal. He came up out of the water a few yards from the affair. He awkwardly laughed and moaned as he pulled himself out next to his brother.  

Roy was still aiming at the water, slowly settling down. The two men waited patiently, their eyes fixed on the gator hole. After a few moments, a large yellow belly rose out of the water. The two laughed and jumped in the water, hauling in their bounty. 

“That’s a new one for the stories.” Marvin exclaimed with a smile on his face, grabbing the massive tail and pulling with all his might. 

“That’s a stupid one for our grandchildren,” Roy replied.

In their short lives, they had cleared dozens of gator holes in the same exact manner. But today, Marvin stared down the barrel of nature’s gun. Today, he looked face-to-face with what monsters’ eyes carry; and today he walked away the victor. There was no shame in him. There was no panic or fear. There were resolve and response. Today, the monster lost and bravery won.

ii. legendary

“Monsters aren’t as scary if you start shining lights on them.” – Wyatt Cenac

As evening came, Jesus looked upon the water and said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”1 

When his disciples, of whom many were fishermen, entered their vessel, they nearly saw the other side of the Sea of Galilee, just over eight miles away. Undoubtedly, they read the sky above; they knew a storm was brewing. Nonetheless, they set out on the boat with Jesus, because He commanded them. 

Soon as just they knew it would, a fierce storm came upon them. “Portside!” Peter screamed at James. 

“—Brace yourselves!” Another wave came crashing over the side of the small ship.

With high waves breaking over the bow, the boat began to fill with water. It fought its way up the torrential waves and came raging down the other side. The greatest of fishermen feared for their lives; today was the day they would see death face-to-face and lose. 

Peter held onto the side of the boat with whatever last muster of faith he had, believing they would get to the other side because the Master told them to go. John couldn’t take it any longer. He rushed to Jesus’ sleeping side. 

“Teacher,” he exclaimed. “Don’t you even care that we’re going to drown?”

Jesus, looking him in the eyes, smiled. He rose to his feet and rebuked the wind, “Silence! Be still!”

Suddenly the wind stopped, the waves dissolved, the stars shone, and there was a great calm. 

The disciples looked about each other, awkwardly wondering what to say and do next.

“Why are you afraid?” Jesus looking at them, asked. “Do you still have no faith?”

On the other side of the Sea of Galilee sat a man, demon-possessed by countless spirits. He was a man that all of Decapolis knew well and feared, so powerful and manic in his demon-possession that he often chewed himself from his chains, attached to the mountainside.2 

When Jesus approached him, the demons writhed in fear and torment, screaming for the man of God to let them be. At this, Jesus commanded the demons out of the man and freed his life forever. When the man came to his senses, he fell at Jesus’ feet and begged for the allowance to follow and serve Him. He bowed before the Man who saved his life and devoted his life to Him. 

But Jesus did something peculiar. 

Regularly, Jesus would accept the entreaty of people to follow; we frequently see Jesus accepting them.3 The only people that He didn’t, were those that chose to walk away after having received the revelation of it being such a hard life.4 Here, we see a man with nothing, ready to follow for the rest of his life, but Jesus refuses him, encouraging the man to return home and tell everyone of what happened to him.5 And then Jesus and His disciples return to their boat and cross back to the other side of the sea.

Part of me knows that Peter, James and John would have been dumbfounded, and a bit frustrated, for lack of a better term. These men risked their lives at the hand of a hurricane, dispirited by their so-called lack of faith, and all to only see one man tied up on the side of a cliff set free from demon-possession and then refused to join them. They witnessed countless demon-possessed men and women set free. Why was this man worth the effort of their lives?

But He was worth it to Jesus. And the fruit of the man’s changed life was invaluable. 

We don’t know how long it took for Jesus and the disciples to return to Decapolis. It may have been a few weeks. It may have been months or a year. Regardless, upon Jesus’ return to this region6, a company of people eagerly awaited the Savior of the demoniac and what He had to bring them. In the Gospel of Mark, Chapter Eight we witness Him perform one of His greatest miracles, feeding four thousand men with only seven loaves of bread in His hands.7 

When Jesus looks at a man or woman, chained to the cliff-side and run over by demonic forces, His heart moves with compassion, enough to cross a storm of Hell. We may not see the fruit of it for a long time to come. But when it comes, it comes with a flurry of people’s lives changed. That demoniac, set free, went home, and his notoriety gave him the ability to preach and proclaim the goodness of Jesus, so much so that well over 10,000 individualswere waiting for the day of Jesus’ return. 

