King of the Hill

>> December 29, 2016

I  wrote this fiction short story for a contest recently. It didn't do well. I think it was because I didn't hit the topic correctly. Anyway, since I haven't posted anything for a very long time, I thought I'd put my story here.

King of the Hill

I wiped my sweaty palms on my brand new Levis and readjusted my death grip on the steering wheel before turning up the familiar driveway. There stood the house, gleaming white with a fresh coat of paint, courtesy of my younger brother. 

A quick glance towards the kitchen window I saw my sister’s tentative wave. This was going to be rough, but I loved Ma enough to deal with the demons of my past.

On my way to the front door I avoided looking towards the hill. I wish I could flatten the beast with a bulldozer. I jumped when the door flew open and my baby brother stood grinning ear-to-ear.

“David!” He wrapped me in a big bear hug, his strong arms reminding me he was no longer my vulnerable baby brother.

“Josiah, my God you’re huge.” I stammered what I hoped was an appropriate response.

“Is He your God?” His bright eyes teased.

Esther came around the corner, pretty as ever. “Hey David, good to see you. Ma’s sleeping right now.”

“Sis,” I nodded.

She stepped towards me and the long sought for embrace was warm and welcoming.

Two cups of coffee later, Ma was still sleeping. I excused myself to get some fresh air and have a much needed smoke. My steps automatically lead me to the hill that bordered our property. I could almost hear us as kids playing. We’d jump our bikes into midair, and one time Esther tried to be Mary Poppins, ruining her new umbrella. But my most prominent memory was King of the Hill.

Josiah eased down beside me. A chill ran up my spine. Subconsciously, I tugged on my shirt cuffs.

I smashed my cigarette into the dirt and exhaled smoke away from Josiah’s face. “Tough memories,” I stared at the bottom of the hill. Closing my eyes, I replayed the toughest memory ever.


“Come on, cry baby!”

Josiah lay at the bottom of the hill crying.

I saw his twisted arm and tumbled down towards him then switched directions and clamored to the top to run and get Ma.

Ma and Esther rushed Josiah to the hospital. My drunken-excuse-of-a-father came at me with the rage of a bull.

“We were playing King of the Hill…” I started to explain.

He grabbed me by the arm and shoved me towards the hill. His beer breath filled my nostrils. 

“I’ll show you whose king of this hill!” His spit splattered my face. He shoved me down the hill.

“Get back up here!”

I obeyed.

He pushed me again. I tumbled backwards and hit my head on a rock. I felt blood when I touched my temple.

“Haul yourself back up here, boy!”

I noticed the neighbor watching from behind her curtains.

Dirt filled my fingernails as I scrambled back to the top only to be pushed again. This time, prepared for it, I was able to stay on my feet all the way down the hill.

“Come on, boy. I don’t think your lesson is learned yet. Get up here.”

When I reached the top, Dad picked me up like a sack of potatoes and threw me off the edge of the hill. I felt a rib crack. Maybe two.

“I’m king of this hill and don’t you ever forget it!” And with that he stomped off towards his shop to guzzle more beer.

My ribs ached, my head pounded and my wrist was swollen. I stuffed as much of my belongings into a duffle bag and left the white house on the hill, vowing never to return again.

“When did he die?” I refused to call him dad.

“I don’t know. He abandoned us. Ma got something in the mail one day saying he was dead. She never said anything about it to me and Esther, though. I would’ve rather known he was dead than to think he might come back.”

“Ma’s not going to make it, is she?”

“Stage four…likely not long left.” Josiah turned to face me square and look me in the eye. “You need to make peace with Ma. She blames herself for not taking you with us that day to the hospital.”

“It was best for everyone if I left.”

“Where did you go?”

“Does it matter? It’s where I ended up that allowed you to find me.”

“It was Esther’s idea to check the prison rosters. How long were you in for?”

I reached for another cigarette. “Which time?” I took a drag, turned my head and exhaled. “Thanks for writing…and forgiving me.”

“I never held anything against you. Honest. We were kids playing a game we always played. I just didn’t tuck and roll right. It was my own fault.”

“Hey boys?”

We turned towards Esther calling from the back porch. She motioned us to come in.

“Ma’s awake?” I shrugged out of my coat.
“David? Is that you?” The frailty of the woman in the bed struck me in the pit of my stomach.

“Hi Ma,” I whispered.

“You came home.”