And it started with Jesus looking at a storm with the disciples, and saying, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” And those men choosing to believe in Him, instead of their circumstances.

There are creatures that lurk in the dark shadows of this world; ones far more powerful than a ten-foot alligator. And often life calls us to climb into the water with nothing but a piece of rebar to draw them out. And many times, we find ourselves face-to-face with the monster when it chooses to come out. In those moments, we can choose to panic, run, or walk away from our faith. Or we can simply call out for our Savior, and He will calm the waves and get us to the other side. Or like my great-grandfather said to his brother, “Shoot him, Roy.”

On the other side of your greatest threat is your greatest fruit. But you must choose to get in the boat and cross to the other side of it. You must fight through fear of death and call upon the name of the Lord. And when it doesn’t seem like it was worth it at all, rest assured that the disciples felt that way often, only to be surprised by 4,000 families on the hillside, hungry and waiting. 

iii. simply here

“People intoxicate themselves with work so they won’t see how they really are.” – Aldous Huxley

When I was eight years old, I stood at the edge of my street in Cocoa, Florida, listening to my father describe a new movie out that summer: Braveheart.8 Excitedly, he described the premise of the hero of Scotland, and that the action hero Mel Gibson was acting and directing it.  My family always took our movie-watching experiences very seriously, and we anticipated this movie to be something of a truly great status. 

William Wallace was a legend that none of us knew about. But we knew that if he was a legend, he was worth talking about. It was promised that he sliced kings in half, fought for the weak, and said amazing quotes about all men dying but only a few really living. That fiery passion of heroism, justice and desire for change made him a man worth following, dying for, and telling his story. 

Something has always been inside of God’s children, whether or not we bury it away with age and regret. It is birthed there with us when the heavens first breathed life into our lungs. It is formed inside of us while we were yet in our mother’s wombs. Our Sunday school classes inspire it as we learn about the heroes of our past. 

Every boy and girl wants to be like David when he fought a lion with his bare hands. We hope to make a boat so grand that all the animals of the earth could fit upon it, and sail away like Noah. We hope, like Samson did, to tear down the walls of the Philistine’s temple with the push of our hands; to save an entire race like Esther; to sleep with lions like Daniel; chosen to carry the Savior of the world like Mary. 

These are the stories our Sunday School teachers give us, not necessarily because they are the most important stories for young children to learn, but because our teachers learned long ago, that these are the stories children want to hear. 

It’s only after we grow up and let failure determine our desire, that we become like Zacchaeus, the rich, famous, small and suffering. It’s in our old age that men desire to be handsome, tall and rich like the selfish and insecure King Saul. But at our beginning, in the innocent and free imagination of a child and his or her ambition, is the birth of a desire to be something like the man swallowed by a fish that lived to tell the tale, though nothing else was ever said about him.

Human beings know deep down inside that there is something greater than the success of a business deal or paycheck. We don’t want to be successful in life. We want to be legends of life, with a thousand men and women telling our story millennia from now. 

But that hunger for a legendary life slowly dissolves with age. It leaves us with great regret when we discover we are not very special. In fact, someone else has already done it, and someone else has already seen it

Today is nothing more than our day to make it through. Not to change the status quo or see the salvation of a thousand orphans. No, today is a day where men and women are asked in the supermarket, by the lady across the counter, “How are you doing?” and they reply: “I’m here.”

When my great-grandfather Marvin Alderman would scout through the woods of Central Florida, he oftentimes carried nothing more than a .22 pistol, shooting snakes and potentially dangerous pests he came across. The .22 has always been small, but accurate. Not very powerful, but deadly with the right marksman. Marvin was a force to be reckoned with, though he was not easily agitated or excitable. 

In the early 1900s, somewhere in the woods of DeSota County, Florida, Marvin searched for sign of game and wildlife. He crunched his way through the thickets and brambles, looking at every footprint and scratch, discovering where the game was moving. He could be out hunting deer, hog, alligator, snake, squirrel, or anything else worth a pelt or meal.