“David, Esther and Josiah,” Ma struggled to sit up in bed. “Do you know why I named you like I did?”

“Bible names,” Esther answered.

“Not just Bible names. Royalty in the Bible,” Ma closed her eyes and smiled.

My eyes wandered to a painting of Calvary.

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross,” tears trickled down Ma’s face. “David…Jesus is truly the King of the Hill. Won’t you make Him King of your heart?”

I nodded. “I have, Ma. Well…I’m tryin’.”

A few weeks later I sat between my sister and brother at Ma’s funeral. Esther rubbed her hand over my tat from prison on my right forearm; My name, with a crown over it and the reference Psalm 51:10.

I knew all along where my name came from, the lineage of Jesus. In honor of Ma, I will strive to live up to it and be a man after God’s own heart.


Peculiar People

>> March 24, 2016

Doctrine is a scary word that brings about a myriad of thoughts, emotions and reactions. Some may yawn, or roll their eyes. Others might want to run and hide or grab their Bibles to prepare for a Biblical based argument to defend one’s own “doctrines.”  While doctrine can cause division among denominations, if a body of believers doesn’t have some form of creed, code or guidelines, things could get scary fast.

I was born and raised in the Assemblies of God denomination. That statement alone often times causes other Christians to walk a wide path around me. Maybe they are afraid I will spontaneously shout out in an unknown tongue, or swing from a chandelier. I could possibly feel the need to jump a pew or roll around on the ground like a crazy dog with an itch on their back. I will say, I’ve never swung from a chandelier but I’ve often wondered if a suspended light fixture would hold the weight of someone dangling from one.

When I was growing up, our church services could get a bit lively. I didn’t really know any different. I thought all churches were like mine. Doesn’t every pastor desire (with passion and conviction) to see people saved from their sin and encourage people to come to the altar to confess their sins and accept the gift of salvation? Doesn’t everybody feel the need to reach their hands towards their Abba Daddy to be lifted up as they sing? If the truth of a song or the emphasis of a message stirs your heart, don’t we all shed a tear here and there? Don't others shout an “amen” when the preacher says something you whole heartedly agree with? Do we ask the leaders of the church to pray for our sickness just to let them know we have an ailment, or do we truly believe there is healing in the power of Jesus name? Even though Christians have been waiting for the return of Christ since the day He ascended into heaven, don’t we all believe He will still return like He promised? 

Can’t we gather in one accord with fellow believers and pray until we receive the Promise of the Father that Jesus talked about in Acts 1:4? So, if I choose to grab hold of Acts 2:4 and firmly believe if the grassroots church in Peter’s day was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in other tongues, that it can happen today as well, my fellow believers might think me odd or doctrinally unsound?

Paul says in Romans 1:16: 
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jews first and also for the Greek.”

I am not ashamed. Nope. Not ashamed of God. Not ashamed of Jesus. And I’m not ashamed of the Holy Spirit.

We used to joke that 1 Peter 2:9 was referring to the “Full Gospel” churches.
“You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

As I study towards my ministerial credentials I am reminded that doctrine is a scary word for a set of beliefs. Discussing doctrine is even scarier. But studying the Word is required to have a better understanding of the core beliefs that were indoctrinated into my young heart and mind.

And after studying, I stand tall and proclaim with boldness that I am a peculiar person



>> January 30, 2016

I thought I would post a short story I wrote about 7 years ago.I re-worked it a little bit. A few special true life memories of my grandfather are mixed in with this piece of fiction. I hope you enjoy it. 

I spun and watched myself in the mirror. I like my new dress. Mom let me choose what I wanted. It’s yellow with a border of pink flowers and tiny green leaves along the hem-line. I especially like the shiny satin sash Mom ties into a perfect bow in the back. It makes my tan look dark and the gold flecks in my hazel eyes sparkle when I wear it. I think Grandpa will like it.

I stick out among my family in the front row of the church. Everyone else is dressed in dull dark colors. My feet don’t quite touch the ground, so I swing my legs back and forth, admiring my new sandals on the upswing.

People are sad and I hear a lot of nose blowing goin’ on. We sang hymns. I don’t know why, it’s not Sunday. Some old people stand and take turns saying nice things about my grandpa. They tell funny stories and remind us what a hard worker he was.

Grandpa lived in a muckledunberry world ‘cuz he was colorblind. Mostly all he saw were different shades of yellowy-browns. That’s why he called it muckledunberry.