He turned round a bend and stumbled upon a large adult black bear, not 30 feet from him. The animal was immediately disturbed. Marvin dug his feet into the ground, pulling his sidearm. The piddly .22 was not much against a full-grown 500-pound animal, but he pointed his minuscule weapon at him, nonetheless. When the bear charged, Marvin started firing. 

The .22 bullet is not powerful enough to penetrate the skull of a bear. Thankfully, there are nine bullets in a .22 revolver. It took all nine at the center of the bear’s skull to put the animal down. Every shot hit its mark; each cracking a little more into the skull of the animal. It fell with a powerful thud at his feet.

“I’m here.” Marvin exhaled slowly, shaken, but not stirred. 

But this here was not an earthly place; this here was full of purpose and action. This day was one that would be told around fireplaces and car rides for decades to come. The day that Marvin killed a full-grown black bear with nothing more than a .22 pistol. The day that a man wouldn’t run from death, but stood his ground and conquered it.

iv. your matter

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

“Don’t be ridiculous!” King Saul shouted at the boy, arrogant enough to believe he could take on the giant and save the Israelites. For more than forty days, the nine-and-a-half foot Philistine walked out, brandishing his sword and challenging the small and insignificant Israelites. His armor alone weighed more than the boy David.

“There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win!” the King rebuked David. “You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth!”

But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats. When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from the Philistine!”

David knew in his heart, something that no Israelite was willing to understand. He understood who God was and what He was capable of. God had not given him a spirit of fear, but a spirit that belonged to God’s power.9 

God’s children weren’t created to bow to temptation, fear, or conflict. We were designed to thrive in those moments. Why then, are we so surprised when they come into our lives? 

If our focus is like David’s, no problem or conflict is too great for us. Instead, we are irritated when others are too slow to act upon them. Our fights and conflicts should be natural parts of our lives. It’s in the mundane that we should be wary of where our hearts have wandered. In the mundane are Bathsheba’s10 and Uriah’s11. In the conflict, lies the opportunity for God to do something great.

What’s interesting to note is that David credits the Lord for rescuing him from the claws of the lion and the bear, yet we know that David had another reasonable “rescue”. In fact, David never had to fight and put his life in danger, to begin with. 

It’s only in the process of saving his sheep that his life entered peril. On the hillside, while watching the lion approach, he could have fled at any moment. The lion and bear were never there for David; they were there for the sheep. David’s character of bravery and action forced him to intervene. 

Even still, David credits that the lion and bear were after his life, and he needed saving. In his mind, when the sheep were in danger, he was a victor, whose duty it was to rescue the sheep. He would not let danger and fear overcome his purpose. They were in danger, and it was his duty to save them. 

Once, he is incapable of doing it alone, and within the jaws of the bear, he realizes the bear is after his life. David walked in two states of mind, constantly; that he was fully capable and fully incapable to do anything heroic. He was brave and aware that his bravery rested in God’s power. 

When walking through our lives, we may come upon 500-pound bears that we never would have found unless we were walking out and searching. It would be tempting to blame the presence of our bears on our “desire for discovery”. We say things like, “I should have known better than to try…” 

But the bear is the problem, not our wanderlust. 

If we blame the presence of our conflict on our determination to discover and grow, we will stop growing altogether. We must understand that bears just come and go in the woods. You were designed in your life to meet conflict and face it head on. You were made to fight it, no matter what, and when the bear has its mouth around your neck, to know that God will rescue you, just as He rescued David on the hillside. 

With this perspective, we are apter running toward conflict, approaching it with the knowledge that God has given us power, love and a sound mind; able to stand, move with compassion, and think clearly. If, and when, we know that God is for us, nothing can be against us12, and that we are victorious13, regardless of the outcome, we will stand our ground, firing as many shots as it takes to bring down the charging beast. 

But this perspective is lost when we think our purpose on earth is nothing more than to make it through it. I see the everyday Christian believing one of two things regarding their purpose here on earth. Either they stand on a borderline-narcissistic ideal that they will be God’s chosen vessel to reach the entire world and stand as heaven’s celebrity, or believe that life is really not about them and won’t amount to much at all. Both are rooted in the godly characteristics of bravery and humility. But both become dangerously out of sorts when perspective is lost. 

Let’s look at the exaggerated stereotypes of each characteristic, to avoid the inadvertent jabs you and I may feel otherwise. The brave hero of today longs for immediate satisfaction, ready to be lifted on the shoulders of a nation like David was. Yet he refuses to conquer his small fights on a daily basis. He dreams big about slaying giants and conquering entire countries, but refuses to do any daily work on the hillside where no one is watching. 

In reality, David became king on the hillside, not on the battlefield. His victory of the bear determined his victory of the giant. Real legends are written by your character, not by your fame. 

The other person sits on his hands with his face pointed at the ground, acting as though he never dreamed a dream of worth and power. He has convinced himself that he must live a humble and meaningless life if he is to do God’s work. The very thought of fighting real battles terrifies him because he has never looked at himself as a fighter. He knows that he is a victor because that’s what God told him. But that’s different from being a fighter. In fact, he knows that people aren’t meant to make a powerful difference anymore. That’s just what we tell our children. Legends have become fairy-tales.

Faith and action bring victory. And victory brings unwavering faith and action. It was David’s history of victory that made him arrogant in his faith—the arrogance to stand before a king and declare that he would be more than able to defeat a ten-foot swordsman. That arrogance was earned, and rooted in the knowledge of the power of God. It doesn’t come until you have purposed in your heart to defeat the little battles before the big ones. And likewise, you are meant to defeat the little battles before the big ones, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t meant to still accomplish the big ones. 

The truth is that we find ourselves constantly walking in and out of those two extremes, scared of our own pride and irritated by our own lack of ambition. It’s in the understanding that our pride must be rooted in God’s power and our ambition must be rooted in Jesus’ love that we find our purpose and the divine tension we are meant to tread upon. It’s here we find our meaning.

In order to get to the place of mattering, our first understanding must be that we do, in fact, matter. We cannot do something worthwhile unless we realize, again, that we are meant to do something worthwhile. When I hear sixty-year-old men and women say they are embarrassed to ask a thirty-year-old couple for advice, my heart breaks. Not because they have missed their opportunity or purpose, but because they have missed God’s heart toward them. 

Your status on planet earth may be determined by your age or your experience, but your status in Heaven is determined by your heart and action. Start dreaming again and then start chasing the dream. 

We were made to make legends. It is put in us. And each of our lives are meant to be recounted by the children beyond us, around fireplaces and park benches, in order to inspire them to dream again and express the majesty of who God is. We cannot simply be “here” on earth. We must be Heaven here on earth. And in that redirection of our focus and purpose, we will be legends worth telling.

v. the two pennies

“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and the other begins?” – Edgar Allan Poe

Tuesday afternoon, word got round to Reverend Marvin that Sister Margaret was at death’s doorstop and the family needed prayer. He rolled up his white cuffed sleeves and rushed to her home, speeding down the long dirt road, a plume of dust and smoke behind him. The sun blazed, the birds chirped, and the street was silent as he stepped out of his truck. He knew before he rapped the door she was already gone. 

Brother Justus opened the door with dried tears on his cheeks.

“Come on in, Reverend,” he welcomed him miserably.

Marvin looked about the room without a word as he took into account. There, in the front room, in the middle of the floor, lay Margaret. She had pennies on her eyelids, so the rigor mortis wouldn’t force her eyes open. Her three children sat on the floor next to her, staring, crying and confused. 

Justus started recanting what had happened to his bride, her sickness growing worse to worst in moments. Marvin listened half-heartedly as he stared frustrated and heartbroken at the three children and this man who was held together by sticks in front of him. The man couldn’t take it any longer, he broke down and grabbed hold of Marvin crying. 

“This isn’t right,” Marvin said under his breath. “God…this isn’t right.”

Marvin taught at his church a fiery kind of faith about God. They believed that acting unholy or with unholy people could damage your righteousness; if you died while backslidden you could lose salvation and go to Hell.Death was a normal part of life and rarely was disease looked at like an attack from the Enemy. It’s not that he believed God sent death to people. But more death just came at any moment, and “you best hurry up and get straight with God before you meet Him”.