Sometimes I’d sit on his lap while he watched baseball. I’d ask him, “Grandpa, what color are my eyes?”

He’d say, “Muckledunberry.”  Then he’d steal my nose. I’d just giggle even though I was getting too old for that joke.

On the way to town, he always stopped at the single blinking yellow light at the bottom of the hill. I’d say, “You can keep going, Grandpa, its yellow. Blinking yellow means go very carefully."

“All lights look the same to me, Sweetie. I have to stop at all of them just to be sure.”

I gave up. I couldn’t convince him to roll on through the intersection.

Last year Grandpa got sick. Mom said he got cancer in his pancreas. I don't know what a pancreas is but I know cancer is bad. She said I can’t climb around on his lap anymore, ‘cuz it probably hurts him, but Grandpa would never tell me that. I’d sit at his feet and lean my back against his chair. He’d pat my head and run his fingers through my summer blonde hair. Sometimes, he’d scoot over and let me sit in the chair with him and we’d cuddle. I’d always be real careful. He sure got quiet after he caught cancer.

After a few months, I noticed his skin started looking sort of yellowy. Not too long after that his eyeballs weren’t white anymore. They were sad and matched the color of his skin. He tried to smile, but I knew he didn’t feel like smilin’ too much.

When I realized how sick Grandpa was I asked Mom, “Does grandpa know his eyes are yellow now, bein’ he’s color blind and all?” Mom said she didn’t know but told me not to ask him.

Pastor asked if anyone else wanted to say something. I raised my hand and waited to be called on like in school. He told me I could stand up by him so everybody could see me. 

“My grandpa was color blind. He couldn’t tell what color tomatoes or watermelons were. He didn’t know when his grass needed watered or that I have gold flecks in my eyes. He said most colors blended together into one brownish-yellow mess. Muckledunberry is what he called it. That’s not a real color. Not even in the biggest box of crayons, you won’t find a muckledunberry.” Everyone laughed when I said that.

“I picked this dress at the store to wear special for today. It’s bright yellow, not muckledunberry like he’s use to.” I pulled the hem of my dress up a little bit and pointed at the flowers. “It has pink and green in it and Mom said it makes the gold flecks in my eyes sparkle.”

 “I learned in Sunday School that when we go to heaven we aren’t sick no more. That means Grandpa’s cancer is all gone now. So, I think his colorblindness is gone, too. Today Grandpa is walking on the streets of gold. I think that’s pretty cool.”

Mom sniffed and blew her nose and then she winked at me.

 “I chose this dress so Grandpa can look down from heaven and see me in full color.” I spun around to show off my dress and people giggled. “And now,” I looked up at Pastor and smiled big, “he knows what color my eyes really are.”


Stay Just As You Are?

>> January 21, 2016

Years ago, I used to drive by a church sign that always had the same phrase on it: COME AS YOU ARE. I suppose it may have been taken from the mid 90’s praise chorus Come Just As You Are, but today I pondered the phrase. I even wondered if they still had the same phrase on their reader board since the mid 90’s.

Sunday, during the preservice prayer time, the Lord gave me a word to share prior to leading worship. I quickly jotted it down and read it to our congregation in obedience. Today, I used what the Lord whispered to me and expanded on it to write a short poem. 

(Disclaimer: I do not consider myself to be a "poet".)

Come just as you are
Accepted with all your scars
Come hungry and hurting
Leave satisfied and whole
Come lost and longing
Leave with peace in your soul

Come angry and confused
Leave with all tensions diffused
Come weak and weary
Leave bolstered and cheery
Come as a seeker of things above
Leave with a heart filled with hope and love

Come; bring your lifestyle of despair
Spend time on your knees in warfare
Come and meet with Jesus
For He is the One who can free us
Come just as you are, indeed
 But leave as a new creation, set free

You see, Jesus loves you just as you are. This is true. But we need to understand that we can’t truly live for Jesus and stay in that “just as you are” condition. He loves us enough to help us grow beyond our “just as you are” mindset. 

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: Old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Almost three decades have passed since I first saw this phrase on that church reader board and it is still there today. I hope and pray that over the years as people enter through their church doors just as they are that they have left  a little bit different every week. 

And I pray that for our church as well.

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~Psalm 77:6 "I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart,and my spirit makes diligent search."

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