Regardless of all that, righteous indignation came over Marvin at that moment. He looked at this man and his three kids and knew that God didn’t kill this woman. He knew that her destiny was to live longer and raise these children. 

At that moment, he pushed Justus off his shoulder and walked over to the corpse on the living room floor.

“This isn’t right,” he shouted at the woman. “Lady, get up! In the name of Jesus, get up!”

Her eyes popped open and her spirit returned, sucking the air out of the room. The children stared in disbelief, as the two pennies fell from their mother’s eyes and rolled under the living room couch. Margaret stood up and immediately began preparing dinner for their guest. 

vi. what makes a legend worth telling

“Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.” – Ray Bradbury

The man hurriedly pushed and shoved his way through the crowd of people. Sweat ran down his face in exhaustion and desperation. His entourage followed quickly behind, their master running away in a panic. 

The man finally made his way through the crowd to the Teacher. “Please, please!” He desperately cried as he fell down to the ground. “My daughter. She is sick and dying. You must see her.”

“Jairus!”14 A man from the back of the crowd hollered at him.

Jairus turned his attention from the Messiah and looked at his servant, not more than 50 meters from him. “Jairus,” the servant hollered again. “Your daughter is dead!” Jairus’ face fell sullen and defeated. 

The servant closed the gap between the two men. He put his hand on his master’s shoulder, saying, “She’s dead, Jairus. There’s no use bothering the Teacher now.”

Jesus had just returned from Decapolis, on the other side of the Sea of Galilee where He had met a man chained to the rock and set him free from a legion of demons. He was tired and smelled of fish. He, too, put his hand on Jairus’ collar, turning him toward Himself again. “Don’t be afraid,” He said, “just have faith.”

Fear is the embodiment of a spirit coming to hinder, hurt or distract you. Being afraid is the manifested response to that hindering distraction. The difference between having fear and being afraid is: one is out of our control; the other is our response and furthermore acquisition of that fear. 

I use the term “have fear” only because it is the phrase we most commonly understand. But it’s not my intent to paint the picture that we have this Spirit, in the same manner, we obtain or own something. Instead, it would be better to imagine you have the spirit of fear, in the same manner, you have a bird sitting on your head. It’s true that it is on your person, but by no means do you desire it or would allow it to perch much more than the amount of time it took you to realize it was sitting atop your noggin. Being afraid is the manifestation of having fear. It’s the act of letting the bird make a nest and call your head home.

You can have fear because it comes and attacks you, causing your fear. But you never have to be afraid. That is the choice or allowance of that fear in your heart. Instead, when you have fear, you must do what Jesus demanded Jairus do: Look at him and just have faith, therefore letting yourself become faithful

Jairus’ desperation yielded his fear to the faith in the Messiah. Jairus was a leader of the local synagogue; therefore, this was something he was not keen to do. In fact, the synagogue would look down on him for having turned to Jesus for help at all. He could lose his title, or worse, imprisoned or stoned for this act of heresy. Yet, because he had nowhere left to turn, he quickly let go of the fear of what the synagogue, men, or Jerusalem may do or think of him, and instead only focused on his daughter’s life. He had faith in turning to Jesus in order to save his daughter. Faith far outweighed any fear in or of his life. Upon their first meeting, Jesus saw this faith in him. 

But the fear would not let up on Jairus. The almost immediate news of his daughter already being dead was reported to him. Now, like a rushing wind, the feelings of desperation are replaced by despondency. Fear comes with an electric jolt, agitating our hearts, but grief comes with a knife in the ribcage, up into the lungs where it’s hard to breathe. Jairus was speechless and afraid.

But Jesus knew he had faith inside of him. And He wouldn’t let Jairus’ pain diminish his power. He stops Jairus from speaking and tells him to remember that he believes.

When Jesus arrived at Jairus’ home with him, the place was a circus. People gathered inside, weeping and wailing for the death of the master’s daughter. But few gathered in honor, rather in the obligatory mourning of an official’s loss. 

“Why are you all weeping?” Jesus addresses their parade. “The girl is not dead. She is only sleeping.”

In an instant, the tension breaks in the crowd of sycophants, as they laugh and jeer at the fool before them. “Who is this man?” They mock. “He doesn’t know what he speaks of. He must be drunk.”

Jesus turns to Jairus again. “Put everyone out.” He says. “Only come inside with me, your wife, and my three disciples.” 

When Jesus stood before the little girl, he smiled, knowing this was not God’s plan. I can imagine him looking at Jairus and encouraging his faith that this was not right and needed to change.

“Little girl,” He demands. “Get up!”

At that, the little girl breathed heavily, sucking the air out of the room. Jairus and his wife grabbed their daughter, crying in joyful disbelief. 

The heart of the Messiah is for His children to know the Father, and that the Father loves them. Our faith activates the miraculous, whether or not we fully understand it. And it was Jairus’ desperate faith that pushed him beyond fear, to ask for Jesus’ help. It was Jesus’ faithful command that pulled Jairus beyond the fear of his daughter’s reported death into the faith of the miraculous. And all of that faith led to the redemption of the little girl. 

“Give her something to eat,” Jesus says.

Inside the bland and dry Tuesday afternoons of our lives, God is willing to move. And He is not looking for perfect beings to move upon. My great-grandfather’s view of God was not perfect, nor was his understanding of healing sound. But on the afternoon he raised Margaret from the dead, the Spirit of God’s anger toward death moved his heart. And it only took him acting upon that movement, that he was able to witness an incredible miracle.

Your limited understanding of the Word of God only limits your ability to believe Him for what it says. It does not limit Him. Oftentimes in their ignorance, “new” Christians see more miracles than those with Masters of Theology, simply because they refuse to doubt. Our experience tells us that miracles can’t happen; the Word of God tells us something different. 

No matter what life looks like, I cannot let experience determine my faith but must push my experiences to meet my faith. God designed us to believe for His will. And any time our experiences don’t meet that mark, we need to live in the awkward and terrible tension of pushing our experiences up to a higher standard. When we die believing for something impossible, is when we die at God’s best. 

And in that pushing and believing is where we find our purpose. It is not to leave a legacy of fame and fortune, but stories of inspiration that radically and intimately changed the history of someone else’s eternity forever. 

Eternity is where my legacy is birthed. Everything before that, trying to push, pull, bite and fight to survive is foolhardy. Because I wasn’t meant to survive; I was meant to let go. Legends never die. But the people behind them do. So in that understanding, hopefully, we can put aside the childish ideal that life is about us, and understand that the greatest legacy we will have, is the one that is told after we are dead. 

You weren’t meant to change history. You were meant to create it. Not for your gain, but for the gain of God’s children. And nothing can deter that choice of creating legends except you. Your knowledge, upbringing or season don’t determine your story. Only what you choose to do with them, right now, does.

In the choice and desire to be a legend, we will face monsters, dig them out from the holes they hide in, stand our ground against the Enemy, and rescue the dead from death. And our children’s children will be the ones passing our stories along, to inspire and create history again. 

That’s what makes a legend worth telling.

vii. going one more time

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Mark Twain

God doesn’t call the special. He calls the crazy.

Growing up, I fantasized that the men Jesus chose to disciple and walk with were his childhood friends; men that He knew well for His entire life. We only see a few glimpses into how He asked these men to walk with Him, and most are nothing more than the account that these men suddenly started walking with Him. We read a few words here and there about Jesus requesting others to “come follow [Him]” and see their acceptance, but we don’t read much more about it. 

The more I learn how Jesus chooses those He’s going to do ministry with, the more I realize He’s not looking for a specific individual; He’s looking for a specific type. There are precisely unremarkable tales of men saying yes to following Jesus, because these men were precisely unremarkable. Hence, we see little of the story itself and even less of their lives beforehand. This implies that there must have been plenty of other unremarkable people whom Jesus asked as well, who denied His invitation (think of the young rich ruler, for example). 

It wasn’t the person whom Jesus desired; it was the personality that He craved. Now, don’t misinterpret my meaning to think that Jesus isn’t going to let everyone follow Him. In fact, His invitation was often and eager, and many followed Him by calling Him Messiah and Lord. But only a few men were the ones crazy enough to follow under the wildest circumstances, and thus, were the ones that became legends. 

When I refer to Jesus desiring a specific type of person, I am only referring to His will to create powerful testimonies and stories in history with those people. He desires every human as his children and followers, and just as much for everyone to have this personality, whether or not they have it today. But it is our limitations we put on ourselves that will determine or diminish the stories we have passed down behind us. Thereby, many will remain ordinary, though that doesn’t mean God loves them less. The disciples, indeed, were the ones that left everything and followed Jesus immediately. 

Along the Sea of Galilee, early in the morning, Jesus walked with a group of people who were eagerly waiting to hear from Him. The party was so large that he needed to steal a boat and set out into the water to speak clearly for all to hear. 

I live in a fishing community where nearly everyone has fished at some point in their lives, but few have fished all night. And even fewer have fished all night for their occupation. And even fewer still have fished all night for their occupation and caught nothing. The men I know that fish all night are a certain sort of person. They are gruff, rough and pissed when they set to work for no reason. Regardless, rarely do they experience an evening of nothing

I recall a time that Peter Deeks, a camera operator serving on our church production team, blessed me with a day fishing trip with his son in Sebastian Inlet, Florida. Peter Deeks Jr. took my father, friend Neil, and myself out on a trip that normally would have cost a few hundred dollars just for an hour of fishing with him. When we set out on the boat, early in the morning, I understood that we would catch some good fish, but had no idea how talented Peter really was. 

Not fifteen minutes into our trip, Peter stopped the boat and encouraged me to cast my rod to an area of the water only ten yards from us. In less than ten seconds, I was reeling in a 31-inch gator trout. Peter wasn’t a professional; he was a god. It is rare that he ever experiences a day without a trophy fish; it is even rarer that he would experience a day of no fish. 

But this was Peter’s (the disciple) dilemma. He was a man that needed a certain amount of fish in order to survive—not just for himself, but for the community. And he spent the entire night, toiling and struggling to get just one fish worth taking in. 

As he crouched at the bank of the Sea of Galilee, cleaning his nets, exhausted and ready to go home and rest, he looked up to see the Man Jesus getting in his boat and setting out to speak to a crowd of people. I can only imagine it frustrated him, as it would me.

When Jesus finished speaking, he addressed Peter, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” This was the defining moment for Peter and his walk with Jesus. Amidst exhaustion, frustration, anger and shame, he obeyed Jesus, if not, at the least, a little reluctantly. “Master,” Simon replied, “We worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the net down again.” 

They set out the boat. Paddle after paddle, stroke after stroke, they took the boat into the deep. With all left in them, they threw the net into the sea. Their splintered and calloused hands gripped the ropes and pulled. But this time their net was so full of fish it tore.  

When they pulled into shore, Peter fell to Jesus’ feet. “Oh, Lord,” he said, “please leave me. I’m such a sinful man.” His doubt and stubborn acquiesce filled his heart with shame. How could he ever have second-guessed the Son of Man? 

But this was the exact character Jesus was searching for. He didn’t need the talented, brave or intelligent. He needed the foolish, stubborn and penitent. Because behind that foolishness rests a natural inclination to go out one more time upon the water, on the other side of failure after failure, and let down the nets again. Not because he necessarily believed it, but because Jesus commanded him. And his penitence matched his lack of belief. 

The character that Jesus craves and knows will change the world is brash and crazy. Of course, it gets tired. Of course, it gets frustrated. But above all else, it obeys and goes out one more time. Jesus isn’t looking for “Christians” to change the world. He’s looking for those crazy enough to go one more time and send down the nets. God doesn’t call the special. He calls the crazy. 

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We all know there’s something deep inside of us craving to leave a story worth looking back on, to follow long after we’ve passed. Our legends tell us of people who walked on water, fell asleep in the lion’s den, defeated giants, healed the sick and raised the dead.

God has designed each of us to work extraordinary things. We merely must decide if we’ll walk in the wholeness of that calling. We can aim for sheer survival and success, or we can take the Legendary life that the Word of God invites us to. Discover the attributes of a Legend, as Keith Alderman recounts the tall tales of his great-grandfather Marvin Daniel Alderman interwoven with scriptural wisdom and truth. Now is the time we carry out God’s true capabilities in our lives.

You weren’t meant to change history. You were meant to create it.